If you’ve ever baked a cake (oooh… hunger pangs…), you most probably followed a recipe – what are the ingredients, what are the steps to make the dough, what temperature to set the oven at, how long to put it the cake mix in the oven… etc.
This recipe that you followed to make that delicious cake – that’s in fact a Standard Operating Procedure, or “SOP”.
The Master Baker documented step-by-step instructions to make it simple for bakers like you and me to follow and recreate that same cake on our own. Simple, and delicious!
SOPs in the Workplace
Businesses use SOPs to outline how workers should perform different tasks in the workplace.
An SOP helps a new worker unfamiliar with the task to be done to simply follow the instructions step-by-step and perform the task without assistance or additional instructions.
A good SOP is very defined and focused. Just like how a cake recipe describes how to bake just ONE type of cake, an SOP documents very clearly on just that one particular work task. It does so in a step-by-step manner that is easy to follow and does not leave the worker guessing.
An even better SOP also describes contingency situations and how to respond to such What-If scenarios.
Here’s an example of an SOP instructing cashier staff how to use the Point-of-Sale (“POS”) System:
In terms of usage, you would expect staff that are new to the task to refer to the digital SOP more often. As he/she gets familiar with the task, this will happen less often, and is perfectly in line with the pedagogical concept of “fading“. This is when the SOP has fulfilled its objective. It has trained your staff on what to do, and how to do it well.
As you can see, SOPs help your workers to learn what is expected of them, how to perform the tasks in their jobs, and ultimately contribute positively to your business.
Your new workers hit the ground running.
Your managers’ time is freed up for more strategic areas of the business.
This helps your business to move ahead of your competition.
In summary, SOPs increase your organisation’s productivity because instructions do not have to be repeated to new workers over and over again.
Paper SOPs vs Digital SOPs
SOPs have traditionally been written in paper format.
Hard copies of procedure manuals are typically put together by an operations or line manager, and filed in a folder for staff to be trained, and to refer to before they start on the shop or factory floor.
There are several disadvantages if you choose paper-based SOPs for your business:
1. It takes a lot of time and effort to create these hard-copy SOPs.
2. It’s expensive and non-environmentally friendly to print out multiple copies of the SOPs for different outlets or branches; even more so if each staff is provided with a personal copy.
Not many companies would shoulder the cost of providing SOPs for individual workers – who end up needing to refer to shared copies, and many end up not doing so. This results in some workers not being proficient in the task, and more time is needed to (re-)train these workers, meaning more effort and cost.
3. It is difficult for workers to search for specific information on a particular task if you don’t know exactly where to look (“Ctrl-F” searches don’t work on hard copies)
4. Physical copies of SOPs in the F&B or construction work environment get dirty and grimy with repeated use.
5. Adding to / Updating SOPs means another round of intensive effort to print out multiple copies for multiple outlets.
6. Errors in (or missing out) replacing specific SOP pages means some workers may end up referring to outdated SOPs. This introduces risks to your business, workers and potentially to the customers too.
In short, paper SOPs are not feasible for your business in the modern age, especially as processes continually get refined and changed in our digital economy.
A Digital SOP framework is definitely required for your business to do well today.
Creating your 1st Digital SOP
There are different tools in the market that you can use to create your digital SOPs. Today, we will learn how to use ArcLab, our cloud-based mobile learning SaaS platform – to create your first Digital SOP – fast & easy.
Before crafting your SOP, it is useful to watch the task being performed by an expert or someone competent in the task. Write down everything they do, or better yet – take a video clip of them performing the task.
1. Include this video in your ArcLab Digital SOP module as your first demo of the task to be performed, and the sequence of actions – step-by-step.
2. Break the video up into segments, including an explanation for each step. Make sure that each step is described as simply and as to-the-point as possible.
By this stage the learner has seen what he/she is required to do in totality, and the individual steps required.
3. Test understanding of the knowledge required in the work procedure by including assessment questions.
Your first draft of SOP is ready to be tested.
Send this 1st draft to a group of staff. Ask them to review that the steps covered are correct and clear. It is very important that the steps be simple to follow for someone with absolutely no background knowledge of the task to be performed.
If your staff pilot group are able to perform the task correctly, your SOP is ready to be rolled out. If not, take in the feedback to improve the SOP further. Then test the 2nd draft of the SOP again – repeating until ready.
In the ArcLab Mobile Learning platform – you can go to ArcLab Discover and pick Digital SOP templates that you can use for your company’s specific needs. Simply select the Digital SOPs menu tab:
Review the SOP template and pick the ones that fit your company’s needs.
Click “Remix” to add it to your ArcLab Dashboard, where you can adapt to your business’ specific circumstances and workflow.
Once your Digital SOP module is complete, save them to a Folder in ArcLab, and designate which staff to invite to access the Digital SOPs.
It’s that fast and easy, not to mention secure, as access is limited to only who you designate.
Your Digital SOPs can now be accessed by staff on their mobile devices, ready to be referred to as-and-when needed.
The best part: whenever there are changes to your processes, you can simply update your SOP in your ArcLab dashboard. Since the SOP modules are cloud-based, staff will always be able to access the most up-to-date SOP modules.
Anytime, anywhere, in any language.
Examples of good Digital SOPs for training
You’ve seen how important SOPs are to your business processes.
You’ve also seen how easy it is to create Digital SOPs on the ArcLab platform, with templates from ArcLab Discover. Here are some that may be applicable for your business:
1. Digital SOP template for Customer Service
2. Digital SOP template for Operating a Point-of-Sale System (“POS”)
3. Digital SOP template for Chemical Spill in a Lab
Begin your Digital SOP journey today!
Feel free to use these ArcLab Discover templates, and many more.
Now get started creating your own digital SOP on ArcLab today! https://builder.arclab.io