How to onboard a hire without SOPs in 5 easy steps…while still feeling prepared. (Yes, it’s possible!)

Despite what you find online, hiring without standard operating procedures (SOPs) is, in fact, attainable. I’m not sure who convinced the business world that we need to have all our SOPs in place before we onboard our first hire…but I’m here to tell you, that’s BS.

In this video, we’re sharing why (and how) you can hire without SOPs in 5 easy steps.

Not a video person? No worries! We’ll cover all the main points in this article.

Traditional hiring advice suggests you spend hours writing SOPs before onboarding — why?

Conventional guidance around hiring and onboarding suggests that you need to have all standard operating procedures clearly defined before your hire your first (or next) employee — but we disagree.

After working with 1,700+ growth-oriented teams on systemizing and documenting their businesses, we’ve realized that, in truth, SOPs are a luxury.

You can (and in many instances should) hire without having SOPs!

Throughout this article, we’ll explain the rarely discussed benefits of avoiding SOP creation. Then, we’ll review what an SOP-free hiring plan actually looks like. Let’s dive in!

3 reasons why you should hire without sops

1. You don’t have time to create sops

Reality check: You’re hiring because you have no time, so why add extra work to your already full plate with unnecessary tasks?

Exactly. You should prioritize essential tasks during this period.

If you don’t want to keep working weekends or turning away business, don’t create SOPs before your first hire. You’ll only delay the hiring process and have to continue doing everything yourself.

This advice is simple, but many leaders and business owners don’t practice this enough.

2. creating sops is time-consuming and aids procrastination

SOP creation can lead to procrastination. How? When writing SOPs, the doer feels like they’re being productive since they are accomplishing something (creating SOPs)…yet, in actuality, they’re just avoiding the more important tasks of actually hiring.

This concept is what we call Productive Procrastination. Productive Procrastination is particularly dangerous for small teams where resources are stretched thin.

Sure, your team has all these SOPs…but the team leader took 50 hours to create them! That means you’re 50 hours behind on the hiring process. And to be quite honest, your SOPs probably aren’t that good…

3. You’re not the best person to create sops

If you’re a business owner or leader creating SOPs, the person who executes those tasks will have difficulty following your SOPs. Why? Because you’re disconnected from the actual day-to-day process.

As an owner or leader, you’re not the one performing the day-to-day routine tasks in the business. Your focus is typically on big-picture strategy and what the future holds. So how could you be the most knowledgeable about processes you’re not even doing?

Exactly.

Typically, the person who performs that job daily is considered the Subject Matter Expert (SME). Only the SME should be creating SOPs. So who is the SME? Your new hire!

Unless you’re hiring for an established position where existing SMEs can spend the time writing the SOPs…this is one more reason not to write SOPs before you hire!

To watch this explanation in video format, watch the video at the top of this article at timestamp 01:07.

Need some guidance creating SOPs for your team? Download our 109 Time-Saving SOPs Every Team Needs Checklist!

HOW TO HIRE WITHOUT SOPS

STEP 1. DEFINE RESPONSIBILITIES

By “responsibilities,” we’re talking beyond what we’d see in a typical job description. Job descriptions use vague language like:

  • Manage our brand voice
  • Ad hoc tasks as assigned
  • Organize special projects as needed

What does that all mean for your business?

By further defining your job responsibilities, you’re setting your new hire up for success without SOPs. For example, if you hire a part-time Virtual Assistant (VA), clearly defined responsibilities might be:

  • Take notes during meetings
  • Sort email inbox
  • Reply to social media comments and messages
  • Respond to internal communication

You need to define where you want this person’s time to go to provide direct value to you, your team, and the business.

📌 Reminder: Focus on routine tasks when defining responsibilities, not special projects or one-off tasks you have in mind. Only focus on the typical day-to-day operations this person will be involved in. If you cannot clearly define at least four routine obligations for this role, reconsider your hiring plan to include a freelancer instead.

STEP 2. DEFINE THE FREQUENCY OF RESPONSIBILITIES

For every obligation you wrote down, look at the frequency you want each task to happen. It’s okay if some tasks’ frequency varies. Just aim for what a standard frequency would look like to you.

For example:

  • Checking the inbox: Daily
  • Scheduling podcast guests: Monthly
  • Planning goals for the Marketing department: Quarterly

Once you’ve defined the cadence of each task, we can move on to creating the tasks.

STEP 3. CREATE AND ASSIGN TASKS

Take each responsibility you defined in Steps 1 and 2 and turn them into tasks using your work management tool or spreadsheet of choice. Whatever tool you’re planning on using with your new hire, add it there.

Make sure to add due dates, recurrences, and an assignee. It’ll look something like this:

Hiring without SOPs is possible if you clearly define responsibilities, due dates, and assignees ahead of time.
Hiring without SOPs is possible if you clearly define responsibilities, due dates, and assignees ahead of time.

STEP 4. ADD SOP TEMPLATES

Now it’s time for SOPs! Yup — you read that right.

Even though we’re not personally writing the SOPs, we still want to prepare blank SOP templates to guide our new hire when they go to add these SOPs.

Need some guidance on how to best create SOP structures? Check out our ultimate SOP guide here.

Take a few moments to add your favorite fill-in-the-blank SOP structure to each task. This will ensure your new hire’s SOPs will match your company guidelines!

STEP 5. SCHEDULE SHADOW SESSIONS OR INTERVIEWS

Okay, you have a new hire and a blank SOP template. What now?

We recommend you schedule shadow sessions to verbally walk the new hire through each process while they take in the new information. (They should take notes during these sessions, which they will then turn into SOPs!)

📌 Reminder: If you aren’t equipped to teach that process to the new hire, find someone who is! There’s no reason to teach stuff you don’t know and further confuse the new hire.

To watch this explanation in video format, watch the video at the top of this article at timestamp 08:16.

5 Benefits of hiring Without SOPs

1. The New Hire has been contributing to the team from day 1

Allowing the new hire to create the SOPs gives them a sense of achievement and ownership early on. Go, team! 🤜🤛

2. SOPs Are written from a new hire’s perspective

By allowing new hires to create SOPs, we ensure the SOPs are accurate and straightforward. We can unwind knowing other new hires will follow along easily because the level of detail, knowledge, terminology, and concepts they use will easily translate. No need for expert jargon that no one will understand.

3. TEAM LEADER CAN PROVIDE AN ADDITIONAL PERSPECTIVE

Since the team leader or business owner isn’t writing the SOPs, they can provide their unique knowledge to the new hire (through shadow sessions) via revisions. The new hire collaborates with the leader in a meaningful way that will keep things moving forward.

4. team and business integration

Similar to Benefit 3, having the new hire collaborate on SOPs provides an invaluable opportunity to get to know the business and their colleagues. You’re encouraging the new hire to contribute to the team early, all while the hire learns how the business works. This will set a precedent for more team collaboration in the future!

5. NEW HIRE IS ALREADY AN EXPERT

By allowing the new hire to feel that sense of achievement and ownership, they’ve just become the expert in that business process. Early in their journey at your company, they will already start to feel like they are directly contributing to the improvement and advancement of the business.

In summary, if you’re considering onboarding your first hire and have no SOPs, don’t stress! By clearly defining the role’s responsibilities, inputting those responsibilities into a work management tool, and having open and clear communication with your new hire, you’ll be able to take back your precious time so you can focus on what’s important: growing your business. 🚀

Until next time, enjoy the process!

Need some guidance creating SOPs for your team? Download our 109 Time-Saving SOPs Every Team Needs Checklist!

Melisa is the Marketing Coordinator on Team ProcessDriven. Melisa's focus is helping small teams learn about our training programs by connecting with leaders like you.

Layla is the Creator and CEO at ProcessDriven, where she helps small teams turn chaos into process inside our signature training programs. Since 2018, Layla has been combining software, operations, and storytelling to guide 1,200+ teams to “Enjoy the Process!” while building a scalable foundation of business systems. The rest of the time? She's focused on creating value over on our YouTube Channel and free Facebook Group.