The ultimate guide to spans and layers

Written by Prajna Shettigar

Prajna, Navigo's Marketing Manager, is passionate about HR Technology and all things digital. She is always looking for creative solutions to help organisations turn their HR data into meaningful information.

October 28, 2022

Why is it important to understand spans and layers? 

As organisations grow over time, their structure evolves to adapt to new strategic priorities. New departments are created, more people are hired, functions change and before you know it, managers face a new reality – a complex organisation structure. A structure where management layers are too deep, ideas are not communicated quickly enough and teams move slowly.

To combat this, its important to understand your organisation from multiple angles, with spans and layers being an important one.

This article will give you a deeper understanding of span of control and organisational layers, why you need to do a spans and layers analysis, 4 steps to conduct the analysis and finally some examples to give you inspiration.

Defining spans and layers 

Span of control refers to the number of people reporting directly to one employee. It’s represented as a ratio of management to staff, so for instance, if a manager directly supervises six employees then the span of control ratio would be 1:6.

Organisational layers refers to the number of different reporting levels that exist within the organisation. Spans and layers influence the way an organisation delegates tasks to specific teams, functions and individuals.

Spans and layers


Why do a spans and layers analysis?

A good spans and layers analysis is the first step towards unlocking an organisation that is leaner, agile and more empowered. According to Harvard Business Review, there are clear benefits to conducting a spans and layers analysis in your organisation, some of which include:

  1. Quicker decision making – When there are reduced layers in your organisation, decisions can be made faster.
  2. Better communication – Reduced layers also means faster top-to-bottom communication and vice versa. For leaders who want to transform their organisation, this plays a crucial role in designing what their future organisation structure should look like to better support their strategic intent.
  3. Increased empowerment – Contrary to popular belief, growing the span of control in your organisation for some supervisory roles might actually be beneficial. It forces managers to delegate (not micro-manage) and enables them to focus on higher level and more strategic tasks. As employees feel more empowered with increased responsibilities, it can lead to improved behaviours in the workplace. Provided there’s a good transition process and enough support to all employees to be able to do their jobs well.

Want to learn more?

Get the free downloadable PDF to learn:

  • Top 4 factors to consider when creating your ideal org structure
  • How to successfully conduct a spans and layers analysis
  • Spans & layers analysis examples using dashboards & charts

Download now

Adopting the right organisational structure can help with faster decision making process, improved communication and more empowerment for your employees. We understand that your structure is just a tiny piece of the organisation design puzzle but the long term impact of selecting the right structure will position your organisation well to achieve future goals.

If you’d like to create your own spans and layers report using an org design tool, book in a quick demo – we’ve got plenty more to show you.


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