At this point, you’ve likely heard all about process standardization. How it saves time, improves revenue and saves your business from jeopardy. Or how not having standardized processes invites chaos.
But the real question is, how do you do that?
The main focus of any successful company is customer satisfaction. Naturally, your employees must also follow processes and have a process improvement plan in place that allow you to achieve this goal smoothly and hassle-free.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about process standardization and share a step-by-step breakdown of implementing it at your organization.
Let’s get started!
What is process standardization?
Process standardization involves documenting and formalizing all the activities, approaches and steps for executing tasks across departments and branches to achieve consistent results.
You can standardize any process, task, or procedure relevant to your organization. Think: doing payroll, answering the phone, noting client information, task assignment and execution and more.
Why is process standardization important? Having different ways to execute a process leads to chaos and confusion, bringing down operational efficiency and negatively impacting your business’s bottom line.
On the other hand, when you have a uniform execution model, your entire team knows which practices to follow and steps to take to achieve expected results and deliver on time. We’ll take a closer look at the various process standardization benefits in a bit.
What are the benefits of process standardization?
Before deep diving into the benefits, let’s discuss why process standardization works.
Before applying standardization, you must figure out answers to certain key questions related to executing a process as optimally as possible. This includes:
- What are the goals and objectives of the process?
- When does it start and end and which employees will be responsible for executing it at every stage?
- Have you previously defined any workflow or SOP that relates to this process?
- What is the best execution sequence for this process?
- What should the end product or results look like?
- What’s the timeline or deadline to complete this process?
Evidently, to standardize a process, you need to have a 360° understanding of all stages of execution, leading to benefits, such as:
Improved customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction is important to your business’s success. This is because ensuring all customers’ needs are met brings in more revenue, keeping your company running and profitable.
Process standardization helps you to identify and implement the best approach to consistently producing goods or delivering services that delight customers, getting them back for a repeat experience.
With all employees following the same processes, there’s a significant reduction in the amount of variability in your offerings. This improves product quality and consistency and, in turn, customer experiences.
Higher productivity & efficiency
Process standardization removes the potential for ambiguity and guesswork, which leads to higher productivity.
Any complicated task is likely to have some gray areas. If your employees don’t have a clear set of instructions to execute it, they’ll end up improvising and spending more time figuring out how to proceed than actually doing it.
Think about it: how much time and effort have you already spent rectifying someone’s mistake simply because they guessed (and guessed wrong)? Or teaching them to do things that came naturally to you because of years of practice?
Standardizing processes tells your staff what needs to be done to produce the right results with minimal resources and in less time. This helps reduce errors and oversights and boosts overall work efficiency.
Lower operational costs
Standardizing processes helps you reduce unnecessary costs involved in executing complex processes. In performing trial by error, employees may end up wasting capital that could otherwise have been channeled into the right source.
This is actually a no-brainer benefit as the whole point of uniform processes is optimal resource utilization that makes it easier to produce more at lower costs.
It’s important to note that spending more on operational costs also inflates your product’s or service’s price, making it harder for your target customers to afford it, especially if there are similar alternatives at a lower cost.
Better employee morale
Process standardization creates a single source of truth for completing tasks. And no, this doesn’t mean approaching things from a dreary monotonous perspective—instead, it focuses on creating standards anyone can master and take pride in honing.
When processes are governed by uniform standards, employees are better equipped to do high-quality work more efficiently. They are also likely to take a sense of ownership and pride in the work they do, boosting their morale.
Two unavoidable consequences of a lack of standardization are less reliability and less consistent quality.
Your employees won’t share an equal approach to any given task or procedure. For instance, there are both better and worse ways to send a cold email just as there are better and worse ways to ask employees for an update.
Process standardization minimizes the possibility of overlooking crucial details, helping guarantee quality. Everyone will have a complete and trusted breakdown of what needs to be done yet, reducing errors or ambiguity.
Does your company need process standardization?
As any good team leader, you’re probably wondering whether process standardization will help you and your employees.
The following are some common issues that highlight a lack of standardization in your company:
- Your employees don’t have easy access to the necessary information and customer feedback to correctly perform tasks.
- There’s a mishmash among teammates about which metrics matter.
- There are frequent delays in communicating updates or important information, leading to costly errors.
- Your stakeholders and employees have different opinions on what’s important regarding a process.
- You spend the majority of your time creating custom roadmaps for different audiences.
If this sounds familiar, your organization is sure to benefit from standardizing processes.
Which business processes should be standardized?
Ideally, you should standardize repeatable work elements that follow a repeatable process. Common examples include:
- Cleaning procedures.
- Payroll processes.
- Machine or equipment operations.
- Safety measures and packaging protocols.
- Answering the phone.
- Recording client data.
- Creating customer service scripts.
- Designing processes or training frameworks.
Reach out to employees and ask them whether any steps in a process or activity would benefit from greater consistency. Think about the content, sequence, timing and desired outcomes of the work and if standardizing seems meaningful, start chalking out a process standardization methodology for your team.
Which processes should not be standardized?
Not all tasks and activities are meant to be standardized, especially those requiring individual discretion or those with no consistent processes.
But there’s a catch…
You can standardize the framework around these variables. For example, an artist or novelist has to use basic patterns in skills they have learned and honed over the years to create a song or write a novel, respectively.
Regardless of company size, you can always have a standardized procedure for something. But for your efforts to work, you have to encourage employees to adopt the prescribed steps. If anything doesn’t work, you can always revise it to improve implementation.
3 types of standardization processes
When it comes to process standardization, you can’t take a cookie-cutter approach. Every business operation is unique—and so are the various processes and procedures related to it.
Let’s quickly cover some standard processes.
1. Standard business processes
Most managers and team leaders focus on standardizing business processes.
Document each activity and operation that has been successfully implemented. This way, whenever a client inquires about any part of the process, you’ll know how to negotiate and meet the demands. Careful documentation also allows you to judge the quality of the product or service you offer clients.
2. Product marketing
A standardized marketing and distribution system makes it easier for clients to use your product or service.
More importantly, it allows you to deliver the same quality regardless of your customer's geographical location. If your company goes on to launch more branches in another state or country, your customers will receive the same quality product or service.
3. Manufacturing businesses
If you know the manufacturing industry, you know that even one procedure will make your product unusable. Plus, it’s safer to follow generally accepted steps and patterns to get the desired end product.
Another important thing to note is that your product will likely be certified by various organizations and people. If your product fails to meet the requirements set by standard bodies, you won’t be allowed to launch. While a certain level of deviation is okay, you don’t want testing and validation to prove your product is weak and substandard.
Process standardization helps ensure this, enabling you to formalize processes and procedures to consistently create compliant products that can be reproduced in other locations in the world.
7 tips to standardize processes without the hassle
Time to take action!
Below, we’ve shared a list of handy tips to build a smooth process standardization framework that’s easy to understand and implement.
1. Prioritize process mapping
Process mapping involves outlining individual steps within a process, including detailing expected timelines for each step and identifying individuals responsible for executing each step. Think of it as thoroughly describing the workflow your company uses.
Why is mapping important for process standardization? Creating a process map allows you to identify the challenges and limitations of each process, as well as implement strategies to resolve them.
Here are some of the best tools switch to simplify process mapping:
- Detailed maps to represent detailed views of processes.
- Basic flowcharts to visualize data and steps to perform tasks.
- Multi-functional flowcharts to include all task-related information related to the performance of departments, groups and teams.
2. Get employee buy-in
You cannot reap the benefits of process standardization without employee buy-in.
As a team leader, you have to be transparent in everything you do. By communicating the tasks and assignments of different workers, you’ll arouse more interest in your standardization efforts, making them more likely to bear fruit.
Design your goals and operations to motivate each team member to do better and achieve more. You should also develop new strategies that link your staff together in an environment to work towards a common goal: facilitate company growth.
3. Document processes
A crucial aspect of successful process standardization is accurately recording and documenting all stages of business operations and tasks. It gives you a better idea of the individual steps needed to achieve the desired result. Plus, whenever an employee performs a similar operation, they’ll have a complete map of what to do and how.
As documentation is a continuous process, you can easily correct and identify limitations and errors involved in each process. This also helps you cut down unnecessary costs and boost productivity while delivering quality goods and services.
4. Monitor & analyze standardized processes
Your work doesn’t stop after applying standardization. You still have to analyze and monitor your newly optimized processes to determine whether they’re yielding higher productivity and, if not, make the necessary adjustments, as part of your process improvement cycle.
Don’t leave your workforce to chance; not all of them will implement or adhere to the prescribed work instructions. You have to make your team members accountable for the new processes to realize your process standardization goals.
5. Train employees
When you standardize processes, some team members may face difficulties in keeping up. But the fact that this also hinders the progress and actualization of tasks means you need a reliable solution to get them up to speed — and your best bet to do that is to carry out training.
Having properly laid out procedures for each process at every level of growth and task for your teams reduces errors and ambiguity. But training equips employees with the necessary skills to perform these processes, helping maximize resources to deliver quality output faster.
6. Invest in quality software
The easiest way to simplify process standardization and make it more cost-effective while eliminating potential limitations and reducing time and resource wastage is to implement the right software.
The good news is you have several effective tools to keep your standard processes running and fully functional. Process documentation tools like Scribe, for example, allows you to create a detailed and visual step-by-step guide (Scribe) and then combine them with other guides and images, videos and more in large process docs (through Scribe Pages).
You can then share your processes with your teammates via email, by pasting a URL link or embedding it in the company knowledge base. That’s not it — if you find some part of your scribe is unclear, you can revise the language—or add more info—without having to start from scratch.
Here’s a scribe showing you how to get started with Scribe:
Get set & standardize
If you’re ready to start standardizing processes, get the ball rolling by following these tips:
- Collect data on your current processes and analyze your current output, costs and revenue, internal interactions and other important aspects.
- Identify variations and issues in your processes or product quality.
- Brainstorm effective strategies to run these operations optimally.
- Document every step, from start to finish, when optimizing processes to lock in standards.
- Continue to improve standards as you develop.
And remember, the past to higher productivity and efficiency doesn’t have to be time-consuming and tedious. You can always leverage technology to help you out. Sign up with Scribe for free to simplify documentation and easily share your newly minted processes with teammates.