Convincing your employees to read through pages of dry policy and procedure—especially on a regular basis—is never the easiest of tasks. While documenting your business processes is important for consistency and clarity, this documentation only becomes valuable if your team members actually reference it.
So what’s the key to making your standard operating procedures (SOPs) more interesting to your team? Below, 10 members of Young Entrepreneur Council explore this question and share their best tips for making your business’s SOPs something your employees actually want to use and read.
1. Gamify The Experience
One creative way to encourage your employees to use and read your business’s SOPs is to gamify the process. For example, you could create a game or competition that rewards employees for successfully completing tasks according to your SOPs or for identifying and correcting any errors or inconsistencies in the SOPs themselves. This can make the process of using and reading your SOPs more fun and engaging while also encouraging your employees to participate more actively. Additionally, you can involve employees in the creation of your SOPs and incorporate their feedback to identify any potential challenges or roadblocks upfront, ensure that the procedures are relevant, useful and easy to understand, and foster a sense of ownership and buy-in, making their usage more likely. – Lauren Marsicano, Marsicano + Leyva PLLC
2. Try An Alternative Format
Use a tool like Notion to create the SOPs in a format that is easily digested and can contain a mix of text and images. Nobody wants to read a 20-page document, but by adding some life via Notion, it will make the SOPs both easier to navigate and more enjoyable to go through. – Josh Weiss, Reggie
3. Consider How People Consume Information Today
An SOP is crucial for ensuring consistency and quality in your product or service. But, let’s be real: Most SOPs are boring, so no one really wants to read them. So how can you make sure your SOPs are actually used and read by your employees? One key tip for encouraging employees to use an established SOP is to think about how people consume information today. We see everyone using their phones, not holding books, right? So, writing a thick manual using dry, boring language meant to sound official isn’t ideal. Always make the SOP short and sweet. No one wants to read a novel. Be sure to make it as simple to understand as possible by using clear, concise language. Even better, make it a dynamic document that can be interacted with on a smartphone using embedded video and helpful links. – Richard Fong, Trustable Tech
4. Focus On The Value They Provide Them
One tip for making your business’s SOPs something that your employees actually want to use is to involve them in the process of creating the SOPs while focusing on the value that the SOPs can provide them. Instead of viewing the SOPs as just another set of rules and regulations that must be followed, emphasize the ways in which the SOPs can help your employees get more done in less time. This can help to shift the focus from compliance to the benefits of following the SOPs. For example, as an employee, using an SOP as a tool to get time back in your day is a much more appealing and motivating proposition than using an SOP to replace your creative decision-making with a factory-line-style process. – Rob Hoffman, Contact Studios
5. Make Them Searchable
A great way to make sure your business’s SOPs are something that your employees will actually want to use and read is by making them easy to access and searchable. Creating a central repository or knowledge base for all of the SOPs ensures they can be quickly accessed by using keywords and search terms, making it easier for employees to find the information they need without going through pages of irrelevant content. By making the SOPs easily accessible and searchable, you ensure your team has quick access to any pertinent information whenever needed, which increases their interest in following the procedures outlined in these documents. – Pratik Chaskar, Spectra
6. Ensure They Are Comprehensive And Easy To Understand
One tip for making your business’s SOPs something your employees actually want to use and read is to make sure the SOPs are easy to understand and comprehensive. This means that they should be broken down into simple steps and should include all relevant information. This is effective because it ensures that employees can quickly and easily understand what they need to do and why without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. Additionally, a comprehensive SOP will help to keep employees on the same page, which can help to improve efficiency and accuracy. – Rachel Beider, PRESS Modern Massage
7. Lead By Example
As the leader of your organization, you need to lead by example. The best leaders convey their vision in every meeting as they demonstrate the regularly applied SOP. For example, if you’re explaining a task to a team member and why it’s important, always tie that task back to your SOP or mission so they can create a mental connection. When praising team members, highlight how their success was brought on by following the SOP. This will encourage others to do the same. Building team habits is easier if they believe in why they’re doing it. – Andy Karuza, NachoNacho
8. Update Them Regularly
It may be hard to get staff to reference SOPs daily. Instead, schedule regular updates of existing SOPs so that everyone can contribute to improving that documentation while also refreshing their memories. SOP use is particularly important during new employee training, and this ensures that the new employee and their trainer are familiar with the most up-to-date processes. – Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress
9. Consider Their Design And Layout
Researchers claim that 83% of human learning occurs visually, so using concise and easy-to-read bullet points, graphs and charts can be extremely helpful in getting your point across. You can also use color coding to distinguish different types of information or create headings and subheadings to help organize the material. Remember to keep the SOPs short and sweet. No one wants to read a long document full of dense paragraphs. Try breaking up the information into short, easier-to-digest sections. For long processes, use hierarchical steps with main steps and substeps. Employees are one part of the company’s audience, and like with customers and external audiences, better engagement with information depends on the delivery. A reader doesn’t need coercion when content is engaging. – Tonika Bruce, Lead Nicely, Inc.
10. Cut The Filler
One tip I have for making SOPs more valuable is to cut out filler. When creating a resource that employees regularly use, having unnecessary information is detrimental. Identify critical steps and information that must be outlined in an SOP and remove the rest. By only keeping crucial information, your team members are much more likely to utilize the SOP, as they will be able to quickly and efficiently gather the information they are searching for. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.