When your team is small, it’s easy to keep an eye on every major decision, project and process. You can keep up quality standards and consistency by having the final say in everything your team does.
But as the team grows, this single-stamp-of-approval approach can become a serious problem. It quickly creates bottlenecks and leaves little opportunity for team members to take ownership of projects or processes.
Thankfully, you don’t have to give up complete control in order to scale. With procedure manuals, you can make it easy for other team members to step up and get things done the right way.
What is a procedure manual?
Procedures (often called standard operating procedures or SOPs) are the step-by-step policies or processes a team follows to ensure consistency and compliance across the company.
They’re put in place to make it easier to take action, make decisions or follow guidelines.
Procedures often go hand-in-hand with policies. For example, your company probably has a policy for employee attendance and requesting time off. Employees most likely follow a specific procedure to submit and review scheduling requests. Procedures aren’t policies, but they work together.
A procedure manual outlines all the important information team members need to understand and follow a procedure. Procedure manuals might also include tips, best practices, standards or other details that make it easier to follow company expectations.
Why do you need a procedure manual?
Procedure manuals help educate employees and make it easier to stay consistent as your team grows.
Still, there are a number of other benefits that come from having well-written procedure manuals.
Here are some of the biggest!
1. Improve team productivity
Manuals offer on-demand access to instructions that help employees more work done on their own time.
When a strong manual is available, employees can waste less time waiting on feedback, direction or approval from superiors so your projects and tasks can move forward smoothly.
Manuals also reduce the number of errors that come from not following a process accurately, so you can cut the time your team needs to fix issues.
2. Reduce employee training and onboarding time
Whether you’re onboarding new team members or training your existing employees, procedure manuals can cut the time needed to bring them up to speed.
Documenting procedures makes educating employees easier because they’ll have comprehensive resources to refer back to whenever needed.
3. Empower employee ownership
Manuals instruct employees on how to get things done without a supervisor overseeing their every move. When an employee can get things done on their own, it encourages them to take ownership of tasks and projects to advance their skill level and career.
4. Ensure compliance
Some procedures are just for consistency and uniformity within the company, but other times the policies you implement follow laws and regulations.
Procedure manuals help ensure employees stick to the appropriate steps to comply with safety, health, or other mandated regulations.
5 tips for writing procedure manuals successfully
A procedure manual is only as strong as the research and writing that goes into it. Here are our best tips for creating procedure manuals to help your team succeed.
1. Build your tech stack
Creating basic procedure manuals only requires a simple word processor — but when it comes to explaining complex processes, sharing, updating, and organizing your manuals, you’re going to want a little more support.
Before writing manuals, choose what technology you need to create, distribute, and manage your documents effectively.
This might include:
- Multimedia-friendly documentation platform. Images, videos, GIFs and annotated screenshots can also enhance your procedure manuals and make them easier to understand. Look for a documentation platform that makes it easy to add different types of content when creating manuals.
- Collaboration software. Writing procedure manuals requires input and approval from multiple team members. You’ll want a collaboration tool that simplifies sharing information and editing content across teams.
- Shareable knowledge base. Sending manuals via email just isn’t going to cut it. You need a tool that handles sharing the manuals you create that your employees can access when they need them. Custom permissions for each document can also ensure only the appropriate team members can access sensitive or confidential information.
Your unique tech stack will depend on your team’s needs and the depths of your manuals. But for many companies, you can likely find one tool that covers all your bases. No need to overcomplicate it.
Scribe is just one tool that can handle the entire procedure creation process from start to finish. Create, customize and share manuals without even using another tool or software.
And with Scribe Pages, you can compile multiple sets of instructions into one document for more comprehensive guides.
2. Create a prioritized list of procedures
It’s always a good idea to have documented procedures for the various policies and tasks your team handles on a regular basis. Still, you probably don’t have hours on end dedicated to writing them all at once. Instead, prioritize your list of procedures to create a roadmap.
What are your most important policies? What information is most important to your employees’ day-to-day? What procedures are in place to comply with laws or regulations?
Assign each procedure with a priority ranking.
3. Establish your procedure manual writing team
Even if one team or department is responsible for writing the bulk of your procedures, you’ll likely need buy-in or approval from leaders in different departments. The person you’re working with might change from procedure to procedure, but assemble a supervising team with key leaders from the various departments involved.
Having a go-to person in each department or team can make the manual writing process smoother.
You’ll spend less time chasing down team members and convincing them to get involved. And your designated “spokesperson” can provide appropriate input or approvals or connect you with the best person on their team to do so when the time comes.
Here’s a pro tip: the easier your documentation tool is to use, the bigger your procedure manual writing team can be.
Complex tech stacks or difficult-to-use tools make it nearly impossible to bring on subject matter experts or outside resources without first giving them a crash course in how to use the software.
Make it easier on your team by choosing procedure documentation software that is intuitive and simple.
Scribe only requires your team to start and stop the extension — the software handles the rest. You can easily gather information or insights from even the busiest team members to ensure your manuals are accurate and comprehensive — no cutting corners.
4. Create your list of procedure manual must-haves
Each procedure manual should follow the same basic template.
Creating that template of must-have information will make it easier for you to write strong manuals that are accurate and comprehensive.
Your list will depend on the nature of your business, but here are some basics to get you started:
- A descriptive and concise title and introduction.
- Purpose or intention of policy or procedure.
- Any conditions, exclusions, or additional context on when to follow the procedure.
- The departments, teams or individuals in charge of implementing procedure steps.
- Additional references, resources, or information.
5. Establish a schedule for updating existing procedure manuals
The key to creating consistently successful procedure manuals is making sure they’re always up to date.
As your team grows, you start using new or different software, and your procedures change, you need to keep documentation updated to reflect that.
If you haven’t even started writing procedure manuals, it might feel like it’s too early to worry about updating them — but creating a review schedule early can help you stay on top of managing your content. Determine how often you’ll revisit your manuals and your process for making edits or changes.
The tool you choose to create and manage your manuals can come in handy at this stage. Software designed to manage versions can make the rollout of new information to employees seamless (or in some cases, entirely unnoticeable).
For example, if you build your procedure manuals using Scribe Pages, you can share your original document with your team and make changes without alerting employees that they need to use a new version.
Instead, you can add new text or descriptions, links, Scribes or videos to include new information or more thorough descriptions, and all the new context will appear within that document.
Get started creating high-quality procedure manuals with Scribe
Creating and maintaining procedure manuals can certainly feel like an overwhelming task — but it doesn’t need to be anything to stress over. Recognize that it’s going to be a slow and steady process, but the more planning you invest upfront, the easier it’ll be.
And with the right tools, the process is even easier. Scribe handles the heavy lifting for you, so all you need to do is click once and you’re already on your way!