Standard operating procedures (SOPs) can be difficult to read and understand. In short, they’re often unfriendly, and can even be wrong. This means that companies need to spend more time on actual processes, and have them presented in a way which is clear and easy to understand.
Here is a list of the top five mistakes that companies make in their SOPS:
- Procedures are written internally by head office or legal committees. When procedures are written in corporate speak, no one will ever read it or understand what it is really about. They often read like legal documents or legislation, and little effort is given to help staff members understand it.
- Supervisors and staff members write the documents. If this occurs, we’re on the other end of the spectrum. It’s often better than having a head office write the SOPs, however, they can tend be unprofessional and irrelevant for different sites. SOPs are standard for a company with many different sites or offices, so they can’t be only written for one site. SOPs written by staff members are also not necessarily based on best practice.
- Boring formatting. A page full of text isn’t going to be engaging. Employees aren’t going to get anything out of an A4 sheet of paper full of text. Research shows that people are more engaged and interested by a variety of learning mediums. Such as images, colours, interactivity and visual diagrams. This is where SOP software is exceedingly more relevant and useful than a printed SOP manual.
- Negative writing style. SOPs should be engaging and encouraging, especially for new employees that will generally be required to study them. “Don’t”, “Won’t”, “Can’t” are all words that discourage and can make people feel unmotivated. Sentences like “Don’t run” can be phrased in a more neural tone such as “walk slowly”.
- How but not “why”. A lot of SOPs talk about how something is done, but not why. This means that people repeat processes that may become out of date, without even questioning why something needs to be done. An effective SOP needs to be informative, and comprehensive while answering both of these questions.