A lot of the work in an organization is routine work. Each employee does their daily tasks and the combination of their work is what most contributes to your business goals. Routine operations need to be done without a glitch in the system for your organization to succeed and thrive on the market.
But, even though most organizations know this, very few dedicate effort and time to helping workers carry out the most routine operations. This is a huge mistake.
Unless you keep your employees informed and guide them to do their day-to-day tasks, your business will suffer. Even if the damage is not noticeable just yet, a mistake every now and then can slowly ruin the brand.
What Can You Do?
The solution to all your problems lies in creating and implementing Standard Operating Procedures. According to Montrium, the right SOPs can help boost consistency, minimize errors, and improve communication in the workplace. On top of that, SOPs optimize product quality and line productivity, keep the workplace more compliant and safer, and ensure that your employees know what to do at any given moment.
In return, you can expect a less stressful, more structured, and more effective work environment. That being said, here are a few tips that should help you guide your employees.
1. Find a way to share the information
Whether they are new to the company or experienced employees, you need to ensure that your team gets all the information they need to perform their tasks in real-time. According to Document360 and their guide for standard operating procedure implementation, at the end of the day, this ‘solves the same problem of educating your employees or customers about a certain process’.
What better way of sharing the most crucial information than on the Internet today? Chances are, your team uses the Internet all the time, which makes it the best tool to share such information. Document360 or Helpjuice, for example, is an awesome knowledge base that you can use privately or publicly to communicate and share crucial data with all involved parties.
2. Prioritize the creation of the key SOPs
When you know what tool you’ll use to share the information, it’s time to make it readily available to your employees. Chances are, your organization will need several standard operating procedures, maybe even more than a hundred.
The time to start is now, but when you do that, make sure that you start with the key SOPs that allow for smooth operations in your business. At this point, ask yourself the question: ‘What are the most important routine operations for my business?’
When you find the answer to this question, you’ll know which SOPs are most important right now. Below are three key SOPs that every business should focus on as soon as possible:
- Quality and safety. These two things are the most critical to consider. Depending on your business and its operations, you may want to focus on role-specific or more general instructions. In these SOPs, you need to provide enough information to ensure that workers comply with the regulations and follow internal controls concerning quality and safety.
- Worker performance. Do you feel like your employees are struggling with their work? Are you finding some performance gaps between workers, teams, and shifts? If this is the case, you need to make worker performance SOPs your priority. At this point, the SOP will include data such as troubleshooting procedures on specific roles, replacing workers, adding new workers, as well as training the new talent.
- Line or sector performance. Are you experiencing problems in a specific sector or line? Do you need to create a new sector to expand your business, or expand the ones you have already? Such SOPs should outline the most effective methods for doing this, as well as discuss the operations on the line.
Regardless of how you handle the creation part, the most important thing is to focus on the priorities first, and the rest later. If you rush to create more SOPs, the quality could suffer, and the impact of this will not necessarily be positive.
3. Settle for nothing less than the best quality
If you haven’t created such documents before, seek guidance and assistance. Learn from examples and do some trial versions before you share the ready documents with your team. The information you share with your employees should be clear and accurate. The SOPs exist to make the routine operations run more smoothly, not confuse your team even more.
The most effective SOPs are created collaboratively between employees, employers, and experts. When creating them, you need to discuss the key matters with specialists, technicians, engineers, and other experts to ensure that everything is accurate and safe for the employees.
Next, you need to discuss matters with your team to see if they understand the document’s data. Finally, you need to make sure that the operators are actively involved and invested in the success of the SOPs.
If you skip any of these steps, creating the standard operating procedures documents would yield no results.
4. Ensure visibility
When you’re onboarding new team members, you need to share all crucial data for them to be able to carry out routine operations. This is not taught overnight, and it will take your new team members some time to adjust. Having the SOPs handy will allow them to refer to the documents whenever they need some guidance, which will reduce the number of errors and give you more time.
How will you get more time, you might wonder?
If your new employees don’t know how the process goes, they’ll do one of two things. They’ll either be hesitant about reaching out to you and risk making a mistake, which can diminish your product’s quality; or they’ll come to you with questions.
If they have all the information readily available to them via knowledge bases, they can refer to the SOPs whenever they need answers or guidance.
Even existing employees might need some push or reminder when it comes to handling tasks. Not to mention, SOPs are constantly updated and changed, and this allows you to share updates and new information with everyone in real-time.
According to ImarResearch, SOPs should be ‘referenced routinely in daily operations to ensure consistency in project execution.’ Ideally, you should review and update the SOPs at least once a year to make sure that your team complies with all regulations for safety and quality.
5. Test and train your employees on routine operations
It’s not enough just to tell people what to do – you also need to show them how and learn if they’re doing it right. Creating documents that list the processes and rules and sharing them with your employees is not a recipe for success. Training them on those SOPs and keeping track of their progress is.
Just because your team received the documents and read them, or just because they completed the training doesn’t mean that they know how to carry out the routine operations without mistakes. So, not only should you share this important data with others, but you should also ensure that they understand it.
Poka explains a very helpful methodology called ‘Tell me – show me – let me try.’ This goes as follows:
- Explain the process i.e. which steps the employees should take to carry out the procedure
- Demonstrate how it is done and allow them to observe
- Watch and test your workers while they perform each step from the SOPs
Naturally, you’ll need the assistance of experts in the SOPs to do any of these three steps. When implementing your SOPs, find experienced workers and specialists in the operations i.e. people who’ve mastered the skills, to perform these steps.
The supervisor will observe and correct where needed, take notes on where employees need more guidance, and make sure that everyone understands and implements the processes.
6. Operationalize the SOP
When you have these documents ready, you need to make sure that they are operationalized i.e. that people are using them and that they are effective. These should be part of the team’s daily routines. You need to check frequently if people use them if there are problems they experience with the SOP, if they deviate from them, etc. If you find that people are deviating from the routine operation guidelines, you need to know when, how, and why.
Based on this data, you need to update and improve your standard operating procedure.
Keep in mind that, even if you’re the most experienced person in doing this, SOPs can always use some improvement. When you notice an issue, you shouldn’t take notes and wait for a yearly reminder asking you to reassess and update them. Simply make improvements organically throughout the year until the moment when you’re fully satisfied with how your employees carry out the routine operations.
No matter how skilled your employees are or how great your plan for the operations is, this can fail you unless you train your people to carry out the routine operations properly. To make that happen, follow the tips above. Good luck!