Ways to Use Organizational Charts

When you think of an org chart, you probably think of the diagrams used to illustrate an organization’s structure. People use organizational charts to graphically represent the relationships and relative ranks of job positions within the organization. While this is a noble cause and still needed, even after a century and a half since it was invented, the business organizational chart and org chart software have gotten a much needed facelift. Thanks to technology and in response to several contributing factors, the org chart has moved from the buried file folder to the fingertips of every device carrying employee.

It isn’t surprising to see the org chart make the move from the desktop to the mobile device. It’s how we now work. IDC recently found the U.S. mobile worker population will grow steadily, increasing from 96.2 million in 2015 to more than 105 million by 2020. How does this compare to the non-mobile worker? By 2020, IDC expects mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72 percent) of the total U.S. workforce.

This is likely one of the reasons Gartner estimates 90 percent of organizations now support corporate applications on personal mobile devices. The 2015 Enterprise Mobile App Trend Report corroborates, finding the average number of internal-use apps is 35. If organizational chart maker software isn’t already part of the mix, here are six reasons why it should be.

Budget and Resource Planning

Budgeting is rarely any manager’s favorite annual task. The paperwork and back-and-forth is bad enough, but actually knowing what is needed can be equally as challenging. It can be hard to forecast potential resource needs 9-12 months in advance, especially if you lack appropriate visibility into resource demand and capacity.

One simple way to understand how resources are allocated is to use org charts. When teams and roles are visually mapped out, it is easier to see where there might be resource gaps or opportunities to extend a resource beyond their current responsibilities. You can identify managers who may have a span of control that is out of control. Harvard Business found the span of control has doubled in the past 20 years from an average of five direct reports to nearly ten. Whether or not that is sustainable is highly subjective, yet the org chart helps reveal if there could be any potential issues, such as bottlenecks and skill misalignments.

While using organizational charts for budget and resource planning won’t solve the problem, it will give business leaders valuable insight they can use to guide a conversation with a manager. Budget may not need to be allocated to additional headcount if it is found that one team has an under-utilized resource with specific skills who could move to the needed role or take on the work. Similarly, a business leader may see from the org chart that a manager is overwhelmed by too many direct reports. Maybe they have too many heterogeneous direct reports who would be better served by a manager with their own expertise. Such instances would signal that a new manager role needs to be added.

Here’s where the mobility comes in. Many of these resource budgeting conversations happen on the fly, in impromptu meetings, hallway conversations or at lunch, for instance. With an org chart app available on any mobile device, it’s easy to pull up the latest org chart to see what’s going on. No need to wait until you return to your desk before you can have an informed discussion. Not only is the corporate org chart at your fingertips, but you can drill into each team member’s profile to see what their role and responsibilities. This makes it much easier to identify which other resources have similar skillsets who might be able to come to their rescue.

Employee Onboarding

Once it has been determined that additional resources are required, the hiring begins. This is a labor-intensive process that does not end once the employee contract is signed. Employee onboarding is a big deal. In an Academy of Management Journal study, researchers found that support early in an employee’s new job (within the first 90 days during the onboarding process) may lay a foundation for better work outcomes later on.

One-third of all new hires say the process of getting to know the people they will work with and trying to fitting into the corporate culture is among their greatest challenges when starting a new job. This can take up a significant portion of the onboarding time, yet it is often ignored in lieu of training and other more job-specific to-dos.  

Using the org chart for employee onboarding is the ideal tool to help new hires to begin learning how the company is structured, who is who, who works with who, and who does what. Being that you can use org chart software to make the org chart available via an app on their mobile device, employees can “study” while at home, learning more and more about their coworkers and finding commonalities that will lay the foundation for positive relationships in the future. The organizational chart maker can even embed photos of every employee to help employees put faces with names and personal profiles reveal skillsets, current projects and fun facts, such as hobbies and interests. Even if you don’t choose to use org chart software, you should make sure your org chart has photos on it.

Having all of this information at the fingertips of every employee ensures people are never strangers. Whether you have new hires, remote workers who rarely step foot into the corporate office, or work silos you’re trying to break down, adding in business org software may be the easiest and fastest way to help employees build rapport no matter their location, job function or title.

Related: Research Shows Employee Onboarding Can Be Eased with Technology

Increase Internal Communication

The #1 complaint employees have about their employers is the lack of communication. Some of this can be due to work silos, where employees in one department or project keep information and data to themselves. They have one job and they do it well, but asking them to collaborate across the organization is unheard of. Even worse, because of these silos or the geographical gaps between employees, people simply don’t know each other. They may see familiar faces but they aren’t sure who is who, much less why they may want to talk with that person.

An organization chart can help with internal communication, connecting employee in the company no matter where they are located or what they do for the organization. It works in several ways. First, adding photos to every employee profile makes identification much easier.

Second, an org chart diagram that enables users to click on the person’s name or photo to drill deeper into their personal profile will make communication faster and easier. Users may know a certain person they need to communicate with works in marketing and now they can find them on the org chart and click on their contact information for instant connection. 

Third, they may not know who they need to speak with but they know they need someone in a particular department, such as finance. This is where organization chart software can help. Employees can search for a specific skillset, project or team member, subject matter expert, or even someone who shares their like for sushi. The Google-like search box makes organic searches simple and presents every employee who fits the searched description. Of course, the user can then dig deeper into each person’s profile to narrow their search or instantly connect.

The efficiency of being able to find who you need quickly adds up to real dollars. The McKinsey Global Institute found employees spend approximately 20 percent of their work week searching for details internally and tracking down colleagues for answers. That’s nearly an entire day. Per employee. The number is likely much higher for new hires who know no one.

Business organization charts offer the ideal app for every employee to connect, collaborate and build relationships. No matter where your employees work or what their responsibility, giving them tools to find what and who they need quickly helps them be more productive, engaged and ultimately happier at work.

Managing Re-orgs

Ever since IBM developed the first functionally-organized org chart, companies have copied, redefined or reinvented the corporate structure. The evolution of the org chart is a fun one and there are functional organizations still alive and well, along with product, divisional, geographical, customer, matrix, flat, flatter, holacracies and more - all attempting to model how an organization designs itself. While the more established companies tend to favor the traditional hierarchical design, the newer or cutting edge companies embrace the flexibility of more creative structures. 

Download: The 7 ½ Types of Business Organizational Structures

However your company is designed and whichever structure your company calls itself, chances are at some point, things will change. Take, for instance, startups. These companies often begin with a handful of people who wear multiple hats and do whatever job function is needed. These organizations may not even have identified a corporate structure but they operate as a flat organization with few leaders and lots of equally-ranked employees, or as holacracies where no one person has ultimate authority and everyone works together.

Wearing many hats is all fine and good when the company is young and there are only a few employees. Yet as the company grows and more employees are hired, natural divisions begin to occur. It’s easier to segment people who primarily work in sales, those who work on marketing, and those who work in finance, for instance. Without even trying, the company has just reorganized itself.

Corporate re-orgs happen at every level of organizational maturity. Zappos, for instance, is trying the holacracy bit but is finding it’s easier to conceptualize that to actually put into practice. They believe only time will tell if their move to a holacracy was worth the pains.

Re-orgs happen and when they do, you need to use org charts that can keep up and be up to date in real-time. You should be able to change your org chart completely, make updates or keep it just the way it is with minimal effort. Modern org chart software can ensure updates are made in real-time.

As new hires are added, people shift and change roles, or anyone leaves the company, updates can be made and changes saved instantaneously. As business leaders and employees reference the org chart software, they can have confidence the org chart they see is the most recent and accurate depiction of the organization.

Team Building

One report found that “team building has a positive moderate effect across all team outcomes.” Gallup found 70 percent of people say having friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life and 50 percent believe having a friend at work makes them feel a stronger connection with their company. Science backs this, with the London School of Economics and Political Science finding significant evidence that “things that matter most for our happiness and for our misery are our social relationships and our health.”

Building rapport and finding friends with people at work doesn’t always come easy. Team building is a company’s attempt to bridge the gaps, foster teamwork, encourage friendships that are more valuable than a basic work relationship. Some companies go to extremes to get their people to like each other, but it doesn’t have to be so complicated.

What helps people forge friendships is finding similarities. Psychology Today says, “Years of research document that similarities, not differences, produce feelings of attraction.” These similarities are often hidden, only by chance are they discovered. Not anymore.

Organizational charts can be ideal for team building when they enable employees to add more than just their job title and responsibilities. Names and titles are great, but how much more informative and helpful is it to know co-workers’ skillsets, past education, specialty training and the like, particularly when you are looking for someone to lend their expertise?  Equally valuable are the personal details many employees keep private, like hobbies, favorite foods and restaurants, pets, etc. These are the little known facts that make us who we are and draw others to us. Why? Because people can find similarities - things that make them realize there is something in common. It sparks conversations about more than just work-related topics. This is where friendships are built.

Using today’s organizational chart software allows organizations to capture employee profile information and set the guidelines, then allows employees to fill in the information with fun facts about themselves. Things like favorite foods and restaurants, favorite pastimes, interests and hobbies, children and pets, birthdays and travel experiences all shed light on a different side of an employee. It humanizes a title and brings some personality to a name.

Instead of a one-time team building event, org chart software offers the ideal internal app to help people build real friendships based on more than a bowling score. It’s an app that travels with them, presenting interesting and fun information about co-workers anytime, anywhere, making getting to know people enjoyable.

The Always Available Resource

Finally, the org chart is a resource any employee should be able  access for real-time, accurate information no matter where and how they work. Whichever org chart maker you use, it is critical it can be easily updated and it is kept accurate so it becomes a resource instead of a relic. Be sure it is accessible to everyone, either through an app, an intranet site or online tool so no one has to dig into email or computer files to find it. The more accessible it is, the more likely it is to be used and considered valuable.

If you choose organizational chart software, find one that has the chart, the employee directory, employee vacation calendar and employee profiles all located in one app. Workers will have everything they need to find who and what they need quickly. The org chart becomes a vital tool they use every day, helping them be more productive and self-sufficient.

Self-sufficiency saves everyone time, including HR, who is often responsible for keeping the org chart up to date. This is a time-consuming and often dreaded task, particularly for fast growing companies or those who have employees who frequently shift roles. Managers can update job functions and roles, and their employees can update personal information to keep it fresh and interesting. Not only do they use the org chart as a resource to find information and learn more about their co-workers, but they enjoy uploading new pictures of themselves, adding a new favorite restaurant, for example.

The key to any new technology is to get your employees to actually use it and you can find a free organization chart maker to get started quickly. Org charts of the past were rarely referenced by most employees unless they were part of management or maybe a curious new hire wondering where they fit in. Today’s organizational chart, however, is a fully interactive and engaging internal business application any employee will come to love. Because of its resourcefulness, ease of use, accessibility and great user experience, employees will readily adopt the technology and companies will experience higher ROI.