What’s the Difference Between a Standard Operating Procedure, a Work Instruction, a One Point Lesson, and Training Modules?
How can you know which resource to use for the needs you have in your business, right now.
Your One Burning Question this week is brought to you by every frustrated Human Resources and training professional who’s ever been asked to solve problems with “more training.”
For me, these are cascading items….An SOP, or Standard Operating Procedure takes what you want to get done and breaks it into steps. A work instruction takes those steps, and instructs the trainee how to perform each step, a One point lesson breaks down each instruction into a detailed step for each point..so there are several one point lessons for each work instruction. All of this is encapsulated in a training module. Clear as mud?
Well, I created a worksheet to help illustrate what we’re discussing today. If you’d like to download a copy, visit vimandvigor.biz/SOP
Let’s break it down a bit:
Okay, so, an SOP is a Standard Operating Procedure. It outlines the order in which something must happen. It reminds you and your employees, “This is how it should be done.” It details roles and responsibilities and outlines the broader steps needed to get the job done. For example, if you need to capture your business’s protocol for posting a job, you might see items like, “create job description, write posting content, determine desired income range, create ideal candidate avitar, select posting sources, and closing date.
A Work Instruction is going into great detail on how to perform each step. Work instructions are written for a person who comes into your business for the first time and has no exposure to the way YOU do things. So even someone with tons of experience writing job descriptions will still need to know how YOU do it. If you own a hair salon for example, even the most experienced stylist needs to know how YOU check a customer out, how stylists organize their work stations, and how to order product. A work instruction is a reference document that is often used when someone is first exposed to your process or when employees need a refresher. A Work Instruction for “Create Job Description” for example is going to outline how to Perform a Job Analysis that was listed as one of the tasks in the SOP, where to find the job description template, how to obtain reviews and approvals, and where to store the completed document. The first couple of steps will look like this:
- Perform a detailed job analysis by asking current employees to complete time studies of their duties.
- Make any necessary changes to the current job description or create the new one outlining duties in order of importance based on the analysis.
- Continue outlining steps until you have a completed job description.
A One Point Lesson is going to describe ONE, keyword, ONE, point from the work instruction and go into microscopic detail. It includes a step by step ‘how to’ that leaves little room for guessing how someone should perform a task. If we break down “perform a job analysis” from the Create Job Description work instruction as part of the SOP to Post a Job, it might look like this:
Go to ABC Company Hub in Trello (or where ever you store your own documents). Find the list for Tools & Resources. Click on Templates Card and find the Job Analysis Template. While links are good, it is always a good idea to provide the file path as well. Screen shots, drawings, and pictures are always helpful in a one point lesson.
Are you putting this together? Some pureists would even say that finding the Trello card is its’ own One Point Lesson. Only you will know how granular you need to get based on your audience, content, time to learn, learning styles and other considerations.
Finally, a Training Module is a tracking document that outlines the expected outcomes one will have once they go through the training. There are skill mastery check points along the way to ensure the employee or contractor you are training is making the kind of progress you were expecting. It often includes a sign off on particular skills or improvement as a result of the training. It defines what success will look like and may even include where the trainee can find additional help or resources, what to do if they feel stuck, practice assignments, and oversight approvals. In our running example, you as the business owner would select a job to post and have them walk through the SOP’s, work instructions, and one point lessons needed to Post a Job, checking their progress along the way, giving them training in areas where you see gaps in learning or mastery.
Obviously, this is hyper-detailed and not appropriate for all tasks. These will be most helpful when you have the same job, project or task being performed by more than one person, but with the same expected outcome. It’s also a great way to capture all the how-to’s when only one person in your company performs the task. Think about your payroll. How many people in your office or team know how to process your payroll with confidence? If Susie the payroll manager wins the lottery and leaves you in the dust, does your backup know how to process the payroll with confidence or will you be scrambling? Are there any tasks one of your employees is super territorial about? You probably ought to walk through these processes and capture SOPs, work instructions or one point lessons.
SOP’s, Work Instructions, One Point Lessons, and Training Modules can take a bit of time up front, aaaand scratch that, this is a time commitment for the success of your business, but for your repeatable processes, or areas where consistency is extremely valuable, tasks that have little to no room for error, or are at risk of vanishing when the person who performs them vanishes, they are worth ten fold their time to create.
Here’s a side tip I learned a long time ago but feel is still relevant today: Only use numbers in a list when that list is sequentially important. Use bullet points to highlight other ideas in list format.
Thanks for working through these training guides with me. I hope this helped trigger some thoughts on how you can capture important processes in your business. If you need help with one or all of these processes, you know I’d love to help. Visit vimandvigor.biz and schedule a consult call to see if working together is a great match for us.
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