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What’s the Difference Between Position Control and Position Management?

As organizations seek out a human capital management platform (HCM) that enables better workforce planning, they’re often looking for a solution that is powered by position budgeting software. 

During the search, questions often come up about the difference between HCMs that use position control and HCMs that use an architecture designed around position management. In this article, we’ll define these two systems and examine three ways their differences impact organizational and administrative effectiveness when it comes to position management and budgeting as well as workforce planning. 

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Position control is a system of tracking information based on positions rather than employees. It creates a framework of positions for all the jobs without regard to whether there is an incumbent in a specific job or not.  That is, all the pertinent information about a position such as the salary range, qualifications, or benefits eligibility remain constant in the system whether or not there’s already someone assigned to the role.

Position control  is usually an optional HCM module that can be turned on or off and is not a core part of the system. In some HCMs, position control data is stored independently and doesn’t carry over to finance and payroll, which can adversely impact cost accounting because  the data will not transfer to the general ledger without rekeying the information. 

Position management is an integral part of an HCM solution that enables organizations to separate people from positions to more effectively conduct business and workforce planning. This approach allows the business to obtain accurate, historical, and real-time views of talent and a more complete view of the overall organizational structure. Because the data is integrated between HR and financial systems, it reduces the administrative strain and enhances data integrity by eliminating time wasted manually entering data as well as data entry errors or omissions.

There are a variety of ways in which position management differs from position control; however, there are three differences that clearly impact administrative effectiveness, as well as position management and budgeting.

Accurate organizational charts

Historically, organizational charts have not always been seen as a necessity when companies purchased an HCM. That’s in part because teams were accustomed to manually updating the documents, and also because position control methods make it impossible to get an accurate organization chart without excessive duplication of efforts.

In outdated HCMs, organizational charts display the current state of an organization based on the current date. These HCMs require users to run reports and export data to Excel and third party systems to cobble together past and future views of the organization. This approach is time-consuming and creates opportunities for human error that reduces data integrity. 

In addition to reliance on the current date, outdated systems also display hierarchy based only on positions that are occupied. This is an unrealistic requirement; on any given date, an organization likely has at least one open position, if not many more. This reliance on filled positions makes for inaccurate views of the ideal or planned organizational structure.

By comparison, position management software doesn’t implode when a person leaves a position nor does it provide data only for the current date. Systems such as SyncHR display a complete organizational chart—comprised of both filled and vacant positions. SyncHRs organizational chart also has a date field that allows administrators to roll forward and backward in time to see the organizational structure over time. This is the type of valuable data required for assessing company growth, change, development, and future staff planning.

Organization Data Visibility Over Time 

One of the biggest values of position management over position control is the power of data visibility over time. This helps teams in finance, HR, and individual business units avoid blind spots and gaps in important metrics. 

To see how this comes to life, imagine this scenario: an HCM administrator receives a request to run a report for all the roles the CFO has held in the organization. 

Most HCMs can produce this type of report. The administrator runs a report to produce a list (by name) of positions the CFO has held at the organization over the past decade. Because the CFO’s titles and positions are held within their “person” record, this position history data will display well.

In fact, in this scenario the HCM administrator would need to know the names of people to query for dates of employment. Then the administrator would have to assume that the dates that weren’t covered indicate a position was vacant. Of course it’s impossible for an HCM administrator to know that information across all positions for all time. This is where the data and metrics break down.

But, what if the request changes slightly? What if the organization needs a report of anyone who has occupied the CFO position over the last decade, as well as any dates when the position was vacant. 

Systems that use position control can’t easily produce this data, which makes effective position budgeting and headcount planning difficult. 

By comparison, organizational data visibility over time is not an issue for an HCM built on position management. The HCM administrator would simply run a report for who held the CFO position and when the position was vacant within the last decade. 

Efficient onboarding administration

A key need for organizations purchasing an HCM is a desire to reduce the administrative effort required for onboarding new employees. The process places a burden not only on recruiters’ time, but also on the organization’s budget. Glassdoor estimates that onboarding 50 new employees a year could cost $12,500 in recruiters time alone—and that’s a conservative estimate.

“Onboarding requires a lot of paperwork — benefits enrollment, tax forms, employee handbooks, NDAs, arbitration agreements and so on. But you probably don’t spend enough on paper and ink to make a significant dent in your budget. The real cost sink comes from the time it takes to manage the completion of that paperwork and other administrative aspects of onboarding,” according to Glassdoor. 

Most HCM vendors sell their system as a tool which helps organizations meet administrative needs related to onboarding. However, if an HCM system uses position control methods, those efficiencies may be limited because the employment attributes (supervisor, benefits, pay grade) are tied to the person record for the new employee. Meaning if a person leaves, all the data for that position is lost and it must be entered again every time someone new is placed in that position.

Within the position management model, all rules, attributes, and configurations can be saved at the position level and auto-assigned to replacement employees who fill a position after someone leaves.

For example, one common configuration attributed to every new hire is their supervisor, as well as any employees who report to them. In a system that uses position control, the administrator will have to manually assign supervisors and direct reports for employees upon every new hire event. This lack of efficiency wastes the administrator’s time.

In contrast, the position management architecture that SyncHR uses saves those supervisor and direct report assignments at the position record, so incoming employees simply inherit the settings automatically. The impact this has on overall position management and budgeting for an organization is significant. Our clients tell us that this feature helps reduce the administrative burdens (both time and money) of bringing in a new person by as much as 30 to 40%. 

As organizations consider purchasing HCM software for the first time, or updating to a new platform, the distinction between position management and position control is an important consideration. For two terms that sound similar, it’s clear that the impact is not. The ease of use and power of data realized through position management is a defining feature that will boost the power of your HCM—and of your organization’s ability to make informed, data-based position management and budgeting decisions—to the next level.

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