5 Org Chart Best Practices For HR Pros

5 Org Chart Best Practices For HR Pros

Decades ago, I was a young compensation professional in the hospital having a baby when I was asked to provide an org chart and vacancy report for my company. This was back in the day when there were no computer programs to give me either an accurate headcount or an attractive chart template, so I had to do it all by hand. And I did it!

Back then, the only way to ensure an accurate headcount was to manually count each body present in the business, and tally those who left and recently came on board. The process of doing that was truly a disaster.

However, I knew the importance of an org chart to my organization, so I took painstaking care to make sure it was correct. Nowadays, it’s much easier to create and maintain up-to-date org charts, but in speaking with prospects and new clients, I’ve learned that this is still something many companies don’t do well (or don’t do at all). These companies are missing out!

Your org chart is position management documented. It’s beneficial for everyone in an organization, from the CEO to individual employees, to have access to key individuals who define and lead the company, layers, and levels of leadership and hierarchy to find career growth opportunities. It gives self-motivated employees a way to know who to network with, where to look for a mentor, and how to potentially seek promotion within an organization. It also serves as an instant reminder of leaders’ direct reports, giving them a resource to call up at any time.

There are no org chart “rules” per se, but there are best practices you should follow to create one that’s truly useful and up to date. Keep reading for our recommendations on how to do just that.

Below is an example of an org chart HR can use to identify risks and gaps to ensure pay equity and alignment. This example is for HR use only—don’t publicize these types of org charts.

Org chart best practices: risks and gaps chart example

5 Org Chart Best Practices For HR Pros

1. Use technology to build and maintain your org chart.

Your org chart shouldn’t live on a cocktail napkin!

The best way to do an org chart is to make it a living document accessible to everyone in your organization. That can best be accomplished by using software. Technology makes it easy to consistently update the org chart to adjust for hires and terminations, and share new versions after every change. Software products like OrgPlus are well known for their ability to create dynamic org charts; many HRIS systems also have their own organizational management tools embedded.

2. Include vacant jobs.

If you have a critical position that’s not illustrated on your org chart, your chart is already wrong! Omitting vacant jobs on an org chart is a mistake many HR pros make because there’s not a name or existing salary to fill in the box. By leaving out positions, they’re inadvertently creating discrepancies with regard to position management and creating confusion with the finance team, who are working with a budget that is (unbeknownst to them) missing key roles. Additionally, including all roles in an org chart gives your finance team and leadership more visibility into who’s eligible for bonus plans and higher salaries.

3. Include span of control.

I recommend adding into your org chart the number of people who report to a position (both directly and indirectly). The best org charts show span of control, which is important because it helps with title alignment and responsibility.

For example, Role X may have two direct reports, while Role Y has a combined total of 90 direct and indirect reports—one may be in charge of strategy, and may be in charge of people. By showing these factors, leadership can clearly see the potential stress of a particular position; when an entire organization has visibility into this number, it shows authority and helps with accountability.

4. Include geographic data.

Org chart best practices: MorhanHR organizational chart

In an increasingly global economy, org charts that include geographic data are becoming more and more popular.

Including location data in org charts allows the entire organization to see geographic ties to various roles. For example, people can distinguish country managers from regional and multiple country managers; it’s also clear who’s in charge of European operations vs. the east coast of the U.S.) I like including locations because it helps employees see growth potential for themselves as well as potential markets for the company as a whole.

5. Communicate the org chart.

In my mind, the worst case scenario is having an amazing, accurate, nimble org chart that no one knows about or uses. If you have an org chart, use it.

Here’s how to get it in front of your workforce and key external stakeholders:

  • Internally: Post it everywhere. Link it on your intranet. Make it accessible in so many ways that your team can’t help but know of its existence. I’d add that you should also make your org chart interactive—employees should be able to click through an org chart; self-motivated employees will use this tool for networking, mentoring, and to find ways to potentially seek promotion within an organization. I love to see that!As the founder of a small company myself, I have the email system updated correctly to show reporting relationships. Microsoft has made it easy for my team to see the reporting relationship when team members click on the email to reveal more information. Add clarity wherever you can to ensure roles and relationships are well understood.Here’s an example from our email system:

Org chart best practices: Communicate the org chart

  • Externally: You don’t need to share your entire org chart to your external audience, but I do recommend publicly sharing with your top leaders on your website’s “About” page and in printed material.

What are your organizational chart best practices?

An agile, accurate org chart is an indicator that your HR team—and your organization’s leadership—understands each of its employees’ roles and responsibilities. Internally, well-defined org charts help managers to see how titles align, equip leaders to see employees at a glance, and give HR teams the ability to identify and fix title inconsistencies.

At MorganHR, our compensation consulting team evaluates organizations using job descriptions and org charts to unpack the true accountability and authority job holders have. Preparing good org charts before Septemberwill help your company be ready for the typical year-end planning that starts in October. The org chart will help you identify new jobs and planned promotions needed to achieve your goals for next year. We can help you prepare, align, and evaluate the cost of the changes you need—schedule a call with the MorganHR team to get started today.


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About the Author: Laura Morgan

As a founder and owner of MorganHR, Inc., Laura Morgan has been helping organizations to identify and solve their business problems through the use of innovative HR programs and technology for more than 30 years. Known as a hands-on, people-first HR leader, Laura specializes in the design and implementation of compensation programs as well as programs that support excellence in the areas of performance management, equity, wellness, and more.