Standard operating procedures (SOPs) help ensure that everyone in a company follows the same steps for tasks and internal activities. Utilizing a well-structured SOP template to create operating guidelines can reduce errors and increase productivity. It can even streamline employee onboarding processes.
If you’re wondering how to write effective SOPs that work for multiple business needs, look no further. We’ve included ten templates that you can adjust to fit your company profile. We’ve also added step-by-step instructions on creating SOPs that enhance operational efficiency.
Let’s get started with the fundamental question (or jump straight to the templates).
An SOP document is an internal guide with instructions for specific tasks within an organization. It’s meant to ensure that results stay within parameters no matter who performs the task.
SOP documents maintain consistent information across departments and standardize processes, assisting businesses in complying with industry regulations. They also set the record for future organizational values due to their influence on employee training practices.
This leaves more time for business expansion. Leadership no longer needs to spend extra time checking whether employees and partners adhere to company policies.
📝 Business outcomes become more predictable with the use of SOPs, as daily operations are less prone to variability. It’s also easier to solve common issues since the guidelines specify their solutions and the steps to achieve them.
Many industries need SOPs to maintain consistency and safety in various internal processes.
Here is an overview of the common SOP formats.
This format outlines procedures in a sequential, step-by-step manner. Each action is described according to the order it follows in a specific flow.
Use case: Simple, routine tasks where the order of operations is crucial.
For instance, when opening a coffee shop, you would elaborate an SOP with tasks like:
Closing procedures would reverse these steps, including tasks like:
This format uses diagrams to represent each process. It includes steps in each box that are connected by arrows (indicating the flow).
Use case: Processes with decision points, elaborate pathways, or multiple outcomes.
In project management, for example, flowcharts are used to determine the next course of action when a project is behind schedule. It would include decision points based on factors like:
These points would then lead to the next steps. These could typically include:
This format organizes procedures according to a hierarchy. The main procedures are broken down into sub-procedures.
Use case: Handling complex tasks with multiple stages or levels of detail.
Let’s take the development of a new product, for instance. Your typical hierarchical SOP would cover high-level stages like:
You would then break down each stage into more detailed tasks, such as:
This format presents procedures as a list of items to be checked off or completed. Each item on the list represents a specific task or consideration within the overall process.
Use case: Processes needing consistency and completeness without step-by-step instructions. The user knows the procedure but must complete it carefully and in the right order.
A hospital could use a checklist SOP for patient pre-operative procedures. This may include:
This is our SOP template selection. Pick the one that best suits your needs.
This template will help you increase customer satisfaction by ensuring effective handling of customer inquiries. It includes guidelines for customer service staff procedures like handling complaints, record-keeping, and customer feedback.
The following SOP template helps streamline new employee onboarding. It applies to HR and department managers, covering pre-arrival preparation, initial training, and ongoing integration.
This manufacturing SOP is meant to standardize processes and ensure efficiency and safety. It covers assembly, quality control, and post-assembly procedures for line workers and inspectors.
This template provides a structure for the management and execution of projects to ensure effective goal achievement. It covers the entire project lifecycle for all teams and departments (initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure).
This SOP template helps manage remote work, enhancing productivity and work-life balance. It includes home office setup, communication guidelines, and health support for all remote employees and relevant departments.
The following SOP helps ensure quality and safety in food handling and cooking. It covers detailed procedures for food preparation and waste management for all kitchen staff.
This SOP is meant to standardize customer support and store operations for excellence in service delivery. It includes guidelines for retail staff on sales, inventory management, and store maintenance.
This template includes roles and procedures for salespeople. It’s meant to structure client management for effective relationship-building and performance tracking.
Use this SOP to standardize software updates within your organization. The template outlines the duties of IT admins in updating and fixing devices in the office and remotely.
Carry out training programs to enhance employee skills and organizational performance using this SOP. It will take you through training needs analysis, delivery, and record-keeping across all departments.
Before creating an SOP document based on an existing template, you will need to choose a format that fits your specific operational needs. Consider the complexity of the procedure, your audience, and task requirements when doing so.
Here are the steps you will need to go through to create your own SOP.
The SOP’s scope defines its limits, detailing what it includes and what it does not. It helps users understand the extent of the procedure and includes the stages below.
The purpose of an SOP, on the other hand, explains why the SOP has been created and what it aims to achieve. For example, the purpose of an SOP for handling customer complaints can be “to ensure that all customer complaints are addressed promptly and effectively, enhancing customer satisfaction and maintaining the company’s reputation.”
☯️ While the purpose gives a clear understanding of why the SOP is important, the scope defines its range and applicability.
Start by talking to those who regularly perform or manage the process you wish to create the SOP for. This includes long-term employees, supervisors, or managers from companies with profiles similar to your own.
Then move your focus to your company. Here are some tips for gathering information and benefiting from active team and stakeholder involvement.
🔠 For example, categories could include ‘Equipment’ (like machinery, and computers), ‘Software’ (specific programs or applications), and ‘Skills or Knowledge’ (like specific training or expertise).
Any type of SOP relies mainly on the following structure.
Remember that SOPs should be as brief as possible while still providing all necessary information. To ensure that all users understand the procedure the same way, use specific, action-oriented instructions.
Unclear: “Enter the data into the system.”
Clear: “Input the customer’s details into the ‘New Customer’ form fields in the CRM software. Ensure that all mandatory fields marked with an asterisk (*) are filled.”
Whenever possible, use visual aids like images, diagrams, or icons to increase understanding.
Before implementing, perform dry runs or walkthroughs of the SOP. This involves examining each step of the process to find any problems in how it works or is understood.
Next, implement the SOP in a controlled, real-world environment. The easiest way to do that is by choosing a section of your organization or a specific team where you can test it. This area should reflect the broader environment where you will eventually implement the SOP.
Keep track of the whole process and record any deviations or challenges faced while carrying out the SOP. Monitor its success and collect data on any potential issues or areas for improvement.
There are various factors that impact an SOP’s effectiveness over time. As work processes evolve, new technologies emerge, and equipment gets updated. You will need to tweak your SOP to reflect the changes taking place as your team changes or your organization expands.
Adding to that are regulatory and industry standards that change over time. To avoid legal issues and fines, you must update your documented processes.
Aim for continuous improvement by implementing user feedback into your operating procedures.
🔎 Establish a regular reviewing schedule to keep SOPs relevant over time. This could be annually, bi-annually, or at a frequency that makes sense for your organization.
At Touchpoint, we follow a detailed SOP for writing and publishing blog articles. This SOP ensures that all content meets our quality standards and makes our workflow more efficient.
If you are a fellow content creator, use our SOP to make your content creation smoother and improve the quality of your work for your audience.
This SOP applies to all marketing staff at Touchpoint engaged in content creation.
Monitoring and control
The ultimate goal of an SOP is not just to document a process but to improve the way your organization operates.
The templates we provided ensure that you cover all essential operational aspects. They will help you save time and effort by accessing a ready-made format so you won’t have to start from scratch. Adapt them to master the processes within your industry.
Raluca Mocanu is a copywriter at Touchpoint and began her content writing journey in 2016. She loves traveling, reading, on-stage drama and recently discovered a deep interest in psychology.
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