Positions Come First in a Strategic Framework

By Ann Fish

We sat down with CEO and founder of Built, Brett Derricott, to understand how position management benefits organizations by rethinking the traditional people-first HR paradigm.

What is position management?

Position management is the process, methodologies, and tools that help you identify, track, manage, and strategize around the positions in your organization. At its simplest level it starts with having an accurate org chart, including any open positions within your organization. From there it involves understanding the job that each of those positions is responsible for, the dollars allocated for funding those positions, and the strategies around scaling the organization intelligently over time. Doing position management well also requires access to a lot of data and analysis about the positions within an organization as well as the people who fill those positions.

Is there a difference between a position and a job?

Yes, there is. The terms are often used interchangeably, but generally speaking, the job defines what the individual within that position is responsible for; the nature of their work. You can think of each position as an instance of a specific job. For example, if sales is a job at your company, you may have ten positions for people with that job.

As a company starts to grow, what benefits does position management bring to the hiring and recruiting process?

Position management brings an understanding of what you’re actually looking for during hiring and recruiting. Sometimes when a job description is published publicly, it may be written by someone who doesn’t really know the job very well or what is required of that role, so you end up advertising for something that is not exactly what you need. People come to an organization for the opportunity to occupy a position, to have a role, to contribute in a specific way. So you have to understand the position to attract the right person. If you start with position management and understand your needs and job requirements, you can then work outward from there into the recruiting process. It can help inform your recruiting strategy and make sure you advertise what you truly need.

Does that tie into using a position-first rather than people-first framework?

Yes, exactly. It’s really turning the standard HR paradigm on its head. If you look at HR products or services, they will almost all say some variation of the same thing, which is, “your people are your most important asset, therefore…”. There is a lot of truth to that, for sure. If you don’t have good people, things won’t go well, but we believe that saying your people are the most important thing in your organization is an incomplete story. You have to understand and plan around the positions within your organization in order to attract the right people. That’s why we say it’s a combination of first, the right position, and then the right person. Finding that match will help a company, and its people, succeed.

If you have an org chart, are you likely using ideas and concepts of position management?

It’s fair to say that you are working within some of the position management principles, but you might be doing extra work and missing valuable benefits. For example, if you only have an org chart, you’ll see at a glance the relationship of your positions. However, to gather specific organizational data, like how many positions you have, you will need to know if the org chart is up-to-date then go through and count each position by hand. If you have multiple departments, this could take an extraordinary amount of time. Just having an org chart is not going to create workflows or processes. It’s not going to analyze your position data and provide you with detailed information that can be used to drive strategy and make decisions. Having an accurate org chart is a great beginning point for doing position management, but position management is so much more than that.

At what size will a company benefit from using position management?

The larger and more complex the organization, the more critical it is to do position management. Even for small companies, though, there are still principles of position management that are valuable to practice. Let’s say you only have four employees; it’s still important to understand the positions each of those people occupy and whether you have the right people doing the right things. Additionally, it’s important to have a plan for how your organization will grow over time and how those existing positions will fit into that future-state vision of your organizational chart.

What is the first step to implementing position management within an organization?

The very first step is to create an inventory of positions. I think business leaders understand this intuitively even if they aren’t using the term “position management”. A lot of growing organizations feel the need to have an accurate, up-to-date org chart and I think this happens because business leaders are saying, “I need to see what our org looks like today so that I can better plan for the future.” A lot of companies in that situation will task an employee to draw an org chart using something like Visio or Powerpoint—a tool that isn’t specifically geared toward organizational charts. Using a product like Built, though, is a better starting point because the org chart is automatically kept up to date and you can leverage that starting point to evolve into doing true, sophisticated position management.

How much work is it to do position management?

At its basic, most critical level, if you do it right, not much. If you have good position management software working alongside your existing HR tools, then that information is automatically there for you to use and analyze. The bulk of your time will be well spent on the actual strategy discussion and decisions, as it should be. No more wasting time collecting data and trying to manually calculate important information.

How does position management relate to finance?

Position management is interesting because it generally sits right between HR and finance. Both groups within a company care very much about this information, and frankly, there aren’t many good tools to allow both groups to get what they need. HR has a payroll system and an HRIS, so they can tell you a lot about employees. Finance has the budget, and they can usually tell you how many of any given position or the total number of positions they have a budget for. But there is a gap between these two worlds where data about headcount budgeting needs to be combined with data about employees. Finance software doesn’t solve this, HR software doesn’t solve this, and that’s why Built is necessary.

How exactly does Built assist an organization in position management?

We fill that gap between HR and finance by giving both groups a place where their data can work together and be in sync. We provide a very accurate and complete picture of where the organization is in terms of all positions, whether vacant or filled. There is a collaborative and information sharing benefit as well. Executives or department heads don’t need to maintain their own spreadsheets or org charts because all the information is up to date and accessible through Built. Built also provides a lot of actionable insights like calling out potential risks or challenges and opportunities within the organizational structure.

Schedule a demo today to learn more about the benefits of managing your positions with Built.