Standard operating procedures (SOP) are necessary for any work environment to standardize its products and quality efficiently. They are often written and established to ensure that all company teams will work in a coordinated manner to increase productivity.
The use of SOPs and official documents detailing working instructions can also significantly reduce the risk of errors made by either personnel or equipment. This results in fewer delays and allows the average time for task completion to improve. If you’re scaling your ecommerce business and hiring more staff or a virtual assistant, these documents will come in handy.
Entrepreneurs looking into hiring a virtual assistant (VA) should establish an SOP and working instructions. Having this prepared can make it significantly easier to delegate tasks and have them completed according to company standards. At the same time, it allows the business to reap the benefits of hiring a VA right away.
5 Tips on How to Write an Effective SOP
Here are some key pointers to keep in mind when preparing an effective SOP.
Don’t Skip the Essential parts of an SOP
- Title – All types of official business documents need a clear and concise title to easily identify the contents and other essential details.
- Objective – The objective of the SOP should be established in a detailed manner that allows users to understand quickly what the document covers.
- Scope – The written scope should cover both to who the written SOPs apply and don’t apply to as a means of preventing confusion and misunderstanding.
- Definition of Terms – Uncommon terms should be clearly defined to allow users unfamiliar with acronyms, abbreviations, or industry jargon a clear understanding of the material.
- Roles and Responsibilities – Define all necessary functions and activities related to the SOP that can accommodate the size of several departments.
- Procedures – Ensure that all processes written on the SOP are up to industry standards and meet the requirements that enable good practices in the work environment.
- References – Use related references as needed to help the user understand procedures to execute them properly.
Avoid ambiguity—write concisely and clearly
Remember to write from a practical standpoint and keep the language short and simple. This will allow users to easily comprehend the material and avoid mistakes when performing their tasks.
In terms of writing, it is best to use an active voice and present the sentence’s main idea first. In addition, avoid words that give the user any decision-making flexibility. For instance, do not use “should” when it is absolute. Instead, use “must” and similar other terms.
Follow a step-by-step format
Using a step-by-step approach can make it easier for users to understand the process and follow it accurately. Simultaneously, it makes it simpler for them to navigate the document’s contents at any time. Keep in mind that each procedure should still use clear phrases and avoid complicated terminologies.
Use a consistent style and format
Keep the writing style consistent throughout the document to effectively establish instructions and ideas. Similarly, the format should be concise and easy to navigate to avoid creating difficulties when going through the material.
Limit the scope of your documentation
Note down the limitations of the document and determine for which teams the procedure can apply. These include limitations on tasks, teams, roles, and other related parties.
How to Write Working Instructions
- What is a working instruction?
Work instructions are documents that provide employees with specified commands regarding how to carry out activities given to them. This file is commonly a more detailed step-by-step guide that describes actions in detail compared to an SOP. Another difference between the two is that work instructions are more narrowed to an individual task within an SOP.
- Make the introduction clear
The intro of the document should give the user more familiarity with the project and define its expectations. It should determine who the instructions are meant for and briefly explain its purpose.
- Format the document for better comprehension
Using a single format throughout the document can make it easier for users to read and comprehend its contents. Additionally, the writer can use bold or italic fonts to emphasize important information found within the document.
- Use a combination of text and visual to describe how to accomplish the task
Images are a great way to quickly explain complicated concepts and emphasize the importance of the steps. Combined with detailed text, users can process the presented information quicker, which will benefit your team in the long run.
- Write instructions in an accessible language
Prepare the document in a language that all members of the company easily understand. Even if the whole team are native English speakers, your work instructions should use layman terms. This will allow them to be more comfortable reading the document and experience no difficulties understanding its contents.
Finalizing the Process
SOPs are a common way to present an organized work process that can deliver desired results. Through these methods, a business can consistently offer quality-assured products and services. SOPs and work instructions will also help your new employees or VAs hit the ground running.
If you’re looking to boost your brand’s growth further, consider hiring a virtual assistant. Outsource Access has mastered the process of finding and hiring the perfect virtual assistant by matching a client to a VA with compatible personalities, skills, and industry knowledge. Outsource Access will work with you to create a solid onboarding plan that will bring VAs up to speed in no time.