SOP stands for ‘standard operating procedures’ and are the backbone of many larger organisations. Having SOPs in place allows work and other business-related procedures to be carried out in a repeatable and organised way. Think of SOPs as a set of rules that everyone follows in order to do a task. When everyone is on the same page, it is clear what needs to be done, by whom, and in what order. It also helps to solve problems, in that the SOP can be referred to should a staff member be unsure of the next step.
The bigger your business becomes, the more important it is for operations to be done in a standardised fashion. By completing tasks in a coordinated manner, it reduces the risks of errors and miscommunication, while maintaining efficiency. This not only applies to tasks themselves, but to an array of business functions such as health and safety procedures and making sure your business complies with various legislations.
How are SOPs created?
One of the best ways to create an SOP is to use a document to show each process involved in completing a task, and have that information available to staff. That way, all employees have the same understanding and ‘blueprint’ to refer to. If a change in procedure is needed, the document can simply be updated and employees made aware. This step-by-step approach shows each stage of a procedure, and it is documented, displayed and stored in an accessible format.
Where can I store SOPs?
Once you have your SOPs created in a document, you may be wondering where they can be stored so that employees have access. Unless all your staff are onsite, using cloud-based options is recommended. With the rise of virtual teams, it makes sense to store your SOPs on a platform that anyone can access with internet, as long as permission is provided. Here’s a few options:
- Google Drive – this is a popular way to store documents such as SOPs. It gives you several different formatting options such as spreadsheets, word documents, slides and more. It is easy to use and anyone that has shared access can view the required SOPs.
- Excel – using the cloud-based version of Excel is an excellent way to create and store spreadsheet documents. This format allows you to present information in a variety of ways, and it’s easy to locate specific items to edit and update when necessary.
- Airtable – a useful platform where you can manage team collaboration and more. This includes creating a master list of SOP documentation, and having access all in one place.
- CODA – this innovative platform is designed for teams. As well as a familiar document interface, it also allows for interactivity between team members. It is a useful option for both creating and storing SOPs.
- ClickUp – a free, work-sharing, project management and team collaboration platform that is a great option for storing data such as SOPs. Also, there are specific ClickUp SOP templates to help make creating your SOPs a breeze!
SOPs are essential in communicating information to employees, whether it is a blueprint for completing tasks, setting out health and safety rules, environmental operations and more. Improving communication reduces risks of error, improves efficiency, and brings cohesion to your team. If you are looking for advice on the best tools to use, how to structure your SOPs, or want to brainstorm your procedures, feel free to get in touch!
Before I started writing this post I did a quick Google search for a definition of the word ‘virtual’. This is what I found: “Almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition”.
Or, in computing terms: “Not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so”.
Now as you know, it’s not software that makes me exist or even appear to do so for that matter.
But if that’s the case, is virtual assistant really the most appropriate title for what I do?
The answer is yes because there’s a further definition that states: “Carried out, accessed, or stored by means of a computer, especially over a network”.
I’m definitely accessed over a network, so I won’t look to change my job title for the time being.
Despite being a virtual assistant though, I’m not automatically equipped to deal with virtual teams and all of the challenges they bring. Okay, so the word ‘challenges’ may imply that they cause me serious problems and the reality is that that’s not the case.
However, having said that, managing a virtual team of people ultimately takes meticulous organisation and governance. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of my top five tips for managing a virtual team.
1. Be easily contactable
This is, without a doubt, the most important factor for ensuring that your virtual team ‘works’. Your team members need to be able to contact you throughout the working day and not worry that they’re going to disturb you.
As you know, I’m based in France. But did you know that some of my team members are located as far away as the Philippines? That’s why I have to ensure that I am on-hand to deal with their queries in an efficient and effective manner.
2. Allow your team members to be honest
Sound bizarre? I’ve found that liaising with my team on an informal basis has brought great results. After all, we’re all human beings and sometimes people just need to converse on a level.
Therefore if someone in your team has something to say, then listen. Even if it’s not strictly relevant, the positive effect it will have on your relationship can be priceless.
3. Be flexible
My team are great. They seldom let me down and I’m thankful for that. However, there are obviously times when they are unable to deliver what I need of them. The key in these situations though is to be flexible and understand their situation.
Of course, if you’ve got a team member who regularly lets you down then perhaps you need to look for someone else but in the majority of cases being understanding is sufficiently adequate.
4. Don’t put yourself at risk
My clients have come to rely on my meticulous nature and attention to detail. At the end of the day, that’s why they hire me again and again.
But if I’m relying on other individuals, how can I be sure that I won’t let my clients down? The answer is by giving myself enough time to allow for their potential delays.
For example, if I have a client deadline that is on a Friday, I’ll ask one of my team members to get me the necessary work by Wednesday at the latest. This allows me enough time to do check everything over, add my magic and get it to the client on time.
5. Set realistic goals
With many of my team working on a freelance basis, I appreciate that sometimes I have to be reasonable with my demands (tasks). They inevitably have other clients who they need to deliver work for and so I know that I can’t expect them to be available for my needs at the drop of a hat.
Therefore, I always make sure that I set realistic deadlines and don’t expect my team members to produce something in the blink of an eye. Wherever possible I try to distribute work evenly and ensure that each team member has an equal amount of work to focus on.