Work flexibility is beneficial in many ways. It supports teams’ empowerment, fosters creativity and boosts morale. However, you shouldn’t confuse flexibility with a lack of standards.
Oftentimes, creativity doesn’t pair with productivity. If your teams need to reinvent repetitive processes, they don’t innovate – they just waste a lot of time. In contrast, procedure standardization frees up a few hours per week for every employee, regardless of their department.
So you need to introduce SOPs organization-wide. But where do you start? Without good templates at hand, it can be a daunting task.
Keep your chin up. We’ve collected five SOP examples for procedures your teams have to deal with most often. Use them as templates to build your own SOPs upon.
What is an SOP?
Before we move on, what exactly is an SOP?
A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of instructions on how to perform a specific task focusing on establishing uniformity of repetitive procedures. SOPs help to achieve workflow consistency and ensure predictable outcomes.
In simple terms, an SOP is a go-to for why, when, by whom, and how things should be done.
Benefits of having clear SOPs
Written SOPs come with a number of benefits such as:
When employees have clear guidelines on operating procedures, they’re less prone to improvising and making mistakes. By standardizing procedures, you’ll reduce the guesswork out of day-to-day tasks and achieve consistent outcomes.
Clear roles and responsibilities
Twenty-two percent of conflicts in the workplace are caused by unclear roles. It’s critical that your SOPs specify stakeholders responsible for certain procedures – it eliminates confusion and improves collaboration.
Standard operating procedures prevent project delays and improve efficiency. With all the possible questions answered in a document, employees don’t need to distract coworkers and postpone work until they hear back from their colleagues.
Why spend hours documenting procedures when employees seem to have nailed everything without written guides? The truth is that once you lose at least one employee (and unfortunately, you will – approximately 25 percent of workers quit their jobs every year,) you’ll lose the knowledge they’ve gained in the position. By encouraging people to document workplace procedures, you won’t need to rebuild everything from scratch when they leave.
Whenever an employee takes a new role, it takes a lot of effort to train them and transfer work. SOPs can guide your onboarding process and reduce the number of people-hours spent on in-person training.
Altogether, these five benefits result in the most important outcome for a business – cost savings. With written SOPs, you won’t lose money to inconsistent results, failed deadlines, a lack of clarity, lost knowledge or ineffective onboarding.
SOP structure overview
Soon we’ll dive into the examples of SOPs you’ll want to implement across your organization. But first, let’s list the components making a perfect SOP format:
- Title: Each SOP starts with a clear, descriptive title. It’s good to include a department name, a brief summary of the document purpose, and a date when it was updated the last time.
- Identification: This section describes who collaborated on the document.
- Scope: This is where it’s explained where the procedure starts and when it’s considered complete.
- Purpose: The main objective of the procedure is highlighted here.
- Glossary: If terminology or abbreviations are used, they should be explained in the glossary.
- Procedure: Use this section to feature all the steps that should be taken to perform the procedure successfully.
- References: Helpful links to relevant resources should be included in the reference section.
5 Examples of SOPs that increase organization efficiency
Ready to enjoy the benefits of SOPs? Here are five SOP examples to inspire you.
All the examples below are built upon a unified, step-by-step SOP format making it easy for you to customize and implement them into your own SOP system.
We’ve complemented our SOPs with Scribe’s step-by-step guides. You can use them as they are or use Scribe to automatically generate custom guides on any process and include them in your SOPs.
SOP Example #1: Recruitment
Title: HR – Recruitment Process [Updated 11/02/2021]
Identification: The document is introduced on May 12, 2019 by Emma S. Updates: February 7, 2020 (Emma S.), November 2, 2021 (John R.).
Scope: This Standard Operating Procedure will be used by HR representatives from the moment of identifying a hiring need to signing an employment agreement.
Purpose: To guide HR representatives on the hiring process.
- Subject matter expert – a person with experience in the role an HR representative is looking to fill.
- DocuSign – an electronic signature app.
Step 1: A human resource representative receives a request from a department willing to fill in a specific role.
Step 2: With assistance from a subject matter expert, the HR representative creates a job description, outlining the company description, new hire’s responsibilities, experience and benefits.
Step 3: A vacancy is submitted to job boards on LinkedIn and Glassdoor.
Step 4: To run paid promotion, request funds from a finance manager and include a staffing administrator in the email copy.
Step 5: Applications are being collected for two weeks. Then a list of applicants is reviewed and 20 candidates that meet the criteria are shortlisted. Check the guide on how to manage job listings on LinkedIn for reference.
Step 6: The HR representative runs the first-round interviews on Zoom.
Step 7: The shortlisted candidates are interviewed by the head of the team or department that is looking to fill an open position. The HR representative should find time slots working for candidates and interviewers and arrange meetings.
Step 8: Remaining candidates receive job knowledge and personality tests from the HR representative by email. The deadline, as well as requirements, should be clearly articulated.
Step 9: The head of the team or department looking to fill a position reviews candidates’ knowledge tests while the HR representative reviews personality tests. Based on the results, the HR representative makes an offer to the best candidate.
Step 10: Once the offer is accepted, the HR representative prepares an employment contract and sends it to the candidate via DocuSign.
- Job description template.
- Guidelines and policies for job posting.
- Interviewing policies.
- Personality test.
- Company description.
- How to manage job listings on LinkedIn. (Like in the Scribe below.)
SOP Example #2: New hire’s first day
Title: HR – New Hire Onboarding [08/14/2019]
Identification: The document is introduced on August 14, 2019 by Emily K.
Scope: These are the guidelines for HR representatives and people managers to follow on a new hire’s first day at work. All the related materials should be prepared in advance.
Purpose: Following a standard onboarding process allows to provide a seamless onboarding experience for a new employee.
- Onboarding buddy – an employee from any department serving as a new hire's peer coach helping them through their onboarding experience.
- Direct Deposit – an authorization form authorizing an employer to send money to an employee’s bank account.
- NDA – a non-disclosure agreement.
Step 1: An HR representative welcomes a new hire in the office at 9 am, introduces them to coworkers, and assigns an onboarding buddy.
Step 2: The HR representative shares an employee handbook with a new employee, discusses policies and procedures and asks them to sign Direct Deposit and NDA.
Step 3: A people manager introduces a new hire to their first-day agenda and gives them access to the company intranet.
Step 4: The people manager arranges a welcome lunch.
Step 5: A new hire goes through their first-day checklist and requests access to the tools they need to perform work successfully.
Step 6: A new hire has a one-on-one with their direct manager.
- Direct Deposit template.
- NDA template.
- First-day agenda template.
SOP Example #3: Sales prospecting
Standardizing sales processes is probably the most difficult task. Different customer personas demand different approaches – this is where SOPs will benefit from a certain extent of flexibility. Therefore, we’ll outline only the most critical aspects of sales prospecting in the following SOP.
Title: Sales – Sales prospecting [Updated 04/25/2022]
Identification: The document is introduced on April 12, 2020 by Edward S. Updates: April 25, 2022 (Edward S.).
Scope: This procedure starts when a sales representative gets down to building a prospecting plan for the quarter and ends when prospects turn into opportunities.
Purpose: The procedure explains the key steps towards successful sales prospecting on LinkedIn.
- Prospect – a person that matches your buyer persona and might eventually become your customer.
- Opportunity – a prospect who is most likely to become a customer based on their behavior.
- Sales Navigator – a sales tool built by LinkedIn.
Step 1: A sales manager sets a goal for quarterly sales prospecting.
Step 2: A sales rep analyzes performance from the previous quarter’s sales prospecting.
Step 3: With the help of Sales Navigator, the sales rep searches for job titles and companies similar to the ones that have shown the best results within the previous campaign.
Step 4: The sales rep connects with prospects and exports the contacts (see how to export LinkedIn contacts).
Step 5: The sales rep imports contacts into Salesforce (see: how to import accounts into Salesforce).
Step 6: The sales rep starts a nurturing campaign through Salesforce.
Step 7: Based on the campaign results, the sales rep qualifies prospects and turns the qualified ones into opportunities (see: how to create an opportunity in Salesforce).
- Buyer personas.
- How to export LinkedIn contacts.
- How to import accounts into Salesforce.
- How to create an opportunity in Salesforce.
SOP Example #4: Customer complaint handling
Title: CS – Customer Complaint Handling [Updated 03/15/2022]
Identification: The document is introduced on June 12, 2020 by Ryan N. Updates: March 15, 2022 (Emma S.).
Scope: The document covers all types of complaints coming through the live chat, help desk, community forum, social media, and review websites.
Purpose: This SOP provides guidelines for managing customer complaints and maintaining a positive customer experience.
- CS – customer support
- FIN – finance department
- BDD – business development department
Step 1: As soon as a complaint is received, a customer support rep records it in the complaints
register. The record should be kept for four years or until it’s resolved.
Step 2: Any complaint should be acknowledged within three working days, regardless of whether a rep can resolve it immediately or not.
Step 3: A CS rep reviews compliant records to reveal trends and see how the problem was solved previously.
- Step 3.1.: If they find a successful precedent, they should follow the same procedure.
- Step 3.2.: If the complaint is unique and relates to product functionality issues, a CS rep reaches out to the development department for clarifications.
- Step 3.2.: If the complaint is related to legal issues or payments, a CS rep contacts BDD and FIN.
Step 4: If the complaint is found to be correct, the CS rep takes appropriate corrective action to recover the customer experience.
Step 5: If the complaint is made public, the CS rep apologizes publicly to restore brand's reputation.
- Compliant response template
- Brand voice guidelines
- Customer service handbook
SOP Example #5: Incident management
Title: IT – Incident Management [07/22/2020]
Identification: The document is introduced on June 12, 2020 by Jim F.
Scope: The scope of the procedure includes the activities required to diagnose the causes of incidents and identify solutions to those problems. Incident management also involves maintaining information about issues and the appropriate resolutions.
Purpose: The SOP aims at restoring normal operation as fast as possible. The final goal of the procedure is to reduce the number of incidents over time.
- Incident management – the process of responding to IT service disruptions.
Step 1: An incident is identified and reported via any communication channel.
Step 2: An incident manager logs the incident and communicates the problem to a tech lead.
Step 3: The tech lead categorizes and prioritizes the incident. They mark it as critical, high, medium or low.
Step 4: A tech team with relevant expertise is assigned. They get down to the incident resolving process.
Step 5: The incident is considered resolved and can be closed when the tech team has come up with a workaround or a solution for the issue, and the incident manager has approved it.
Step 6: A communications manager informs everyone affected that the incident has been resolved.
- Service Desk Console
- SOP for security incidents
When to write an SOP
Ideally, whenever you spot a repetitive procedure carried out in the workplace, it’s best to standardize and document it right away. But since you and your colleagues have plenty of things to do, building SOP documentation on the go won’t work.
To maintain an SOP system, allocate time quarterly or every six months to revisit your procedures and write SOPs.
Free SOP software
Writing SOP manually will take months. But you don’t need to purchase pricey tools to speed up the process. With this free SOP software, you‘ll automate SOP creation and won’t break the bank:
- Method Grid. The product actually combines knowledge management, task management and process standardization tools under one interface. In its free plan, you can create basic process methodologies and collaborate on them with other team members. It’s a go-to solution for enterprises willing to build interactive SOPs.
- Keeni. The company also offers a forever-free plan for small businesses looking to build simple SOPs. Free users can access unlimited procedure templates and checklists.
- Scribe. The tool turns any workflow that you perform on your device into a step-by-step guide backed by captions and screenshots. All you need to do is to start the recording and carry out the process. You can turn the resulting guide into an SOP and embed it into your company intranet or knowledge base.
Want to build more productive teams? SOPs help you to standardize and streamline all internal processes. With these SOP examples and free tools, you can build a powerful SOP library that will assist your teams with any task.