Use waterfall chart to explain arithmetics

Today we want to take a look at a real-life example of a chart. There may always be an alternative approach to display the same data and potentially make it easier to read and understand.

Here is a chart that we saw in a magazine which we reproduced using Aploris. It depicts the development of employee headcount in the German retail industry (March 2012 to March 2013, no source stated).

ar chart employee headcount

Is there a better way to display the data? First of all, we are seeing a composition of figures meaning that the total is the sum of the influencing factors. The chart does not help the viewer to understand this relationship. Next, one can see that the increase in part time jobs outweighs the reduction in full time headcount leading to a positive total change. However, it takes good vision and some deduction to develop this understanding.

In this case we would propose to utilize a waterfall chart that charting tools like Aploris support. Here is a how the same data can be used in a waterfall.

Waterfall chart employee headcount

Now it should be very clear that a reduction of full time employees is more than compensated by increased part time workers leading to an increase in overall industry headcount.

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