What Is an SOP? (With Example of SOP and When to Use)

Updated July 9, 2022

By teaching company standards to all employees, a company can increase its productivity and efficiency. A standard operating procedure, or SOP, can also help ensure that all employees are performing the same task in the same manner. Learning about SOPs can help you to protect yourself in an emergency scenario and clarify the details of your role. In this article, we examine the importance of reviewing a standard operating procedure example, discover different situations in which SOPs can be helpful, explore the benefits of using SOPs, and review an example of SOP usage to demonstrate how to format them.

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Importance of reviewing an example of SOP

Reviewing an example of SOP can help you understand how both employers and employees can benefit from using one. A standard operating procedure is a step-by-step guide that's created by a business or organization to help ensure that everyone knows how to perform a specific task. SOPs can be in many formats, such as a flowchart or written list. SOPs typically have a title that specifies what they're used for, a publication date, and the department or role to which they apply.

It's also important for all employees to sign and date the document on the day that they read it. This can help ensure accountability and show that everyone has read and understood the SOP. To remain effective as tools, you can revise and update your SOPs regularly.

Scenarios in which SOPs can be helpful

Here are some situations in which having an SOP may benefit a company or its employees significantly:

Emergency planning

Ensuring that all employees feel safe at work is very important. Having emergency safety plans in place helps to ensure that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency. SOPs are a great way to disseminate this information among your employees. Reviewing the plans regularly to see if they need revision, or determining if there are any employees who haven't seen them, can help make the SOP more effective. You can ensure that the plans are specific to each different emergency scenario and that the SOP clearly defines evacuation procedures and safe places to gather.

New employee orientation

It can be challenging for a new employee to learn all the current procedures of a workplace. While a training period is helpful, it's best practice to have a book of SOPs that they can review and refer to if they need help. These SOPs can cover everything from the daily duties of the job to how to submit projects or reports. It can be a very helpful resource that can help a new employee feel more comfortable.

Related: How to Start a New Career in 8 Steps (With Helpful Tips)

Change or reminder of policy

Another great use for SOPs is when a policy needs to be updated or long-time employees need a reminder of a current policy. If a policy needs revision, you can highlight the changes before distributing the SOP back to the employees. You can also have employees sign and date the SOP once they've reviewed the changes. If they require a reminder of a current policy, you may reissue the SOP and have the employees sign and date the SOP. These steps can help both employers and employees understand each other's professional expectations.

Benefits of standard operating procedures

Listed below are some benefits of using standard operating procedures:

Provides clear understanding of expectations

Developing SOPs that relate to the duties of the job can help an employer clearly demonstrate what they expect of employees. This reduces miscommunication and can help create a more productive workplace. If everyone's aware of the expectations upfront, then it can create fewer problems and confusion between coworkers and management. Clearly defining expectations can help an employer manage their workplace more efficiently.

Provides employees with resources for reference

When employees have a situation where they're sure what to do, or what's the proper response, having a SOP can be a valuable resource. SOPs can help employees problem solve on their own. It can reduce stress on the job, which can lead to a happier and more effective work environment.

Reduces training time for new employees

It can be challenging to dedicate time and resources to effectively train new employees in a short amount of time. Having accurate and up-to-date SOPs can reduce the time needed for training without sacrificing productivity. Make sure that the SOPs are easily accessible and that they clearly define each task. This can help new employees be comfortable performing the job quicker.

Related: What to Expect From a Job Orientation (With Different Types)

Allows other employees to take over the job

Sometimes, other people take over the job of an employee who's absent. Having a set of SOPs can make this transition significantly easier. It allows the new employee to take over the work more seamlessly and without a large interruption to productivity. Having pre-existing SOPs for most departments and positions can help ensure that the business is able to handle employee turnover easily.

Related: How to Ask for a Day Off the Proper Way in 6 Simple Steps

Help keep employees safe

Employee safety is a very important part of any business. Having SOPs in place can help keep employees safe during emergencies and reduce onsite accidents. If there's any heavy equipment or hazardous materials, having specific SOPs can make sure that all employees know how to handle them and what to do if something goes wrong. Being prepared for emergencies can help you create a safer and happier work environment.

Related: How to Lead Through a Crisis

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SOP examples

You can use the following SOP examples as a guide to understanding how to format a standard operating procedure:

SOP for granting someone access to a building

Here's an example SOP for working at the front desk of an office building or in the security industry:

Title: Granting access to the building

Publication Date: 14/12/2021

Department: Security

When a person arrives at the front desk and is asking for access to the building, go through the following steps before granting them access.

1) Ask them their name and purpose for being in the building.

2) If they have a meeting with someone, ask for the name of their contact and their department.

3) Have them take a seat while you speak with their point of contact.

4) Ask the employee if they have a meeting with the visitor. If they do, you can continue with admitting the visitor. If they don't, then you can ask the visitor for further information.

5) Assign the visitor a visitor pass and record the time that they entered the building. Offer them directions for how to get to their meeting.

6) When the visitor is leaving the building, retrieve their pass and record the time they left.

All employees please sign and date this document once they have read through it.

SOP for a fire safety plan

Nearly every workplace can benefit from a fire safety plan SOP. Here's an example of a fire plan SOP in an office building:

Title: Fire Evacuation Plan

Publication Date: 30/12/2021

Applies to all departments

In case of a fire, please follow these steps:

1) If you're the first person to be alerted to the fire, and the alarm isn't sounded, please pull your nearest fire alarm that's safe to do so.

2) Once you hear the fire alarm, look for your office's safety marshal. They may be wearing a high-visibility vest, and follow them to your closest emergency exit. If the exit is inaccessible, follow them to the next best emergency exit.

3) Don't use any elevators, if you're exiting from higher floors, please make sure to only use the staircases.

4) Once you have safely exited the building, follow your marshal to your assigned evacuation zone. The zones are at the north entrance, the southwest entrance, and the east entrance.

5) Once you're in your zone, listen carefully to any instructions from your safety marshal. They may be take a head count, so listen closely for your name and respond when it's called.

6) Don't proceed back into the building until your marshal instructed you it's safe to do so.

Once you have read this SOP, please sign and date it on the sheet provided. If you have any further questions, please ask your manager or your office's assigned safety marshal.

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