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Why Don’t You Publish Your Org Charts?

By Phil Charron on December 1, 2010

Do you work for a large organization with multiple locations and thousands of employees? GREAT! Let’s try an experiment: walk around your office, find ten people with different backgrounds/responsibilities/titles and ask each of them, “what do you use the company intranet for?” Go ahead… I’ll wait here.

Back already? I bet at least two of them said something about finding people. Based on Nielsen Norman‘s review of corporate intranets and our own experience working with our clients, finding people and learning what they do is one of the most popular uses of corporate intranets.

OK, now ask those same folks, “what are your five biggest gripes about the intranet?”

I bet at least two of them said they can’t find the company org charts anywhere. Why would this frustrate them? Because org charts are used to find out about the organization and the people: who does what, what departments live where, etc. If nobody complained about org charts, you win! Proceed to the “Kudos” section of this article.

However, if people did complain about org charts, this time you need to find an HR executive or one of your corporate attorneys and ask, “why don’t we publish our org charts?” Not brave enough? I’ll handle this one. The biggest excuses I hear directly from clients and have found on the internet are:

  1. If they get in the wrong hands, our competitors will use them to recruit people.
  2. We do publish them! Use our online directory to find people and you can see who they manage and who their managers are.
  3. It changes so often, it would be very difficult to maintain.

Lost in Organization

Dear Leaders of Medium-to-large Corporations,

It’s time to stop sounding like the kid who didn’t do his homework. Here’s why your excuses are lame:

“Headhunters Will Use It”

Do you honestly think hiding org charts is a barrier to headhunters if they want to find your best and brightest? Headhunters are the folks you go to when you want to poach someone from your competitors. How many times have they told you, “I wish I could help you find the best VP of Doohickey Optimization in the industry, but nobody publishes org charts.” A successful recruiter knows how to find the most talented people in the industry. It’s called networking, and they’re good at it with no org chart required.

At Think Brownstone, we are so unconcerned about headhunters that our best and brightest are featured prominently on our home page. If you are in a medium-to-large corporation and you compare the size of our company to the size of your company, we have a lot more to lose if someone gets poached.

“Just Use the Company Directory”

Hmmm… you’ve checked that box off your list, yet your users are still frustrated… deeply, deeply frustrated. If we rated your effort on a scale of 1-10 you’d land somewhere between 2 and π. Online directories do not give your employees an understanding of the complex structure of your organization. Do you know why they want to find people and know the organizational structure? TO GET WORK DONE. They want to know who does what and how they fit into the organization. The sooner they do that, the less they’ll be calling you to find out who to go to and the faster both of you can go home tonight and be prepared for another hard day of work tomorrow.

“It Changes Too Much”

Wow, imagine if one of your direct reports told you they weren’t going to do something because it was too hard. This excuse is nonsense… it drops your effort rating to 1. This information is encoded in multiple locations: HR databases, individual departmental documentation, ISO certification filings, SEC documentation, etc. Delegate the task to some smart folks who can work with your IT group or, better yet, crowdsource it. Don’t be scared of letting the crowd manage your org charts – THE CROWD IS ASKING FOR IT – they’ll make sure it is accurate.

Kudos To The Few

Finally, I’d like to applaud those organizations who provide comprehensive org charts and contact information to your internal employees. You don’t really need my reinforcement for it, though… your employees probably love you, they work effectively and independently, and they’re much more productive than your competition. They’re also more likely to say, “no thanks” when headhunters call them.