When it comes to your organization, you need a lot of documentation completed before you can even open the doors. Two such documents you may need are standard operating procedures (SOPs) and work instructions – but which is the better option for your business? We’ll run through the basics of each, let you know who benefits from which, and how you can decide which document type you should go with.
When you’re ready to design an SOP or work instruction, we invite you to start a conversation with Shea Writing & Training Solutions. Our team can help you identify your needs as well as your gaps so you can ensure your documentation is meeting your company’s demands.
What is an SOP?
SOP stands for standard operating procedure. These documents contain step-by-step instructions of repetitive yet technical tasks that should be completed in sequence. SOPs provide a standard format for completing a task. They can consist of more than one task with separate actions, small tasks, and substeps.
What are the Benefits of an SOP?
There are plenty of benefits to SOPs; these benefits include:
- Reducing the chance of miscommunication
- Improving productivity and efficiency(meaning your business stays on schedule)
- Providing clarity
- Increasing profits
- Managing product or service quality and consistency
Without SOPs, you could have employees completing a procedure using their own methods. In certain industries, like manufacturing and oil and gas, this can open the door to serious risks and incidents.
What Should Be Included in an SOP?
What an SOP contains depends on the individual needs of the company and task at hand, but generally they can contain the following information:
- Requirements (such as geographical requirements)
Any company that has technical, repetitive tasks that need to be completed should have SOPs. This includes energy companies, manufacturers, warehousing organizations, and restaurants, among others.
In the end, SOPs improve performance, profit, and safety for an organization.
What are Work Instructions?
Work instructions are similar to standard operating procedures but they provide more detailed instructions of an individual task. They can be completed in less than 10 steps and should be done in a short time period.
How Do Work Instructions Differ from SOPs then?
While this definitely sounds just like an SOP, there is one slight difference: work instructions are necessary when a task requires more details and steps than what is described in the SOP. Another difference is that SOPs are often used by multiple team members, if not the whole company; work instructions are for a person with one role. While SOPs provide the who, what, and when, work instructions will clearly describe how to perform those actions.
Work instructions can include the following information:
- Step-by-step instructions
What Are the Benefits of Work Instructions?
This type of documentation can lead to:
- Improved safety
- Improved efficiency and productivity
- Increased profits
- Improved employee performance
- Streamlined processes
- Increased accessibility
SOPs vs Work Instructions – Which Should You Use?
Now that you know the differences between SOPs and work instructions, you might be wondering which is right for your business and industry.
Well, the answer actually depends on your unique needs in the workplace!
For example, an SOP would be an excellent choice and completely address your needs if your employees have to complete tasks that do not require detailed, step-by-step instructions. They can also be useful in situations where you need to describe how the business is managed, deadlines, assignments, responsibilities, and more. In addition, SOPs are a must in the manufacturing and the oil and gas industries as you want to be sure your employees are following certain procedures, including safety protocols.
Work instructions are a great option though if you simply need to detail the steps required to complete an individual task. They can be used in conjunction with an SOP or without. For example, if you have to instruct an employee on how to download a specific piece of software on the company computer, work instructions will do the trick.
In general, though, it is a good idea to have standard operating procedures in your company and work instructions when further details are needed for tasks. Both of these documents can improve efficiency, productivity, and profits, while also reducing waste, risks, and incidents.
What Other Documents Does Your Company Need?
In addition to SOPs and work instructions, there are several other documents and services your organization may need to stay on track for success. They include:
- Training tools and resources
- Documentation management
- Crisis management
- Compliance management
- Business continuity
How Can You Craft Successful SOPs and Work Instructions?
In order to create SOPs and work instructions that meet your company’s needs, you have to:
- Identify your audience and always keep them in mind
- Break down the steps and processes into bite-sized pieces
- Focus on clarity
- Be concise
- Collaborate with employees
- Develop a format and templates
- Include visuals
- Make them available online
- Complete trial runs to gather feedback
- Update as required
Developing SOPs and work instructions is a lot of work! Many companies don’t have time to identify where SOPs and work instructions are needed, write them to properly serve the team, and then consistently update them. That’s where Shea Writing & Training Solutions comes in.
Work with Shea Writing & Training Solutions for your SOP and Work Instruction Needs
Standard operating procedures and work instructions, while they may seem simple enough on paper, do require a bit of experience to ensure they’re meeting the needs of the company and the employee completing the tasks described in the documents. These have to be written to specific end-users, with their needs always in mind, while communicating the information in a clear and concise manner. Mistakes in these documents or writing where the end-user isn’t considered can lead to confusion, incorrect steps, or even safety incidents.
Therefore, it’s important to have a team by your side that understands how SOPs and work instructions contribute to the success of your your organization as a whole. Shea specializes in creating both document types and advising you where they are needed so you can rest assured your company is finely tuned in all aspects of work.
How We Work
When you work with us, we start with a conversation about your needs, wants, desired scope, and criteria for a successful outcome. Shea wants to completely understand what you need out of your SOPs and work instructions. Next, we’ll assess the information you’ve given to us, identifying gaps and making recommendations when needed. Once that’s completed, our team will work with you to develop a plan for going forward and begin on the project.
Drafts and outlines will be presented to you as the job continues, but we will also develop
- Page layouts
- Document templates
- Quality assurance checklists
- Schedule management
Every step of the way, Shea Writing and Training Solutions is in communication with you.
We Understand What You’re Up Against
There are countless tasks that have to be completed in your company every single day. It’s a lot of work to keep track of them all. By working with Shea and crafting SOPs and work instructions, you can rest assured you’re working with a team that understands your needs and what you’re up against. We also understand the importance of compliance within the industry standards and government requirements, as well as safety. We’re here to help you with those demands.
SOPs and work instructions are necessary in a number of industries and can stand in the way of chaos. They clearly define and standardize the way your employees complete their jobs, responsibilities, and tasks. If you’re not quite sure which to start with, we recommend beginning with standard operating procedures as almost every company needs these. You may very well find you need work instructions to compliment your SOPs.
If you need further advice about SOPs vs work instructions, where you need them in your business, or how they can benefit your bottom line, we’d love to chat. We can review your needs, wants, goals, and more to help you develop a plan for your documentation going forward. Simply contact us on our website.