Creating SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)

What are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?

Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs, are a set of instructions that have been clearly defined at a business, organization or institution that have to be followed to achieve optimal quality and efficiency at the work place. These guidelines are crucial in ensuring that the staff are performing as per the requirements of your organization.


These procedures are helpful in enabling the staff in carrying out sets of complex routine work on a regular basis, ensuring that no mistakes are made. SOPs are implemented for the following reasons:

  • Achieve efficiency in the workforce
  • Ensure quality output from all staff
  • Performance uniformity throughout the workforce
  • Reduction in miscommunication
  • Compliance with rules and regulations of the organization

Developing a quality SOP allows directors to easily oversee staff performance management.  Combined with regular training and performance evaluation, this can lead to a motivated and an effective workforce.


Creating Consistent and Clear Standard Operating Procedures


To enhance the operational efficiency of your program as much as possible, it is essential that you have procedures that are clear enough for your staff to understand and follow on a regular basis. This way they know what they must do when they come in to work and what is expected of them, giving them a sense of purpose and a set of goals to achieve.  Remember that writing procedures for your program, creates a step-by-step action for the policy written by your organization, funder or state compliance.   In New York City (NYC), all after school programs serving children 5 to 12 years old must comply with the New York State Office of Children & Family Services 414 School age Regulations, which are enforced by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.


With clearly documented SOPs, your staff won’t have to remember every procedure step by step as they will simply consult with the document and speed up the processes that they have been assigned to carry out.  Here is a sample of a written procedure and a blank template for your use.


Establishing Best Practices


On the other hand, with a clear set of SOPs, you can provide your staff with ‘Best Practices’ for being the most efficient and effective ways to carry out certain tasks. By establishing this best practice, you can enforce it by letting your staff know about how this should be the first mode of conducting whatever they are about to do.


You can create an SOP document with the following headers in mind:


  • Give a title to your Standard Operating Procedures
  • Easy navigation with a list of table of contents
  • The Procedures and who it is meant for
  • Explain complicated terms or jargon
  • Give a detailed, yet simple set of procedural actions to be followed
  • Explain the Best Practices as part of the procedures
  • Additional information regarding health and safety matters
  • Define SOP metrics so you can always check for the effectiveness of all processes
  • Mention your willingness to receive feedback on the various SOPs for improvement


Here is a sample procedure of a written procedure.

Always Be Open to Accountability & Improvement


In order for SOPs to be successfully implemented, it is critical that you encourage receiving feedback and constructive criticism from your staff. This will allow you to understand their needs better and know which areas of the SOP require amending. The best way to do this is to speak to your staff regarding all the little details, which you might have missed.


Even though you will have a general idea of what the procedures are, you won’t know the minute details that the staff has to work with on a regular basis. This can have a huge impact on the final outcome as you can fine-tune procedures that require adjustments.


Even better would be to call in regular meetings with all the relevant staff members. Ask them to convey all the details and if there are any ways to make the procedure better. Going through all the steps one by one will enable you to perform improvements.

Creating SOPs for Areas that Require Improvement


Having meetings with your staff will open more pathways for your staff in letting you know any other areas that require standard operating procedures. This will give your staff a sense of being valued members of your institution, prompting them to work harder as per the SOPs and also providing valuable input that can help in improving the SOPs as well.

Going Digital with Your SOP


Making the SOP document easily available for all your staff members will enable them to consult it whenever faced with a dilemma. You can also opt to design and develop a SOP software/application for your staff to access through their mobile devices whenever they require. Going digital will give you the advantage of speeding things up as it will allow your staff to find out what they have been looking for in an instant rather than scouring through the pages of a document.


You can also put it up online so your staff members are the only ones who can access it through any of the file sharing software. In any case, the best practice in case of creating SOPs is to make it a habit to have a set of Standard Operating Procedures for any and all of the areas that require improvement.


If you are interested in getting trained on creating systems and structures to develop your staff checkout our Director’s Lab Live.


By Sonia Toledo, CEO of Dignity of Children