i3 | July 14, 2020

Your Company's Digital 'SOP' Handbook

Jake Sigal

A friend of mine recently reviewed our Tome employee handbook, which we lovingly call “The Tome.” Because these handbooks for small businesses tend to involve a lot of copy and pasting of things related to the law and the workplace, I thought it would be cool to have a fellow entrepreneur — and someone I trust — review ours. He also shared his own Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). I am using his constructive feedback to increase the value of the handbook for our team.

Here are the best tips, which are great for any small business, from my friend Bradley Hoos, chief growth officer at The Outloud Group. I immediately used these to update The Tome and our staff loved it!

How often can you say that your team loves anything in an employee handbook?

Keep the Handbook Digital

For some reason, I always thought that an employee handbook had to be printed as a snapshot in time. We checked with legal and digital is fine. Now, it’s a Google document and we let our team know when there are any changes using the comment tool. It allows everyone to quickly search the document for items, making it more useful than a stack of paper collecting dust. It also saved time printing and distributing the updates every year. Digital handbooks for the win.

Explain What 'Good' Looks Like with Examples

Setting the bar on a “Tome Pro” look and feel was the biggest change to our handbook. Being a small business, many people on the team send files to clients and other team members, but they didn’t always know what the company standards were. Previously, we had a template in Google Docs for a few forms and how to access them in a section of The Tome. Now, we have direct links in our handbook, as well as specific requirements. (e.g., always send a PDF, unless a client specifically asks for an editable document. You never know what your non-PDF document is going to look like on the receiving end.)

Include Branding Guidelines in the SOP

For small businesses, include brand guidelines such as where to find your latest logo and what your colors are so your team can brand-up all projects. Branding goes beyond the art requirements and includes best practices for things like grammar usage, what to wear and how to show up to a meeting. At Tome, it means leaving the laptop in your bag, your mobile phone in your pocket and always bringing a notebook and pen.

List All Tools, Digital and Other

Keeping a list in the handbook of the IT tools for the staff is incredibly handy. We listed all of our tools with links to download or access the software, as well as best practice document links for each tool. Typically, the documents that outline how we use the tools are managed by a separate person on our team. This helps clear things up for everyone, from new employees to senior staff in the company. Also, tools change over time and it’s always good to brush up on best practices. I also found this useful as a reference for annual disaster recovery planning.

Have New Employees Review the SOP

The last tip I got from my friend that keeps our handbook up to date and easy to understand, is having every new employee go through our handbook and put in comments about anything that may be unclear. We also ask new employees to provide the top three things or policies they like and the top three they would want to change. 

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