The policies, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and job descriptions are the internal guidance system of your company. Operating a business without policies, SOPs, and job descriptions is like attempting to play a new board game without reading the rule book first, leading to confusion, conflict, and blame. Taking the time to design the layout and organizational structure of your business is an intimate and inspiring task that becomes the living legacy of your company.
Every successful business owner will tell you the importance of designing the rules and expectations of every area of your business. If you don’t know how your company operates, how are your employees supposed to know? Today I am going to discuss the differences between a policy, SOP, and job description so you can understand how they work together to create a healthy company culture, accountability, consistency, and success.
Job descriptions are the responsibilities, duties, and requirements for a job that are used in hiring, training, and accountability of employees. A job description consists of an overview of four questions:
1. What is the purpose of the position?
2. What does success in the position look like?
3. How does the position fit into the company? What part does it play in the overall organization?
4. What qualifications are necessary to perform this position? Ask the manager and other employees to ensure all information is correct before solidifying the document.
After the employee reads the job description, quiz them on the material to make sure they understand it. Encourage them to ask questions and make sure to have them sign a confirmation of training documenting that they read and understood the information.
The job descriptions must remain current because your team’s safety, productivity, and success depend on it. If any of the information changes, update it, retrain employees with the new version, and document it in their personnel file.
Policies are a set of guiding principles to help with decision making and keep compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity laws and occupational health standards. The exciting thing about writing policy is that you are defining the behaviors and beliefs of your company culture. Rules can be uncomfortable for some people and bring up feelings about authority and control, but with the right words and delivery, it can create a sense of safety, accountability, and unity.
There is a standard list to use for writing policies, and many are mandatory due to federal or state laws. Other policies can be determined using a method called “business necessity” that pertains to anything that will cause harm, lose money, funding, or customers. Business necessity policies are generally set in stone, whereas other policies can be considered guidelines more so than rules.
Policy writing is an evolving process, and don’t be surprised if, after the first time you decide on the policies, you choose to change them the next day. And the next day. And the next. The policies for your business is an important decision, and it’s necessary to get them right because if you aren’t going to follow them, you can’t expect your employees to.
Standard Operating Procedures
The purpose of the SOP is to create consistency, safety, and success. In each SOP, make sure to include: why the SOP is necessary, the step-by-step procedures, all health and safety warnings, equipment and supplies involved, effects on other departments, and a section for troubleshooting. Include pictures, descriptions, diagrams, checklists, and charts to give visual stimulation throughout the reading materials. There are three different formats to use while creating your SOP’s to show specific procedures.
- Simple steps format is a bullet list of simple sentences telling the reader what to do as well as the necessary documentation and safety guidelines.
- A step-by-step format is usually a list of main steps with substeps and involves sections of dialogue for clarification and definitions of specific terminology.
- A flowchart format is a visual flowchart and is best used when a procedure has an infinite number of possible outcomes.
Once the SOP is written, ask the employees and managers of the department to review it. Have a few people who have never done the job before to test the SOP and to give feedback so adjustments can be made. When the final copy is complete, authenticate it with the signatures of the appropriate executive.
In conclusion, the policies, SOPs, and job descriptions give you and your employees a well thought out road map of how the company works and the expectations and outcome. When everyone on your team is playing from the same rule book, you are more likely to have consistency, accountability, and success.