30+ Free Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Templates
There are thousands of procedures involved in running a business and some of these activities are done on daily basis. In order to make sure that your business has consistency in operations, you need to define rules and regulations for routine operations. For instance, you own a furniture shop and if a customer comes to return some stuff, your predefined SOPs should guide the employees to check for the receipt, make sure the purchase is not older than 1 month and that the stuff is in excellent condition. These predefined SOPs are known as standard operating procedures. These can be as simple as accepting a return to something complicated i.e. evacuation during a fire in the office to a robbery in a bank.
Standard Operating Procedure Guidelines:
Business owners always argue about the use of the standard operating procedures. The make their case by saying that when an employee is hired, he is well trained and he understands what needs to be done for each procedure so why there is the need of SOPs. This is like asking a surgeon why he performs written SOPs before entering into operation room. One of the most important aspects of SOPs is that these rules help save time. You know that when the same job is done in different ways, it will consume more time. Instead, if all the employees are asked to do the job in the same manner, not only it will save time but the consistency with the process will eliminate room for error as well.
Talking about the consistency, SOPs are a great way to implement steadiness and reliability in the business. This means it doesn’t matter who is performing the operations but the end results will always be the same if right SOPs are followed. From communication point of view, SOPs provide great help as well. With the predefined set of rules, employees won’t need to make their own choices or keep guessing what should be done but they will know exactly what to do and who should they contact in case of an emergency.
Employee and workplace safety is something that very business owner takes very seriously. This is one of the key reasons that standard operating procedures are implemented in the first place. When there are SOPs set for all the routine operations, not only that employees keep their workplace safe but there are fewer chances of a big mistake to happen that can cause damage to other employees or company property. In case there is some misshape, it becomes easier to hold accountability without guessing whose fault it is and who should take the responsibility.
Free Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Templates
Here are 30+ Free Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Templates in MS Word format to help you prepare your own SOP documents easily.
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Key Elements of Standard Operating Procedures:
Understand what you want to Achieve with SOP:
The basic purpose of a standard operation procedure is to get results or implement a predefined set of rules to accomplish something. This can be something very simple i.e. turning off lights when staff leaves the office to something complicated i.e. evacuation in case of fire in the building. When you start writing SOPs for something, the end results should be clear in your mind. When you know what you want to achieve, it is easy to evaluate if there is in fact need of SOPs or if the SOPs are already set and you just need to make improvements in the system. Not only that but this step will also help you to understand the frequency of use of SOPs i.e. on daily basis, weekly or monthly basis.
Select a Simple yet Brief Format:
If you are working in a big company, surely there are existing SOP documents that you can look into to find what kind of format is being used. In case, you are developing the first SOP for a small business, there are various formats to choose from including; a basic format, hierarchical format or flowchart format. A basic format only includes list of steps to follow for an operation and it doesn’t require much of complex responsibilities. The employees just need to follow the simple steps enlisted in the SOP one by one. On the other hand, for complex problems, there is the hierarchical format that includes getting approval from various departments and involvement of multiple management levels. In case, there is no definite outcome, you can use a flowchart design that includes results of multiple choices.
Get help from People Involved in the Process:
If you are designing standard operating procedures, chances are that you will not use them but these are designed for other employees in the company. The best thing to do here is to get additional help from the actual workers or employees who will use these SOPs in real time. When you share the SOPs with others and ask for their suggestions, they will start implementing these steps in their minds and will tell you instantly if a change is required.
Explain Dependence on other SOPs:
Almost each SOP is somehow dependent on other existing SOPs. For instance, if you want your employees to turn off their computer before leaving the office, there should be some SOP about when the employees are asked to leave the building or how late they are allowed to stay in office. This means that you need to define the scope of your SOPs in relevance to other SOPs. Even if you use a simple format, when it comes to defining the scope, it’s better to use a flowchart design.
Understand the Audience:
It is a really important part of designing standard operating procedures that you know and understand who will use these SOPs and what their primary responsibilities are. For instance, you don’t expect to implement complex mechanical operations from a janitor because he doesn’t have the necessary knowledge of how to operate a machine. The SOPs should be written with the target audience in mind so you can use simple words that everyone can understand.