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Standard Operating Procedures — Why They Matter for Employee Empowerment

September 5, 2022

Your Human Capital, otherwise known as your employees, is the company’s most valuable resource. It is not exactly a secret that they are not only the face of your company but the key to productivity, revenue, and innovation. When it comes to empowering your workforce and keeping them happy, typical advice includes vague suggestions like wellness days — but while these might play a role, they fail to address the root cause of the day-to-day problems. Often, it is the processes that are holding employees back or limiting their autonomy. Constant frustration in the day to day will drive down your employee engagement.

We’ll focus on something connected to but a little different: Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Let’s take a look at what they are, how they link to employee empowerment, and how to use them.

What are standard operating procedures?

Standard operating procedures are usually described as “documents” — a term that doesn’t exactly put fire into the hearts of most employees, but bear with us here.

While it may sound ridged or even too corporate for some companies. The purpose of an SOP is that it will take one of your business processes and break it down into smaller more digestible steps to help the reader navigate a process. It’s somewhat similar to an instruction manual for typical business tasks, but can take various forms, including flowcharts, infographics, or even to-do check lists. What matters is they achieve their key goal: To give an organization clear guidelines on how to carry out a task.

This prevents complications that occur when different people in a company follow different processes, or a process relies on one key staff member who may be on vacation, out sick, or have left the organization altogether.

Having all the information you need in one place has all kinds of benefits, including:

  • Consistency

  • Better quality

  • Fewer errors

  • Better compliance

  • Saving time

  • More knowledge retained

SOPs and employee empowerment

At first glance, it might seem like SOPs are all about productivity, and they often get a bad reputation for being rigid and outdated. But with proper execution, they can be a great resource that sets your people up for success. Why are we inserting the word empowerment? Well, SPOs do just that; if written correctly, they will empower your people to not only help themselves but to also let them go through the stages of figuring out a new task as it was meant to be.

People need consistency even those who hate consistency. Human nature tells us we want some things to be predictable. Ex: Red means stop, green means go etc.

Few things are more stressful than not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing at work, but SOPs fill in all the gaps. Now SOPs are not a job description or a role and responsibility check list but merely a guideline for “how to” do something. If an employee ever has doubts, they can simply check the SOP and get on with their work.

SOPs give employees the tools and resources to know exactly what it takes to succeed, and offer some autonomy since employees do not need to seek out help from a manager every time they have a small query.

Additionally, when they see the processes clearly outlined, they may be able to offer suggestions or improvements, giving them true ownership. (Also see continuous improvement, and process owners for complimenting information)

Employee autonomy can lead to greater work satisfaction and feelings of well-being, so this is a huge benefit — especially as it’s likely to have a positive effects for the business.

When SOPs are part of training or employee performance assessment, everyone knows what is expected of them and can check they have covered everything necessary as part of onboarding.

SOPs and business continuity plans

SOPs are effective enough as a standalone policy, but they are best when combined with a business continuity plan, which allows a company and its employees to know what to do when out-of-the-ordinary events crop up and wreak havoc. Think inclement weather, flood, fire, etc.

These plans focus on preventing certain outcomes from happening and determining how to mitigate problems if they do occur. With both BCPs and SOPs to refer to as they need, employees are armed with a full toolkit that can guide them through any situation without turning to managers.

For this to work properly, both documents must account for four different aspects:

  1. People

  2. Processes

  3. Technology

  4. Customer Experience

But to get the right balance and ensure each factor is looked after properly, it can help to work with us to draft these documents up to be direct and effective.

Show your employees you care

Standard Operating Procedures set your employees up for success by letting them know exactly what it takes to do well in a process and ensuring they can replicate each step. This may even help them develop improvements and suggestions to finetune your processes.

If you’re interested in setting up SOPs for yourself (and maybe a business continuity plan too), we can help you at Cornerstone Paradigm Consulting. To find out more, book a free consultation today.