Position Management

What is it exactly and what role does it play in People Systems?  This is the number one topic we discuss when working with clients to identify their priorities and critical requirements when starting their People Systems journey. 

Not so long-ago Position Management was a fundamental way for traditional organisations to confirm and manage their organisational budgets for the upcoming financial year.  It was a clear-cut way to establish your core resourcing for your area and obtain approval for any proposed new positions for the upcoming year either in a permanent or temporary capacity.  It was an accepted fact if it wasn’t in the budget, it wasn’t part of your establishment for that year.  You could also easily identify vacant positions, budgeted FTE and positions that were only approved for fixed periods.  There was a clear delineation between positions and employees as they were not treated as one in the same.

When People Systems were originally created, they were targeted at these traditional organisations who not only had the money to invest in systems but had large enough employee numbers to justify the investment.  As a result, you will see many long-standing People Systems with Position Management as a pivotal component of their solutions.  As HR evolved so did the People solutions.  They evolved from being purely data capture and retention platforms for baseline employee information, to what you see today eg Recruitment, Onboarding, Core HR, Performance & Development, Remuneration Learning, Health & Safety, Succession & Talent and HR Analytics. 

I hear you say, thanks for the history lesson but what role does Position Management play in People Systems today?  Well coupled with all this new functionality mentioned above was the introduction of automated workflows, notifications, and alerts and “employee/manager self-service”.  With the volume of employee changes and movements it became apparent that the position management functionality of the system could be leveraged to support this automation and provide the necessary controls and validations.  What better way to reduce or eliminate manual data entry and intervention when positions are the anchored static element unlike employees. Not only could the employee automatically inherit all the predefined baseline attributes of a position like compensation, reporting lines, cost account etc, but also the other elements linked to the position eg job profile, competency requirements, authority/approval level, associated workflow, actions, notifications and alerts etc.  With no to minimal intervention. Brilliant!

In addition to this having Position Management in the solution meant you could easily view your whole org structure as well as identify vacant positions that formed the basis of recruitment actions within the system.  With effective dates you could easily trace the evolution of the position and view historical information at any given point in time. Position Management also evolved to include additional functionality such as org modelling, including restructures, where resulting effects could be automated to trigger workflows and updates to employee data. All of which would previously be handled outside of a system and involve manual data entry and changes with the system.  You could also use Positions to identify target groups of employees for various processes, announcements, and initiatives. The list goes on and on.

So, what does it mean if a People System doesn’t have Position Management or only captures elements of position information.  Firstly, its not the end of the world and the impact of this is dependent on just how much of a priority Position Management is to your organisation and if it is the cornerstone of all you do.  If it is not a main driver and you just want some way to view an Org chart or bits of position information this can still be achieved, albeit you would not have visibility of vacant positions and the information is limited as it would be employee driven.  The greater consideration and a compromise you should be aware of when considering solutions without Position Management is that not all the elements of Position Management talked to above will be part of the systems overall functionality.  Yes, you will have automated workflows, but these will be linked to employees not a position.

An example of this is Employee X is the manager of Employee A, which is reflected in Employee A’s data.  Employee A applies for leave and the workflow is configured to send the request to Employee X, but due to a promotion they are now no longer Employee A’s Manager. Therefore, not only will you need to manually update Employee A’s data to reflect the new Manager, but you will also have to manually redirect the leave application to the new Manager to approve.  That’s ok you say it’s not a big deal which is great but remember this is just one example of one workflow and the steps involved, this would apply to all other workflows and consider the volumes. Unless you have a small employee base with minimal employee movements, it can quite resource intensive to manage, open to error and cause delays. Add to this all the other manual steps and changes that are required to replicate the other automated elements listed above that are driven from Position Management. 

What is the takeaway?  Position Management functionality is an important consideration for any organisation.  If it is a deemed a critical requirement do no underestimate what it means to select a solution that does not offer the functionality.  Alternatively, if it is not deemed a critical requirement, it is important you have the procedures and resources in place to manage the ongoing manual interventions required to manage your workflows and employee data ongoing.  And lastly, the good news is we are seeing many Vendors who currently do not have Position Management as part of their solution including this functionality in their Development Roadmaps.

Author – Kimberly Cignoli