Properly planned and documented, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) can help improve a business’ product quality, reduce turnover costs, and minimize product and safety liability. In certain cases, such as in pharmaceutical and medical device industries, SOP process adherence is also federally mandated.
SOPs don’t just happen as a normal part of doing business — rather, they require having a comprehensive, thoughtful process for their creation, updating, distribution, and associated training and measurement. Here are some tips for ensuring that your SOPs are being adhered to — thus maximizing their bottom-line impact.
5 keys to maximizing SOP process adherence
1. Train employees on the value and processes around your SOPs
Effective training around SOPs involves much more than simply reading the procedures out loud or sending all-hands memos. For best results, training should be targeted to your learners, and feature interactive hands-on learning opportunities, where questions can be addressed. Employees should learn why each SOP was created, and also how, by adhering to the SOPs, they can help ensure consistent, compliant performance.
2. Make SOPs highly visible
Employees will be more likely to remember and follow SOPs if they’re in plain sight. To make sure they can be easily viewed by your staff, consider creating posters, laminated cards, or other communication tools to reinforce your SOPs. Develop an online library of all your SOP documentation, together with an index that allows employees to easily find a given SOP when they need it. You could also use the company intranet or extranet to ensure your SOPs are available anywhere your employees are working.
3. Measure how your SOPs are working
A fundamental strategy for any company is to measure results — and the same goes for compliance with SOPs. In addition, consider ways to incentivize your employees to comply with SOPs. For example, by incorporating compliance with SOPs as part of your employee review process, individuals will be more likely to be aware of SOPs and follow them. Also, see to it that employees understand how their SOP process adherence helps your company meet key performance metrics — such as zero defects.
4. Keep your SOPs up-to-date
It’s likely that your products and processes change over time, so be sure you have a process for updating and redistributing your SOP documentation. Although it might feel like extra work to print and replace process documentation on a repeated basis, doing so represents an opportunity to remind your staff and raise visibility of the SOPs. And be sure to make employees aware that SOP documents are version-controlled, and where they can find the most recent versions.
5. Weave SOP compliance and continuous improvement into your culture
Encourage your employees to embrace your SOPs, and to adopt habits to reinforce their consistent execution. Make it easy for employees to provide feedback whenever they find a better way to perform a process, and when that occurs, revise your SOPs accordingly. When you enlist the input and involvement of your employees, you increase their buy-in … and produce better SOPs. Just as importantly, you encourage a sense of teamwork, which benefits everyone in the organization.
A team effort that’s worth it
Managed properly, SOPs can add to your bottom line in numerous ways. Not only are you bringing greater consistency to your processes and improving the quality of your products, but you can also ensure a safer work environment. The key is treating the entire function as a strategic priority across your organization, and encouraging and incentivizing the participation of employees to keep compliance high.