Within a business there is often this thing known as a hierarchy which helps manage workers and their work loads. However, different businesses operate under different structures and many aim to change their structure in order to improve their business output.

So let’s start by looking at a hierarchy. Hierarchical structures are traditional business structures and the levels within them reflects levels of seniority. So each level has more responsibility for, and authority over, the levels below.

A centralised structure keeps decision making at the top of the hierarchical structure among the most senior manager or senior managers. Alternatively, decision making in decentralised structures is spread out to include more managers further down the hierarchy, as well as other individuals.

Tall organisations have many levels of hierarchy and can therefore be unresponsive to change. The span of control is narrow and there are opportunities for promotion. Lines of communication are long, making the firm unresponsive to change.

Flat organisations have few levels of hierarchy, making the lines of communication short, thus making the firm responsive to change. A wide span of control means that tasks must be delegated and managers can feel overstretched. Promotion can be more difficult as there are fewer senior roles.

The most common way of achieving a flatter organisational structure is delayering. This is a popular strategy to remove one or more levels of hierarchy from the organisational structure.

Aside from a hierarchy, there are also functional and matrix structures.

In a matrix structure, individuals work across teams and projects as well as within their own department or function.

In an functional organisation different departments all work to meet their own independent objectives in order to meet a corporate objective.

Finally, to help businesses see who is doing what and where in the business they may use an organisation chart. These are diagrams that show the internal structure of a business and make it easy to identify specific roles and responsibilities of the various members of staff.

And that’s the hierarchical structure of a business nailed down! But there are also different structures to consider when hiring employees. There are different contract structures to suit both the employer and employee.

Some people probably think that if you have a job you’re likely to be working nine to five, Monday to Friday. However more often than before people are being hired on a variety of different contracts in order to ensure an organisation achieves the maximum benefit from its employees at the minimum cost.

Full-time is generally taken to mean an employee working 35 hours or more each week. However, it is not the hours that really matter; it is the fact that a full-time employee is fully committed to working for a business in return for the employment rights contained in the contract of employment.

An obvious disadvantage of full-time employees in comparison to part-time is that they are more expensive due to the number of hours worked.

In some instances employees are able to choose their working patterns, this is known as flexible hours or flexi-time.

The main benefits to this are that the employee can work around their lifestyle (gym, family, holidays, unforeseen event etc) and still ensure that output does not drop. It also gives the employee a sense of control over their working pattern which can motivate them and lead to an increase in output/quality as they feel they are trusted and can often create higher work morale.

However, a disadvantage of flexi-time is that it is sometimes difficult for an employer to track employees workload if they are not often in the office.

Within the scheme of flexible working practices there are also zero hour contracts. This means that there is no guarantee that employees will actually get to work. When times are tough financially for companies this can have a strong impact on zero hour contracts.

Some businesses also adopt the idea of job sharing. This allows one position to be filled by two people with different but complementary experience. Jobs can be shared on a daily basis; one worker works mornings and the other afternoons. It can also be shared on a weekly basis, one employee may work three days and the other works the remaining two.

Finally, a company can also choose to save money through the use of teleworking or home working. The broad definition of teleworking is the use of home computers, telephones, etc, to enable a person to work from home while maintaining contact with colleagues, customers, or a central office.

Here a lot of money is saved through renting or purchasing office space. This is one of a business’s biggest expenditures, if they can cut back on this the money can be reinvested elsewhere!

So just to recap – hierarchical structures: the higher up the structure the more power you have! Also consider contract structures and the different ways employees can be brought into a company.