Standard operating procedures (SOPs) provide instructions for how to perform tasks across a company including in customer service, finance, human resources, operations and production. These procedures need to be completed the same way every single time to ensure the business continues to run consistently. Not only is standardization efficient for the operation of a company, but your employees’ knowledge and performance of these SOPs may be the subject of an audit or inspection, and you wouldn’t want to be accused of noncompliance. That’s why your SOP training program is so important to the whole of your organization.
Training SOPs is an evolving exercise for companies across many industries. Before, it had simply been enough for employees to read and understand the procedures you were asking them to implement in their daily work routines. Much like agreeing to the terms and conditions of any service we’ve ever signed up for, compliance officers and inspectors alike realized that saying someone has read a document does not guarantee that they have. Presenting these records as evidence of due diligence did not prove compliance with SOPs at all.
In order for SOP training to be effective, SOP training needs to help employees not only understand a procedure, but be able to apply it to their jobs, and consequently the success of the company. No matter how closely you read an SOP, you’re only gaining a basic understanding of what it contains. Training, on the other hand, helps you close the gap between acquiring knowledge of a skill and the application of that skill to a successful job.
How can you create an SOP training program that successfully establishes a clear understanding of procedures and helps them apply new skills in the field?
The Key Ingredients of SOP Training
1. The Acknowledgement
SOP training begins with the introduction of new procedures to employees. At this point, the goal is to ensure that they have read and understand the content being presented to them. SOPs should be written clearly, giving step-by-step instructions to guide employees through the process until it becomes second nature. It’s important to have a record of acknowledgement because it proves organizational support for compliance and distribution efforts. If you’re ever inspected for compliance and you lack these records, your company will have no way to show who has seen this material and who may be unaware of certain SOPs.
2. The Quiz:
Several years ago, companies began to implement simple quizzes that can, in the very least, indicate to managers that employees did in fact read SOPs and retained some of the knowledge. These quizzes were not sophisticated enough to impart comprehension of knowledge, though. In order to reach the level of ensuring comprehension, quizzes need to be more challenging, encouraging critical thinking and analysis.
Through the creation of custom question sets for each SOP training, you can use a variety of methods to engage employees. Rather than the focus being on retention of knowledge, your questions should be drafted with the goal of qualifying knowledge. That means asking challenging questions and presenting employees with real-world situations that will require careful application of the information.
A key benefit of complex, custom quizzes is the data you’ll glean from them. Different types of questions reveal different patterns in the reception and comprehension of SOPs. Weighted answers can be emphasized more than others in scoring, and answers can be more varied than simply right or wrong. Comprehension, after all, exists on a spectrum, and your analysis of training should take this range into consideration. Conditional questions can take your reporting methods even deeper by helping you to better understand how employees interpret instructions differently.
3. The In-Field Application
Before having employees practice procedures as part of their daily activities, it’s important to take the time to make sure they fully grasp the information. If you move too quickly into having them physically perform tasks, employees’ safety could be put at risk as well as company operations.
Once you can qualify and quantify their comprehension of SOPs, it’s still important to follow up with in-field SOP training with employees. The only way to know with absolute certainty that procedures are being followed on the job is to see them in action. A trained supervisor should observe performance as they work to grade their demonstration of SOP procedures.
ComplianceBridge: Your SOP Training Hub
Procedure and policy management software has been designed to make the process of creation, distribution, acknowledgment, testing comprehension and reporting on SOPs a more efficient and less time-consuming process. TotalCompliance from ComplianceBridge solves key issues every step of the way.
SOP Creation: Writers and subject matter experts can collaborate together on one central document to create explicit, clear-cut instructions. When it comes time to review, revise and approve SOPs, TotalCompliance’s automated workflow makes sure the process doesn’t hit any snags along the way.
Distribution: You can target distribution to individual employees or companywide. With distribution lists, you can even send to specific groups or departments within your organization. Notifications and reminders will ensure that they know their action is required once they receive an SOP.
Testing Comprehension: With each SOP, TotalCompliance gives you the ability to create custom quizzes with a range of question types including yes/no, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, ratings and short answers. Conditional questions and weighted answers can be added for enhanced scoring and analysis.
Reporting and Analysis: Records of who has read, tested on and approved documents will be stored for fast retrieval. All data can be analyzed down to a granular level. See how an individual question was answered across a department, or where compliance with SOPs may be the weakest.
Archival: Store and organize procedures in one central online location, accessible via the Internet. Supporting regulations, policies and other documents can be linked to procedures for easy reference. Old versions will also be kept for reference, although the current version of any document will always be shown.
SOPs are important to the safety and prosperity of your employees and your company as a whole, so it’s no surprise that SOP training takes time and effort to carry out well. With the help of P&P software like TotalCompliance, your time can be better spent and your efforts can result in more tangible outcomes. Request a demo with ComplianceBridge today to learn how our powerful solution can be the foundation for your SOP training efforts.