Org charts and employee directories are both essential tools for improving organizational understanding. A company may use both, just one or the other (or possibly neither — though hopefully not!). While they have some similarities, org charts and employee directories each have a different purpose.
Traditionally, maintaining the employee directory and/or org chart is the responsibility of a company’s HR department. Whenever there’s a new hire, promotion, restructure, or someone leaves the organization, the changes are either done manually, such as in a spreadsheet or slide deck, or made within the HR system and synced to the electronic org chart or directory.
What is an Employee Directory?
Whether you call it an employee directory, people directory, staff directory, or company directory, they all refer to the same thing. Indeed.com defines an employee directory as “a list of employees in the company with essential contact information included.”
The type and amount of information contained in a people directory can vary depending on the needs of the company, but some of the most common details included are:
First and last names
Phone and/or fax numbers
It also might include employee photos, office locations, and managers. The method of access can also vary; it could be a printed document distributed to everyone at the organization or a PDF hosted on the company intranet that lists all employees alphabetically, by department, or by location). Nowadays, employee directories are often digital tools that are either standalone pieces of software or features of an existing intranet, HR, email, or chat tool. One benefit of digital employee directories is that they are often searchable, making it quick and easy to find someone. Digital directories may include profiles for each employee that provide further details, such as their prior work experience or skills.
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Purpose of employee directories
Employee directories serve a few key purposes, regardless of their format. First, they provide a single place to view all the employees in an organization. This can be helpful for knowing the total number of employees in an organization or how many employees are in a specific office location.
Employee directories also give quick access to contact information and other key details about the people in an organization, which helps with finding the right person to assist with a task or project.
What is an org chart?
Now that we’ve explained what an employee directory is and how it’s used, let’s get into org charts. An org chart, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “a diagrammatic representation showing how departments or divisions in an organization, as a large corporation, are related to one another along lines of authority.”
Put a little more simply, an org chart is a visual representation of an organization’s hierarchy. It shows the reporting structure and how all the individuals in a company relate to each other. The most basic org chart generally has a box for each employee containing their name and job title, with lines that lead to their direct supervisor, and so on until the very top of the organization. Depending on the format and the needs of the organization, they can be more detailed and include information such as departments, photos, or even contact information.
As with employee directories, org charts can take a variety of forms, from a PDF created manually in PowerPoint, Excel, or a diagramming software such as Visio, to being a feature of a digital directory tool. With a digital org chart, you can often customize the view, search to find a specific person, or even export it to share with others.
Purpose of org charts
The primary purpose of an org chart, as explained above, is to show the structure of an organization. Org charts make it easy to identify reporting lines in a company, which can help with finding someone’s manager, determining who the head of a department is, or identifying subject matter experts. Additionally, having an easily accessible way for employees to view the company org chart can help them understand how they fit into the larger organization and how their work contributes to the overall company strategy. Org charts are also a valuable resource for new employees to understand the company’s structure, which can help them get acclimated faster.
How employee directories and org charts complement each other
Both org charts and employee directories are useful tools for understanding an organization, however, they provide different information. Org charts are great for getting a visual picture of an org and being able to see reporting hierarchy at a glance, but they don’t provide much (if any) detail about the people of the org themselves. Employee directories, on the other hand, give information about an organization’s people at an individual level, but aren’t helpful for understanding how an organization is structured. Think about it this way: an org chart is best for viewing the org as a whole, while an employee directory can provide detail into each of the pieces (i.e., an org’s people) that make up the whole.
Although they provide different information, using an org chart and an employee directory together can provide a more comprehensive view of an organization that isn’t possible with just one or the other. Imagine this scenario: you’re staffing a project and need someone who is an expert in a specific software tool. The first thing you might do is consult your company’s org chart to locate the engineering or IT department. Then, you can pull up the employee directory to contact the head of that department to ask who on their team has the right expertise to work on the project. Or you might already know the right person to go to, but you want to make sure they have the bandwidth to help out. You’ll need to take a look at the org chart, find their leader, and then look up their leader’s phone number or email address on the employee directory so you can check with them.
You might even have access to a tool like Sift that gives you access to both an employee directory and an org chart (and more!) in one place. With Sift, you can navigate your company’s Org Chart and click through to someone’s Profile to learn more about them. Or, you can search for anything (such as a specific software tool, such as in the above example), and once you locate the right person, you can look at their Profile or view them on the Org Chart.
If you were wondering whether your organization would benefit from having both an org chart and an employee directory, hopefully now you realize the answer is yes. Sure, there are some circumstances where it may be more beneficial to use one of the tools over the other — but using them together provides a more comprehensive view of an organization, which can lead to enhanced organizational transparency and greater collaboration.