Looking for Ideas for Standard Operating Procedure training design

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) training is one of the primary areas that I spend a lot of time developing training on.   Anyone familiar with an SOP understands that the content is very dry and very text heavy.  I am looking for new ideas for ways to make the training more engaging for our audience.

Some of the challenges that I face are:

  • We frequently have to use the wording in the documents
  • Some of the steps are very  high level due to variations required to meet country requirements where the users are located
  • VERY short timeframes for development.

I'm open to any concepts and ideas in this area.

10 Replies
Steve Flowers

For procedural stuff, I've built modules I labeled "Companions" these were brief modules that referenced the SOP / Guides but didn't replicate what is in the SOP or guide. For example, a companion module might start with an overview of purpose then go into a series of practice scenarios that required the participant to USE the SOP to solve challenges. 

One of the most wasteful things I've seen is a spoon feeding of content from a guide or SOP. This assumes the user can't read in the format of the SOP and relieves them of that burden, relegating the completion of the information exposure to a click race to the finish. If the SOP is great, the goals of training for the SOP should be:

1) Getting folks into the habit of using the SOP

2) Getting folks to recognize WHEN they should use the SOP

3) Getting folks to actually solve problems using the SOP rather than flying by the seat of their pants

A "companion" that is 95% challenges helps all three of these goals. It's harder than CTRL-C, CTRL-V and pimping slides with visuals. But it's a more valuable use of effort, IMO

Shawn Stiles

Hi Steve,

This is a great approach.  Having the users use the SOP to perform an activity is certainly much more engaging than repeating the content, (which we get forced to do much to often).  What I have been trying is to present the materials in the context of what it means to the users. Based on the current feedback this is helping, but it's not enough.  Adding your idea should add a new dimension.

Time is always the challenge, deadlines can be tight, but it's worth pushing back to provide a better experience.

Thanks for your great suggestion.

Anne Goldenberger

Hi Shawn -

In response to the need to use the wording in the documents, I had a request like that recently (to use OSHA wording in my course - aaaagggghhh).

Here's how I dealt with it - the voiceover uses normal language, but the OSHA wording is displayed on the page.   I italicized the legal text to hopefully communicate to the learner that it's an excerpt from another document, rather than something they have to read.  First the learner sees a photo of the situation being discussed, then the OSHA text animates in during the voiceover. 

Kimberly Read

I completely agree with Steve's approach of training how to use the SOP should be used as a resource versus attempting to train learners the content of the SOP. Some other ideas on how to do this:

1. Scavenger hunt type scenario for learners to practice referencing the RFP. Maybe offer learner's badges or virtual rewards as they complete certain SOPs.

2. If the quality of the learner's performance is time-dirven, a timed game.

3. Scenario where learners must help a new employee perform while abiding by SOPs.

As professionals who regularly incorporate adult learning principles, I think we are more aware of the limitations of long term and short term memory when it comes to any single learning event. Oftentimes SOPs and job aids are created because the content exceeds a reasonable amount of detail that any person could hold in their memory.  It's our challenge then to focus on the 5-7 meaningful skills or concepts that can be memorized and trained within an individual learning piece. I think training how to use the resource meets this challenge.

Cary Glenn

When I'm doing this kind of training I will attach the procedure to the resources tab. I'll sometimes give some background information on the procedure and why it is in place. Safety procedures are often written because of an incident and the procedure writers hope to avoid more bloodshed. I like to develop some scenarios where the learner has to use procedure; x happens what should you do according to the procedure, or branching scenarios that show what happens when the procedure isn't followed. Pay special attention to parts of the procedure that are easy to misunderstand.

Jem Spencer

I'm actually working on developing some eLearning from an SOP as well and this article has been immensely helpful to me. I find myself struggling with the same issues as you Shawn. Also my department does not want to budge on having all of these rules shown in the module. My initial idea was scenario based where you give the learner a scene and they need to use the SOP to determine if the procedures followed were correct or not. I also thought of turning the rules into a conversation type piece where the rules are given but they are discussed in everyday language. I'd love some input on these ideas, also does anyone have any ideas on still displaying the rules but also incorporating scenarios?

Cheryl Powers

this conversation is old but hoping to revisit it here and continue looking.  I had been searching for best practices and came up with this article.   I am an LMS admin and also design content.  My largest audience of learners are associates that must be trained on food safety and production of food products as there is a lot of regulatory compliance we must meet.  We are required to have a record of training and then retraining when a SOP has been updated.  This is a huge burden to manage scheduled sessions from within an LMS application when SOP update training occurs across 18 locations with multiple team facilitators at each.  ie:  multiple sessions scheduled with multiple facilitators at multiple locations for each SOP and there are hundreds.

Peter Rizza

Cheryl's concerns are pervasive in many regulated industries. We created the ExpressTrain Suite of tools to address these issues. With ExpressTrain the SME enters the SOP content into a Word Template and then (after review and approval via SharePoint) automatically generates the official SOP, and all Job Aids, Checklists, Supervisor Task Qualification Standards, as well as the training in the form of PowerPoint slides and SCORM conformant Web-based Tutorials for loading into your LMS. In this way the SOP can be edited, changed or updated at the single-source and all the associated performance support and training materials can be updated in minutes. At least the nightmare or coordinating all the materials to be consistent, concurrent and compliant can be handled this way with assurance that they all represent the latest SOP.