Writing down your “Standard Operating Procedures” (popularly referred to as SOPs) can be of real benefit to your business, according to Sandee Krause of Krause Berry Farm in British Columbia, Canada.
Particularly if your operation is large or if it involves food preparation, having a binder with written SOP’s, including step-by-step instructions for operating and cleaning all the equipment in a given area, sanitizing it at the end of the day, and opening and closing, for example, can help with employee training, increase worker efficiency and self-confidence, and help to ensure consistent quality.
“Every area of the business should have its own binder containing the relevant SOPs,” stated Krause, “with identical binders stored in the office.
“Often workers, especially if your worker turnover is high, don’t understand exactly what is expected of them,” she added. Krause gives as an example a son who was told by his father to clean the garage. The father was very surprised when the son returned 10 minutes later to announce he had finished the job. Clearly, there was communication gap between the two.
“SOPs can help bridge any such communication gaps between you and your employees,” continued Krause.
The helpfulness of SOPs in your operation also depends on your own personality. For some farm market operators, all the paperwork could seem like more trouble than it’s worth, particularly if you pride yourself on being a hands-on manager who is available to answer workers’ questions. Being available to answer questions can help to build relationships with your employees. Some folks could also feel as though they’re drowning in paperwork.
For Krause, however, writing down step-by-step Standard Operating Procedures for virtually everything has proven to be helpful. “SOPs also help to ensure that your employees are operating in a safe environment,” she added. Clear directions and expectations can hopefully make for more self-confident employees, which can translate into more satisfied customers. “Once we got started using SOPs it simplified everything. It has become a priority for us.”
Here is her advice to other employers who would like to make SOPs available to their employees:
Don’t skip steps or leave out details because they seem very obvious to you. Some young people have never had chores to do, and will need all of the individual steps broken down.
The more details you include in your SOP, the more consistently each job will be done.
After you think you have listed every step of a given job, always ask someone from your staff who works in that area to read what you’ve written to see if there’s anything you missed.
Be particularly careful when writing Standard Operating Procedures for making food products. These procedures will be more complicated because of food safety concerns.
Krause’s SOP pages also include recipes and photos of products in the binders. “It’s great to see visuals of what the end product should look like for consistency of product.
“We also have printed ordering sheets and opening and closing sheets. Each opener and closer signs off so we have traceability if we need to ask questions. We also have end-of-day recap sheets. These recaps tell me if there’s anything else I should know. If something is broken, the employee writes it in the recap, and that information will go to my husband Alf, who notifies the proper maintenance person.”
Krause has found that in her operation, using SOPs has also increased profits and reduced waste. “We require employees to bring any waste to the office and report it. Following the SOPs has really helped our employees to pare back wasted product and wasted effort.”