Whether they know it or not, most companies probably already have standard operating procedures. Standard operating procedures are repeatable steps that employees can take when a known input occurs, helping them achieve a desired outcome.
When companies first start out, they may have a small team of employees that establish a certain method for performing tasks, and everyone knows what to do — leading some to think they don't need to write their procedures down. Unfortunately, this causes ambiguity and inconsistency in the way procedures are completed and can lead to siloed or out-of-date knowledge.
Crucially, these inconsistencies only compound over time as companies grow: when new employees join the team, it's difficult to train them on the proper way to carry out procedures if they aren't documented in a training manual.
Implementing a standard operating procedures training manual can help you avoid those complications, not to mention drive increased efficiency. Check out these top four benefits you can expect from creating this documentation at your company.
1. A go-to source of knowledge
New hires ask lots of questions — and that’s good! Asking questions helps them ramp into their role faster and avoid making mistakes. But, they might not always know who to ask, or they might be uncomfortable asking someone at all. Additionally, the time they spend asking other employees questions takes away from both parties’ productivity and interrupts their workflow.
Having a standard operating procedure training manual means new employees can get consistent answers from one source, without having to ask other members of the team. Essentially, your training manual becomes a go-to source of knowledge for everyone in the company, ensuring consistency.
2. Reduce employee training time
Beyond the standard HR training, new employees usually participate in role-based training that involves detailed instruction. Without a standard operating procedure training manual, someone has to walk new employees through every step they should take in any given situation.
For example, when filling out a complex form, a new employee might need one-on-one instruction to accurately fill out all of the fields. This is information that could easily be documented in a searchable training manual, speeding up the process of this employee's learning. Having all of your detailed procedures documented in one place allows new employees to ramp into their role efficiently and reduces training time.
3. Avoid costly mistakes
If you ask 20 people the same question, you’ll probably get 20 different answers — which is the last thing you want for your standard operating procedures. This is why having your procedures documented in a training manual can help everyone avoid mistakes.
Failing to follow a procedure can be costly. For example, if someone doesn’t send an invoice correctly, your company won’t get paid. You can minimize this risk by ensuring that all of your standard operating procedures are documented and accessible in a training manual.
4. Increase employee retention
New employees want to feel empowered to do their jobs. Without a centralized source of knowledge, they may feel pressured to come up with solutions on their own or risk sounding inexperienced when they ask for help. When their own solutions fail — or even worse, get them in trouble — new employees will feel frustrated and disengaged from their role. All of these factors can contribute to higher employee turnover.
By providing the answers they need in a standard operating procedure training manual, new employees will be able to find and implement solutions on their own — boosting their confidence and overall satisfaction with the job. This can lead to increased employee retention over time.
Training manual best practices
Now that you know the benefits of a standard operating procedures training manual, it’s important to know what to look for when creating one for your company. Keep these guiding principles in mind:
- Employees want a centralized system of knowledge that is keyword-searchable, almost like an internal search engine.
- Procedures should be written in a way that’s easy to follow, and doesn’t waste time with information that isn’t actionable.
- With each situation being unique, you’ll want to include decision trees in your training manual. For example, try using “if ___, then ___” statements. This will help your training manual be more useful across multiple scenarios.
- Ensure that you're using a platform that drives adoption. An online training manual, for instance, is available 24/7 and can be updated quickly and easily.
Documenting all your procedures in a training manual may seem like a daunting task, but with these tips in your back pocket, it's absolutely worth it. After all, you'll see the benefits of that manual in reduced training times, increased employee retention, standardization of tasks and fewer costly errors.
Ready to start building your training manual? Wondering if an online database is the best format for you? Check out our free guide to learn more about the benefits and challenges of moving your standard operating procedures to an online knowledge base.