How to Build Organizational Charts
Get step-by-step directions for building an org chart using software you already use. See examples for different organizational structures like hieratical, functional, matrix, geographic, and more.
What Should I Use to Create an Org Chart?
Org charts are a foundational piece of any organization, yet how we create them and manage them can differ greatly. If you’re considering purchasing software specifically built for org charts or you prefer to work with Microsoft PowerPoint or Word, as examples, there are several best practices you can follow to ensure your org chart is useful and accurate. If you haven’t yet graduated from colored sticky notes and a whiteboard, then you’ve come to the right place, too.
Part of the success of your org chart will depend on how easy your tool is to use, access, share And update. Your org chart, at the most basic level, should clearly represent exactly how your organization is structured. It will show relationships, ranks and positions. It can look like a pyramid, a layered cake, or even an interconnected web of circles. Many software tools offer templates and layouts to simplify the process of designing the org chart while also providing the capability to customize the design of your org chart however you see fit.
Developing the org chart will likely require input from HR, business leaders and managers. Understanding the different levels of management and how their teams are organized will help you design an accurate org chart, however, it is critical your org chart is updated regularly with accurate information to reflect organizational changes. Don’t worry, by the time you read through our guide, you’ll know exactly how to make an organizational chart.
Building an Organizational Chart People Will Use
The goal for anyone rolling out a new tool is that it will have a measurable return on investment (ROI), preferably sooner than later. A key steps towards that is ensuring new users are able to adopt it quickly and without much friction. You can invest in the greatest piece of technology ever to hit the market, but if you can’t get your people to use it, it is worthless.
Org chart software is no different. Although it is relatively inexpensive compared to many IT investments, to get the most bang for your buck and to reap the benefits that excited you enough to purchase it, you have to get everyone on board. Fortunately, modern org chart software is rapidly becoming a valued resource for many companies, particularly fast-growing companies and those hoping to keep the intimate feeling of community among its employees.
If you choose to build an org chart in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, you'll be able to dictate the layout, but will be limited with some of their capabilities. For example, none of those MS Office products let you collaborate in real time with other users and both leave it up to the user to download the latest updates. Because these apps are not web-based, users will need to be at their computers to see the org chart or make any updates. If you have a mobile workforce, this could be a disadvantage to using web-based software.
So how do you get started and what are the best practices for software implementation? Follow our step-by-step guide to learn how to create an organization chart and you’ll have employees thanking you in no time.
Establish Employee Data Sources
No matter the company or organization, your employee data is likely one of your biggest assets and managing it isn’t always easy. When it comes to managing employees and the company structure, data can be everywhere or siloed in department-specific business systems, inaccessible to anyone on the outside.
Organizational chart software can integrate with existing internal business systems, such as HR applications, to pull in data automatically, greatly reducing the administrative burden and risks for human error. Other software options, such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, could be used to create your org chart but it will require manual updates.
Follow these three steps to create an organizational chart with or without org chart software :
- Determine data resources. Where will you get employee data from to build the org chart? Will it be manually provided by someone internally; be pulled in from an IT system, such as Active Directory, Okta or Google Apps; or from an HR information system, such as Workday or ADP?
- Assign data maintainers. Who will be responsible for ensuring key data will be kept current? Will this responsibility be given to managers, directors, VPs, HR or IT?
- Choose the frequency of the data updates. For some organizations, daily updates may be required, yet others may choose only monthly or even quarterly. Understanding how your company uses this data and the frequency in which your data changes can help guide your decision.
Now that you have your data figured out and preferably automated from this point forward, it is time to think about what you want your org chart to look like. Remember the point of the org chart is to graphically represent the reporting relationships and relative ranks of job positions within your organization. By looking at the org chart, your employees, shareholders, partners and other third parties should be able to quickly understand how your organization is designed, the levels of internal authority, and where each employee fits into the company architecture. When you’re ready to create the organizational chart:
Identify the type of org chart. Depending on how your organization is designed, you likely have an identifiable structure that can be illustrated by the org chart. Is your company functionally organized or is it structured around divisions, products, customers, or geographies? Or maybe it is a hybrid of one or more structures, such as in a matrix organization. If your company is a bit more loose when it comes to ranks and levels, you may align more with a flat structure. Whichever it is, the software you choose should be capable of accurately depicting exactly how your organization views its business teams and processes.
Related 7 ½ Types of Business Organizational Structures
- Determine the appearance. Your org chart will be viewed and likely shared with every employee and possibly third parties, so you want to get this part right. Will it be a grid with names, job titles only or will it be more visual with headshot photos? When thinking about how to create an organizational chart, keep in mind how you think others would best be able to visualize the company structure. Choose a format that is easy on the eyes and gives just the right amount of visual and contextual details. This brings us to the next point.
- Decide the level of detail you want to include. How deep into the reporting structure do you want to go? Some org charts will show only the executive team and their direct reporting managers, while others will continue down the hierarchy to list every last employee. Of course, there’s always the option to have multiple org charts, depending on where and how they will be used.
Some modern organizational chart software will allow you to add levels of detail that is just a click away from the org chart. This way, the initial org chart isn’t overloaded with too much information. Instead, users can click on the org chart or a particular person and drill into more detail, finding things such as job responsibility, current projects, and skills, for example. This helps keep the org chart cleaner and more readable. Consider choosing an org chart maker that allows you to customize fields so employees have the freedom to add their own detail but within set parameters.
- Think about how the chart will be used. You will want to determine if the chart will be shared digitally, printed, or both. Your software should present the chart in a logical way, no matter the format, giving viewers a clean, understandable, and visually pleasing picture every time. If you use Excel or Word 2016, sharing the org chart will require you to attach your file(s) to an email to share. Web-based org chart software will enable you to provide intended recipients a secure link through the app, eliminating the need for email altogether.
- Determine how the chart will be updated. One of the biggest challenges with older org chart creator software, like Microsoft PowerPoint or Word, is that it requires constant maintenance by a single person. It can be a huge hassle and massive time drain if the software doesn’t automatically keep the org chart up to date or enable others to collaborate to make any updates themselves. Choose software that gives you the flexibility to assign certain maintenance tasks to more than one person or better yet that will keep it updated automatically. It’s also a good idea to use web-based software so any and all updates by any user are instantly reflected in the org chart. This will ensure everyone is always working on the same version.
Promote Organization Chart Usage
While you may not be bringing to market a new product, you are bringing your employees a new resource you want them to love. Traditionally, org charts have been a manager’s tool. Employees often do not realize they can benefit from the org chart, particularly if it’s the one dimensional organizational chart of the past. Today’s business org chart is something to get excited about and can help every employee work smarter, be more productive and feel happier at work. They will use this to gain access to knowledge and resources they need to be successful the instant they need it.
- “Sell” to employees. Change management is rarely considered fun but if you do it right, you can avoid employee backlash. Most people don’t always appreciate being asked to change how they do things, so it is critical for you to sell your new org chart application as a resource and productivity tool that will help them succeed. Employees spend about 20 percent of their work week searching for details internally and tracking down colleagues for answers. You will be able to give those 8 hours a week back to employees when they have everything they need to discover who’s who and who does what.
- Announce with fanfare. Change management requires one thing above all others: executive management support. You need one or more executive advocate(s) to champion the new solution and get employees excited about its benefits. Once you do, announce the improvement with gusto, perhaps at a corporate event or an all hands on deck meeting. Consider walking the employees through a live demo to show them the cool features they will most likely love. You can set up use case scenarios so they can better understand exactly when and how they could use it. Be sure to focus on the benefits over the features so employees can internalize how the features will benefit them directly.
- Give employees instant access. Strike while the iron is hot, as they say, and give your pumped up employees instant access to the new org chart immediately following the corporate announcement. You want to leverage the excitement you generated during the launch announcement by getting them using it as quickly as possible.
- Provide managers with training and talking points. While the best org chart software solutions will be intuitive and simple to use, you will inevitably have an employee or two who have questions or push back. Equip company managers with all of the information they may need to quickly respond to questions and make sure they know how to use all of the features of the new solution. You can provide one-on-one or group training sessions, webinars, or online tutorials if needed.
- Create incentives. Who doesn’t enjoy a friendly competition? Disguise your requirement for adherence with incentives to get employees to complete their online profiles and keep them updated. Contests for the best photo headshot, prizes for the team with the most completed profiles, and games that challenge people to learn everyone’s name makes it fun and exciting to engage with the software.
Create an Organization Chart Everyone Will Love
Some organizations prefer to deploy the new org chart in phases to employees by division or team first to pilot the new solution. This can be an effective method to work out any issues and tweak adoption strategies. Others decide to roll it out company wide at once in order to optimize the benefits of having it accessible to all. Whichever path you choose, there is little doubt you will experience rapid ROI, increased productivity, and enhanced corporate culture.
Employees will enjoy being able to know who’s who and who does what. If you choose to use org chart software, they will also enjoy learning more about co-workers from an exciting app or online portal. They will find who they need, even if they aren’t certain who they are looking for, and they won’t waste time digging through emails or asking co-workers for help. Instead, they will have the entire employee directory at their fingertips, along with the valuable information they need to get to the right person quickly.
Be sure to find a tool that has org chart templates that will enable you to quickly create the organizational chart and then let it practically run itself. Your employees and those who were responsible for keeping the org chart up to date will be grateful for the efficiencies the modern organizational chart provides. Do your homework. Not all org chart creators are the same. Each have their own features, integrations and user experience that will impact implementation and adoption.