Skip to content
Back to eduMe Blog
Deskless Workforce

The SOP Manual Best Practice you Need to Know: Digitization


When it comes to SOP manual best practices, there’s one approach that’s more important than anything else: digitization. 

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) manuals are vital to businesses that perform precise, consistent tasks as part of their services. Take manufacturing, housekeeping in a hotel, or front- or back-of-house in a restaurant, for example. 

Organizations with clearly defined SOPs outperform their competitors by 31%. But with employees spending up to 2.5 hours a day searching for relevant information, we need to be sure what ‘clear’ means. 

Do step-by-step manuals printed in a paper handbook or saved to a desktop work for the modern workforce? Or is there an alternative way? 

In this blog post, we’ll cover what an SOP is and why their traditional format falls short for today’s workforce. We’ll then explain what digital SOPs - which deliver relevant, contextual learning that meets your workers where they’re at - can do for your business. 

Sounds good? Let’s get into it. Keep reading or skip ahead: 

What is a SOP?

A SOP is a template of step-by-step instructions given to team members to educate them on the routine activities that make up their job. They’re often given to new team members as part of onboarding, or current employees as a refresher. If every team member follows a SOP correctly, the hiring organization makes sure it stays consistent and compliant. 

SOPS are traditionally written instructions developed by subject matter experts or key stakeholders, who understand the complex processes and specific tasks undertaken when carrying out key business processes.

Doing so has an impact on everything from safety - human error is a contributing factor to 90% of accidents - to customer experience to efficiency. It’s also important to have a record of company procedures so business operations are scalable and repeatable.

The problem with traditional SOPs

In their most old-school form, traditional SOPs are printed out and given to employees in a physical manual. 

The more modern approach is to deliver these SOP templates on a desktop or as part of a company knowledge base, workforce management software, or SOP software.

But is this enough? Today, up to 80% of the workforce isn’t located in an office. Instead, they’re working in a kitchen, on a shop floor, out on the road making deliveries. 

The majority of this workforce is deskless - yet training is delivered to 83% of them on a desktop computer. Is it any wonder, then, that 60% are unsatisfied with the training they’re given?

Let’s take a closer look at why that might be.


If you received a SOP manual in printed form, where would you store it? In your desk, right? For those that don’t have a desk, this question isn’t as easy to answer. Its survival chances (even if laminated) on, say, a construction site or in a kitchen are slim. 

A desktop format is also difficult to refer to. Try telling a construction worker to get offsite, go to the office, log into a desktop, and then scroll through pages and pages of information to double-check the process map for using a piece of machinery.

This removes the chance of the worker being able to refer to the information when needed. As a result, the worker doesn’t have the chance to improve recall through continuous learning and deliver consistent, high-quality work. 

Cognitive overload

SOPs delivered in a physical manual or as part of a desktop training program are often designed to be tackled in one go. This type of training is irrelevant to the situation the worker’s currently in - teaching them how to turn down a guest room before they’ve even set foot in one, for example.

Delivering information all in one go is the opposite of a learning best practice: continuous learning, embedded in everyday workflows.

Clunky user experience

Having to log into multiple desktop apps or refer to a different manual forces the worker to context switch. It takes over 20 minutes to go back to a task after an interruption - and the more steps the worker has to take to find the information they need, the less likely they are to follow through.

The new way: digital SOPs

So far, we’ve run through why a traditional SOP doesn’t meet the needs of a modern workforce. 

This is where a digital SOP format comes in. A modern-day, digital SOP is still a step-by-step guide, just: 

  • Delivered in a way that suits your unique business needs
  • Presented in bitesize, concise formats like videos and screenshots
  • Seamlessly blends with technology you're already using

Let's dig a little deeper.

What does a digital SOP look like?


If a task is complicated, chances are your worker will want to come back for a refresher before undertaking it. Making your SOP easy access by storing it in an always-on home for training they can access anywhere  is important as knowledge is consolidated through repetition. 

If workers can come back to a knowledge hub you’ll see benefits in other areas of the business, too. For example, if your frontline team is confident in what they’re doing your support team should see a reduction in support queries. 


How well do you remember the chapters of a book you first read last year? 

Assuming you answered not very well, you can’t expect workers to remember a handbook they had to read during their onboarding. 

Instead, digital SOPs enable workers to access a specific piece of information exactly when they need it. Having varied delivery methods - such as in your own tool or app, via external comms channels, or in-person via QR codes - meets workers where they’re at, and increases success rates. For example, enabling contextual access to effective SOPs has been shown to reduce workforce injuries by 96%.

Familiar UI

Most deskless workers are time-poor and work in environments that are not conducive to learning - think being in a noisy factory or outside on a bright day. Information needs to be displayed in a way that doesn’t need them to read small text, or hear any audio. 

As a baseline, they should be short videos with text instruction overlaid and simple language. Why short videos? 83% prefer video over text or audio when learning. Having a visual aid for a task makes conceptualization far easier for the worker, particularly when a task is broken down into steps and sub-steps.

You can also replicate apps that the worker will use in their leisure time - think TikTok, Instagram, and so on - by making it tappable. Presenting training information with this UI is novel (and therefore commands attention) and is better suited to learning needs. 

Crucially, it’s training that doesn’t feel like training - and 98% of frontline workers prefer to learn this way.


So, you’re (hopefully) convinced that digitized SOPs help businesses and workers alike. But how do you digitize your current SOP document? 

If you’ve got a physical standard operating procedure template, you’d be looking at auditing material, translating and formatting it into a new tool, creating new material on top of that…that’s a huge SOP creation project. 

Fortunately, in 2024 we have a little something called AI to help. AI can deliver a first draft in seconds - no matter how many detailed instructions we’re talking about. You can then tweak yourself or input further instructions to improve and create the most effective standard operating procedure for your business. At eduMe we call this a file-to-lesson converter - and it’s been a game-changer for customers like McCoy’s Building Supply, for example. 

Advantages of a digital SOP

Digitize your SOPs, and you should see the following benefits: 

  • High uptake levels: have higher numbers of workers complete their training, and refer to it.   
  • A reduction in mistakes and accidents: if information is retained, it should improve your workers’ output.  
  • Increased efficiency: minimizing the steps taken for training should reduce the time spent on it.  
  • Trackable data to iterate on: find out how many workers complete their training, what common drop-off points are, and if you or your workers need to review a specific section of training.

Digital SOP examples

Want to see what digital SOPs look like in practice? We’ve picked out some examples from three industries, along with some further info about why you want to introduce them. 

eduMe Guides are step-by-step, instructional, visual guidance delivered contextually - no matter what industry you’re in. They’re fast, easy, and engaging, and have a 79% completion rate - 49% higher than the industry average.

Importance of SOPs in housekeeping

Digital SOPs can make a huge difference for your housekeeping business, such as: 

  • Keeping customers and staff safe
  • Ensuring consistency of service 
  • Reducing onboarding time, and boosting retention as a result

Here's one in action:

Importance of SOP in restaurant

Digital SOPs in a restaurant setting can help with: 

  • Getting new hires trained in record time
  • Keeping everyone safe
  • Reducing onboarding time and increasing retention rates

Here’s one in action: 

Importance of SOP in manufacturing

Introduce a digital SOP in your manufacturing business, and you’ll see the following results:

  • A safe workforce that adheres to regulatory requirements
  • Attracting and retaining a younger generation of workers 

Here’s one in action:


Digital SOP best practices: final thoughts

Having an SOP is no longer just a tick-box exercise. With today’s workforce being so varied, it’s important to create one that meets your workers wherever they’re at. Digital SOPs can help you deliver relevant, enjoyable content to your workers at a time and place that suits them. Printers, begone! 

eduMe is the leading mobile training platform for the frontline workforce, enabling companies such as The Home Depot, Hilton and Uber to deliver learning content seamlessly to their workers’ personal devices, boosting retention and increasing productivity as they continue to scale operations.

Learn more about eduMe Guides and how they can help your business, or see how Guides fit into the overall eduMe product in a quick video tour.