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The same is true of each of the stakeholder groups in a position control implementation. In general, this is what I see from various interests:

  • Accounting: We need to accurately track and report on costs.
  • Budget: We need to forecast and control people costs.
  • Talent Acquisition: We need to define position requirements.
  • Managers: We want control over who we hire, and position control will keep us from hiring whomever and whatever we want.

Interestingly enough, Organizational Development and Succession Planning functions are too frequently left out of the initial planning. When those two constituencies are eventually included in the conversation, these are their perceptions:

  • Organizational Development: We need employees to accurately see what competencies they need to develop for their career paths.
  • Succession Planning: We need to see where our gaps are to identify and develop potential successors.

All of these are true, but none captures the whole elephant. Implemented properly, a position control system encompasses all of these interests and integrates them.

The problem with person-based systems

In the initial stages of process and technology maturity, most organizations make do with person-based processes. The kind of conversations that go on are something like, “We need a production engineer. How much can we afford to pay?” or “Janet is leaving. We need to find a replacement.”

The problems with person-based thinking include:

  • Difficulty with budgeting for vacancies and job shares.
  • Difficulty planning future workforce requirements and costs.
  • Difficulty developing succession plans for vacant positions.
  • Inability to plan for staffing requirements for functions that do not yet exist.
  • No common denominator for integrating accounting, budget, hiring and other functions.

Position-based systems

Position-based systems enable a host of integrated activities. These activities add value to existing processes and ultimately make the organization more competitive. Among these activities are:

  • Accurately forecasting costs
  • Budgeting and analyzing positions regardless of vacancies and job shares
  • Defining position profiles for purposes of talent acquisition, succession planning and career planning.
  • Developing “what-if” scenarios for succession planning, reorganizations, acquisitions and workforce changes.
  • Identifying vacancies and their impact.
  • Comparing actual people expenses to budget
  • Controlling budget execution

Nuts and Bolts of Position Control

A position is an entity that exists within an organizational function. Each position has several attributes and each attribute serves one or more organizational processes.

It is that Incumbent – the person in a position – is an attribute of the position. The person in a position is a separate entity from the position itself, and a position may or may not have a person in it.

In addition, a position funded by one part of the organization may – temporarily or permanently – function in another and for purposes of performance planning and management will report to a person outside the position structure. A person may serve in more than one position, and more than one person may share a position. It is precisely this that enables the flexibility and utility of integrated position management.

Depending on the level or organization and technological maturity of your organization, you may or may not need an automated position management system. But integrating the functions listed here by any means will improve organization efficiency, performance and competitiveness.

On the path to maturity

All too frequently, clients don’t see the need for a position control “system” until they implement succession planning provided by a talent management vendor. The conversation most frequently goes like this:

Vendor: “Do you have a position control system?”

Customer: “No, but we have thought about it.”

Vendor: “That’s OK. We can do this without it.”

Yikes! The result is that position control doesn’t ever get done or is a messy implementation.

Let’s put the cart behind the horse and talk about the organizational maturity path as it relates to position control. The functions of a well-oiled position control system already exist in your organization. Someone makes at least some attempt to forecast and control people costs. Someone defines positions for the purpose of talent acquisition. Someone at least makes at attempt to control hiring. Someone is tracking and reporting on costs. Employees and managers are having discussions about career paths. Executives are thinking about successors to key positions. These functions may not be integrated or automated, but they exist in some form.

As your technology and processes improve, the organization will acquire the ability to integrate these functions into a cohesive, well-managed system that will serve all constituent needs.

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