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How to Train Employees on Standard Operating Procedures? 11 Tips

Jakub
Jakub "Kuba" Grajcar is the Content Marketing Manager at ZenPilot. His obsessions include interviewing smart people; productivity methods; project management; and playing bass in a progressive metal band.

Once you've documented your processes as Standard Operating Procedures, you've made a huge step towards becoming a process-driven company that gets great work done fast.

But the journey is not over yet.

The next step is to train your employees on how to find, follow, and improve your Standard Operating Procedures

Because SOPs are nothing without people who would, you know... Operate them.

In this article, we'll share a range of tips on how you can train your employees on SOPs—based on our work with nearly 3,000 businesses to improve their operations.

If you want a more complete guide to SOPs in general, don't miss our Ultimate Guide to SOPs here.

Let's start with a short summary up front.

How to train employees on Standard Operating Procedures:

  1. Position SOPs as a benefit for your team members.
  2. Make it clear and consistent where SOPs live in your organization.
  3. Use Guru to make SOPs more accessible and trustworthy.
  4. Consider a Loom video walkthrough.
  5. Leverage Tango or Scribe to make SOPs more engaging.
  6. Overcommunicate.
  7. Schedule recurring tasks to review and update SOPs.
  8. Use quizzes and tests.
  9. Implement a feedback loop.
  10. Recognize your SOP superstars.
  11. Be the shining example.

And now, let's dive into the details!

Position SOPs as a benefit for your team members.

Before you start training your employees on your SOPs, you should make sure you've built up their motivation to do so.

This will grease the wheels of everything that comes next.

With the right motivation, you won't have to send so many reminders about following and updating procedures. Maybe you'll get some suggestions on how to improve them, too!

And the best way to build motivation is to highlight the benefits of following SOPs.

It's very important to position the benefits from the team members' perspective.

Here are some benefits of SOPs that should speak to your team members:

  • Fewer distractions. Team members don't like it when someone interrupts their flow. If you become an SOP-driven organization, many tasks become a simple matter of following the procedure—no need to interrupt anyone because the knowledge to carry out the task is all there.
  • More autonomy. It feels great to be able to get something done without needing any external support. With detailed SOPs, your team members will be able to carry out tasks that are totally new to them without ever having to contact another team member for guidance. Everyone feels at least a little proud when they get something done completely on their own!
  • New team members get up to speed faster. Onboarding new team members is usually a time of additional workload for team members. How nice would it be if newbies could learn from the company's SOPs instead of putting so many additional meetings on the team members' calendars?
  • Better client service. Some team members care deeply about serving clients well. SOPs help ensure consistent quality of service so that clients always feel well taken care of, with every detail of their needs taken into account.
  • Laying the groundwork for automation. When you write down your procedures in detail, you're halfway there towards automating them. Remind your team members that your SOPs bring you closer towards automating away the menial tasks that few people are excited to do.

(Check out this article to read more about the benefits of SOPs—not just for team members.)

As an added bonus, here's a clip of Maggie, our Account Manager Team Lead, explaining this benefits-driven approach.

In this case it's about convincing team members to use Slack less and leave important comms in ClickUp—but a lot of what she shares applies just as well towards getting team members on board with SOPs:


By the way, if you're curious about our recommended practices for when to use ClickUp vs. Slack (based on consulting for 2,700+ companies)—check out Maggie's webinar on Slack vs. ClickUp here.

Your team members might also have some reservations about investing time into following SOPs.

Here's a short list—plus ways to address the objections:

  • "SOPs are too rigid, killing creativity." Explain that SOPs are like recipes. They provide a framework but also allow for flexibility and variation when needed. They're not meant to stifle creativity but to ensure consistency where it counts.
  • "Following SOPs takes extra time." That's certainly true, and if you truly know the process like the back of your hand, and you're 100% certain there haven't been any updates since you last executed it, maybe you can get work done faster without following an SOP. But if there's even a slim chance you might miss or forget something... It's best to consult the SOP.
  • "I already know what I'm doing." That's great—just two issues here. One, you may know perfectly well how to follow a process now, but what about when you have to run it again three months from now? You're bound to forget some details. Second, SOPs are also a way to share knowledge with others, helping the whole team perform better.

Once your team members understand how they personally can benefit from diving into your SOPs, it's time to move on to the next steps.

Make it clear and consistent where SOPs live in your organization.

Training employees on SOPs begins by setting them up for success.

You are definitely NOT setting them up for success if you spread your SOPs across multiple systems and platforms.

Ideally, all of the work of your organization—all of its tasks and projects—should live in one place.

(We recommend ClickUp or Teamwork.com for this.)

Your SOPs must either live directly within your main PM tool, or be easily accessible from it.

To give you a concrete example, at ZenPilot we use a combo of ClickUp and Guru to cover all of our SOP needs.

All our work lives in ClickUp.

For some processes, a ClickUp template is all we need to carry it out start to finish.

(You can see an example of a client onboarding template like that here.)

For others, a ClickUp template still exists but it links out to the full SOP in Guru where we keep the most up-to-date information.

What's important is that the starting point is always ClickUp, so there's no confusion on where to look for our processes.

And we make it a point to clearly indicate who's in charge of updating and answering questions about a process—so that newbies know where to go for additional information that they can't find in the SOP itself.

Use Guru to make SOPs more accessible and trustworthy.

I mentioned Guru in the previous section—let me expand on it a little bit, as it can really change the way you engage with SOPs.

I first encountered Guru when I first joined ZenPilot, and I immediately noticed that it's much more than just an "internal wiki".

Here are some of the advantages of Guru:

  • Guru cards (which may contain an SOP or other useful information) are always clearly labeled as Verified or Unverified—so you know whether you can trust the information within.

  • Crucially, Guru cards may automatically become Unverified with time, prompting team members to review them and update the information within regularly!

  • Guru cards are assigned to specific team members who are supposed to update and re-verify them.

  • And Guru does not let you forget about Unverified cards. You'll get daily Slack notifications about it until you go and update your cards. (This can be tweaked in the settings if need be.)

Lately, Guru even added AI features where you can ask your entire knowledge base about something in natural language, and it'll pull up an answer, citing all the relevant Guru cards.

For processes and guidelines that are crucial to keep up to date, and especially ones that apply across the entire organization and not just a particular SOP, Guru is a great fit.

As mentioned, we still use a mix of ClickUp and Guru—you'll have to find your own perfect balance, but always remember to create links both ways between the platforms for easy navigation.

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Consider a Loom video walkthrough.

I'm not sure where people got the idea that SOPs needs to be long written documents.

That may have been true a couple decades ago—but we have much more exciting tools at our disposal now.

One of them is Loom.

And let me make it clear:

For certain processes, it will be perfectly acceptable for the brunt of your SOP to consist of a sufficiently detailed Loom video.

After all, an image is worth a thousand words.

(And videos at 30 FPS are 30 images per second... Okay, okay, Dad Joke Kuba is going away now.)

I would even go as far to say that you might consider creating your SOPs as videos first, and only adding supplemental information and links as text.

But we're assuming here that your SOPs are already built.

So can Loom still help you train your team members and get them to use your SOPs?

Yes, because your training materials can leverage video/Loom as well.

Here's a step you might consider:

Record an introductory Loom that takes team members through the whole structure of your SOP library.

Slap a big "START HERE" on it, and you'll be sure employees will know the lay of the land and what they're looking at when they open each SOP.

Bonus tip: don't forget that Loom provides transcripts of your videos... which you could easily feed to an AI like ChatGPT or Claude to create written instructions that much faster. You can do the same to create a text version of your introductory Loom, too!

Related: How To Manage A Remote Marketing Agency Team Across 7 Time Zones (feat. Janet Mesh, Aimtal)

Leverage Tango or Scribe to make SOPs more engaging.

Okay, right off the bat you might have one thought...

"What do you mean I need to make my SOPs engaging?"

To which I'll say:

Any content that's supposed to get someone to do something needs to be clear and engaging.

Internal comms doesn't get a free pass just because your employees are the target audience.

Believe me, good copy and presentation in internal communications can make all the difference.

This is especially true for remote teams.

So before you set your employees loose on your SOP library, consider how you can present the SOP content in a more engaging way.

One way to do that might be using Scribe or Tango.

Using such apps, you can just go through a process—click through all the buttons, type in what needs typing into the input fields—and they automatically create instructions with screenshots outlining exactly what the process needs, step by step.

For some processes, it's just what the doctor ordered.

And some of your team members will find it much easier to learn a process if it's presented as a Tango or Scribe capture.

It's not a silver bullet, but keep it in your SOP toolbox for when it's a fit!

Related: The Proven Process Documentation Framework from a ZenPilot Process Pro

Overcommunicate.

At various points, you'll have to talk to your team about your SOPs.

Process updates, training reminders, perhaps onboarding messages for new hires about SOPs.

When this happens, err on the side of overcommunicating.

That doesn't mean you should inundate your team members with long, complicated messages.

But it does mean that you should send various messages through multiple channels.

Send the email AND a Slack message.

Don't rely on someone getting a notification in whatever system you're using—remind them again via other channels and during meetings.

With each message, you underline the importance of your SOPs.

There is a way to overdo this, certainly. But most people underdo it.

Related: The 6 Most Important Steps To Effective Agency Change Management

Schedule recurring tasks to review and update SOPs.

Like I mentioned earlier, ideally all of your work should live in a centralized system.

Is reviewing and updating SOPs a task that you expect your team members to execute?

Almost certainly.

So should that work live as tasks in your system?

You already know the answer to that question.

Don't hesitate to create, for example, a recurring monthly task for your team members to review their SOPs.

Ideally they should be viewing and updating them each time they run a process, but like I mentioned earlier—it pays off to overcommunicate.

In this task, you can clearly tell team members about your expectations regarding what they should be doing with your SOPs on a regular basis.

Here's an example of our recurring SOP task: 

As you can see, handy links to Guru and any relevant templates are included for easy navigation, and the expectations are clearly outlined.

This includes the time estimate: an indication of how much time (approximately) you should devote to updating SOPs. That way you create some guidelines that prevent team members from either giving the SOPs a cursory glance or diving a little too deep into SOPs, hitting diminishing returns on their work.

Related: 6 Steps to Accurate Workload & Capacity Visibility in ClickUp

Use quizzes and tests.

This won't fit all organizations, but...

If you've got an SOP for which the following is true:

  1. It's rather complex, despite efforts to streamline/clarify it,
  2. It's crucial that team members understand and remember the nuances of it,
  3. It's unlikely to change very often...

...you might consider preparing a quiz for it.

Team members are bound to remember and understand the process better with the added interactivity (not to mention, just a little bit of pressure) that a quiz provides.

A tool like Quizlet might do the job here.

Implement a feedback loop.

Education and training can be such a one-way conversation, especially in a remote context.

When your employees see something they're not sure about in your SOPs—maybe even something they know is false—what options are you going to offer them to flag it?

We recommend setting up a form that team members can use to share feedback about SOPs.

One good way to do it: make it a ClickUp Form that automatically creates tasks so the right team members follow up on the feedback.

With a feedback loop like that in place, team members will know that they have a voice in how SOPs are structured.

And when they feel that they have the power to drive improvements in your SOPs, they'll be much more motivated to engage with them and learn them.

Related: Is Your Agency Facing Chaotic Project Management? How to Finally Fix It

Recognize your SOP superstars.

Respecting and following SOPs may not be the most glamorous part of work.

Which is why you should go to extra lengths to highlight how important it is for you as a leader that SOPs are taken seriously.

Here's one way you can do it:

Recognize and reward employees who follow and excel at SOPs.

Every time you encounter a situation in which SOPs saved the day...

...or maybe just when you see a team member who often talks about SOPs and updates them...

...draw attention it.

Send a Slack message about it to the team, or give them a shoutout at the next team meeting.

They may not be a salesperson bringing in bring deals, or a rock star programmer...

...but they're part of the cultural wave turning your company into a well-oiled, process-driven.

They deserve special recognition.

Lead by example.

Last, but definitely not least.

If you want your team members to give a damn about SOPs, you need to lead by example.

That means updating any SOPs you're personally involved in, leaving comments in ClickUp/Guru (or your other preferred platform), as well as bringing up SOPs whenever you get the chance.

A process is running well and bringing results? Point out the SOPs that drove that success.

A team member has a process improvement idea that you like? Tell them to document it by updating the SOP.

Something got missed in one of your processes? Check if the SOPs were followed, and have a conversation with your team how to avoid future mistakes in a process-driven approach.

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Training employees on SOPs is one step towards gold-standard operations

If you've taken the advice in this article to heart, congratulations—you're well on your way towards guiding your team in your SOP journey.

But that journey in itself is part of a larger endeavor:

Implementing gold-standard operations to help your whole business become more efficient, more profitable, and a great place to work.

To get to that level, you need more than just SOPs.

Based on our work with nearly 3,000 companies, we've found that for top-tier operations, you need to take care of the Three Keys:

  1. Tools

  2. Processes

  3. Habits

We touched upon all three in this article, and it's great that you're thinking not just about documenting SOPs (processes), but also about getting your team to use them (habits).

But that's not the only habits you should be building.

What about getting your team members to consistently track their work time?

Or motivating them to regularly keep track of important company metrics?

Or getting them more involved in building processes and SOPs in the first place?

And where to put all of that to create a unified work management system?

In our view, the way to bring it all together is by using ClickUp.

And we've got a free (for now), 57-page Ultimate Guide to ClickUp that you can download right here:

Get ZenPilot's Ultimate Guide to ClickUp

That little (well, not so little) ebook contains our learnings distilled through working with nearly 3,000 companies on improving their operations.

It brings together all the Three Keys and prepares you for your journey towards gold-standard operations.

A journey we'll be happy to assist you on—book a call here when you're ready.

See you in the next one!

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