The Importance of a Standard Operating Procedure

Standard operating procedures will help your business run like a well-oiled machine. But what are they and how do you write one? Stick with us to find out.

What Is A Standard Operating Procedure?

A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a document of rules, regulations, and guidelines for operating through certain situations and circumstances that occur in an organization. They are especially important for small business owners to consider when growing their team. 

These procedures can be day-to-day tasks, information on chain of command, trainings, or preparation for emergencies. While it is a good idea to have these in place before you begin business operations, it is never too late to implement an SOP.

Why Are SOPs Important?

It is important to create SOPs for your business so it is in the best position to run smoothly and compliantly. It is key that your team understand expectations and to what standard they are being held. 

Standard operating procedures also ensure that each of your employees is trained in the same way, so that your business is conducted consistently. SOPs are a way to set precedent and expectations for yourself and your employees. 

The more employees understand expectations, the more your business will have the opportunity to avoid miscommunication and increase productivity.

What Procedures Should Your SOP Include?

  1. SOP for an SOP
  2. Hiring Procedures
  3. Onboarding Procedures
  4. Day-to-day Procedures
  5. Performance Reviews
  6. Safety Procedures

SOP for an SOP

Yes, you read that right. The whole point of a standard operating procedure is to ensure consistency and set precedent in your business. In order to achieve that, it is important for your guiding documents to have consistency as well. The final product is ultimately up to you, but here are some suggestions for an order of what to include in each SOP:

  • Cover Page: Include a title, the date of creation, scope of who will follow this SOP (management, hourly employees, salary employees, etc).
  • Introduction: Introduce the standard operating procedure and give an overview of why it was written, what it will include, and the purpose of the process.
  • Table of Contents: Include titles of sections with page numbers so the reader has an easy way to access what they need.
  • Content: This is where you will include the actual procedures. Make sure to title each section clearly.
  • Glossary: If your business uses unique terms or acronyms, it can be extremely helpful to employees to have all of these in one place. 

Again, the specifics will be up to you, but it will make future creation a more streamlined process if you create some kind of template from the start. 

Hiring Procedures

Hiring can often be a stressful process, but it doesn’t have to be. Your hiring SOP documents should include: 

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Terms and definitions
  • Recruitment and selection process
  • Paperwork and legality requirements

Onboarding Procedures

Once you have completed the hiring process, you need to have a system for preparing your new employees. OnboardingSOPs can include:

  • Collection of new hire information and essential forms
  • Grant employee access to necessary platforms
  • Equip employee with necessary job materials
  • Staff introductions: hierarchy and chain-of-command
  • Begin trainings
  • Schedule check-in meetings

Day-to-Day Procedures

Day-to-day job functions will look quite different for each industry. However, there are still overarching topics and routine tasks for a system of operations that can apply to any type of business. Here are some to consider:

  • Hours of operation
  • Communication methods
  • Break times
  • Beginning and end of day routines
  • Job scope and functions

Performance Reviews

Whether you work in-person or work from home, creating a system for performance reviews can help your business run efficiently and promote quality assurance. When employees know they are being held to a standard, it reminds them of accountability. When employees are able to set a goal and work towards it, they are able to monitor and see progress. As a business owner, being able to provide your employees with feedback is a way to strengthen relationships. When creating a system for performance reviews, consider:

  • Goal setting
  • Employee self-evaluation
  • Performance evaluation with rating system
  • Timelines

Safety Procedures

Creating a safe workplace for your employees is a major factor in employee retention because employees deserve to feel safe at work. Safety does not only cover physical wellbeing, but mental health as well. In order to work towards a safe work environment, employees need to know the expectations for conduct and how to report concerns. Health and safety protocols to have in place include:

  • Up-to-date COVID/illness protocol
  • Misconduct reporting
  • Injury reports
  • Emergency protocol

How Do You Write Standard Operating Procedures?

Creating a standard operating procedure might feel like a daunting task, but we are here to provide you with some types and tricks for writing detailed instructions.

Backwards Planning

Backwards planning is a strategy used often in education. Teachers use this strategy when building out units to promote authentic learning. When writing your SOPs, think of yourself as a teacher and your employees as your students. 

The “backwards” part of backwards planning comes in because instead of starting at go, you look at the finish line and work backwards. In other words, begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself: 

  • What do you want your employee to learn from this SOP? 
  • How will the SOP help your business run smoothly? 

Backwards planning will help to ensure that you are creating intentional steps for your employees to take to reach the end goal. When backwards planning you will:

  1. Identify your desired results
  2. Create progress assessments
  3. Create learning structures and plan instruction


Systems of operations lend themselves to various formats depending on what you want your team members to learn. Some operations are best laid out with words, while others might be much more effective through charts, graphs, or tables. Check out these formats:

  • Step-by-step or checklists
  • Hierarchical steps
  • Flowcharts
  • Instructional videos

Draft, Edit, Repeat

Like any other writing process, perfecting a system of operations will take time. Your first draft should not be the same as your final draft. It is necessary to have more than one set of eyes on the SOP document, as you need to test it out before you complete the final literature. 

A task that might seem very clearly mapped out to you, might not be as clear for someone else. As you draft your process, keep in mind that there are many different types of learning styles: 

  • Visual: Learners receive information best through videos or physical demonstrations
  • Auditory: Learners receive information best by listening to information
  • Kinesthetic: Learners receive information best by physically completing or practicing the task
  • Written: Learners receive information best by seeing the instructions written out on a page in various forms

Because there are different types of learners, make sure to test out your systems on multiple people. This sets you up to avoid miscommunication in your SOPs. Collect honest feedback and edit accordingly. Then continue that feedback process until multiple learners can learn their respective business operations.

What Are Some SOP Best Practices?

Clarity and Consistency

In order for your SOPs to be effective, they must be clear. This is why it is necessary to run them through many editing processes. In addition to that, you need to make sure that your SOPs include:

  • Consistent tone
  • Consistent language
  • Consistent format and/or order

Keep It Current

These days, things move fast. While standard operating procedures are meant to stand the test of time, you do need to be aware of potential changes. Always stay up-to-date on industry regulations and policies, so you can implement new SOPsas your business grows

Are There Platforms for SOPs?

Yes! Again, writing SOPs can be a big undertaking. If you like implementing technology platforms to promote automation within your business processes, then these are for you. Here are a few platforms to consider that include SOP templates and digital operations:

  • Asana: This platform might be something you already use as a business software. But it will also provide you with templates, examples, suggestions, and the ability to assign tasks to your employees or partners to review or complete the SOP.
  • Flowster: As a company that markets itself towards entrepreneurs, this could be a great option for your small business. You will have access to tools for processing compliance, onboarding employees, recurring workflows, and more.
  • Dozuki: With several price points, Dozuki wants to help you boost employee performance and ensure safety in the workplace. The software will allow you a full circle process with the ability to create documents and require approval, build trainings, and analyze results. 


When building, maintaining, and growing your business, one of the most useful strategies you can adopt is to create standard operating procedures. This will ensure:

  • Compliance
  • Consistency
  • Efficiency
  • Room for growth

There are platforms that can help you do this, or you can create your own templates that include roadmaps for your essential business workflows. When you are creating your standard operating procedures, always keep your business, employees, and customers in mind.


Understanding by Design | Center for Teaching | Vanderbilt University

10 Keys To Creating A Psychologically Safe Workplace For Employees ⎸ Forbes

To Retain New Hires, Spend More Time Onboarding Them ⎸ Harvard Business Review

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