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5 Ways Org Network Analysis Can Help You

21st May 2014 - Posted By Greg Wallace To News & Events
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Organizational Network Analysis (abbreviated to ONA) is a kind of Human Capital Analysis that looks at the informal networks within an organization (see Figure 1). If an organizational chart provides the theory of how work gets done, the informal network provides the real-world practice; it illustrates how people work together to solve problems and make decisions in the real world.

Figure 1: Formal and Informal Structure

Formal and Informal Structure

For example, from the organizational chart on the left in Figure 1, we might conclude that Stern serves in a relatively unimportant position in the organization. The social network on the right, however, paints a very different picture. It shows that Stern is, in fact, a critical player in the organization. He plays a central role in facilitating communication across all three teams.

This article discusses 5 strategic insights ONA unearths about your business performance that HR, line leaders and executives can act on immediately.

1. Spot rising stars earlier to fill your leadership pipeline

ONA will pinpoint the most influential people in your organization. Some of the names will validate previous promotion decisions; others may well be your next superstar. By x-raying the organization to understand the patterns of communication, network analysis pinpoints the "go to" people in the organization.

In a recent 300-person deployment of SYNAPP, my firm’s web-based ONA tool, we identified the sixteen employees who carried the most weight with their peers – call them the top 5% Movers and Shakers. And out of these sixteen, a full 4, or 25%, were at the lowest band on their team. For firms interested in filling their leadership pipeline with emerging talent, this is a great place to look.

2. Unwanted staff turnover hurts with costs estimated to reach up to 150% of the exiting employee’s salary. What’s more, Jobvite-sponsored research reveals that half of employees are actively looking or open to job offers. Employees who are productively engaged with multiple colleagues, who enjoy a strong working relationship with their immediate manager and who are plugged into the company’s support network are much less likely to look for work elsewhere.

Based on an analysis of network measures, ONA identifies employees at risk of leaving. With this insight, you have the opportunity to intervene before it’s too late. Save a single mid-level manager from leaving and you’ve avoided tens of thousands of pounds in costs to replace them.

3. Assess for the skills of tomorrow and build leaders to get there

Bersin by Deloitte’s 2014 Global Human Capital Trends report discusses the following seven 21st century leadership skills that companies need to develop:

1. Business acumen
2. Collaboration
3. Global cultural agility
4. Creativity
5. Customer-centricity
6. Influence and inspiration
7. Building teams and talent

Traditional techniques are capable of assessing some of these, like business acumen, customer-centricity and building teams. Others, like collaboration, creativity and influence require a new approach. ONA will help leaders understand how well they are networked for cross-team collaboration, creativity and influence, and provide OD leaders and practitioners with a clear mandate for action. (See Figure 2).

Figure 2: ONA Tools like SYNAPP reveal how well the networks of employees and managers support key next gen competencies, like collaboration, discovery and influence.

4. Fast-forward your innovation through inclusion

Based on existing HRIS data, you know how well you’ve performed against your diversity hiring and promotion objectives. What’s harder to know, though, is how engaged your minority employees are. ONA will answer this and provide you with actionable insight to ensure that your company takes full advantage of the new ways of thinking and ideas that a truly engaged and diverse workforce brings. This Harvard Business Review article offers ample evidence that excellence in innovation requires diversity of perspective.

5. Find and tapping into your company’s hidden influencers

ONA is a vital way to identify hidden influencers so you can enlist them in your strategic initiatives. Often, the identified influencers are different than the ones leaders would have nominated. This is not surprising since leaders employ a top-down perspective while network analysis goes directly to the source, asking employees who they turn to for advice and guidance. Tap into your distributed influencers and the chances your strategic initiative succeeds increase significantly, and so does the payback.

Conclusion: How Can ONA Help You?

ONA is a powerful tool that can help solve some of the most strategic challenges companies face today. The advent of web-based tools like SYNAPP makes the power of ONA easy-to-use and instantly actionable for senior executives and Human Resource leaders. Organizations seeking to fend off attrition, engage their diverse workforce for improved innovation or ground leadership development programs in an assessment of 21st Century Leadership Skills should consider adding ONA to their People Analytics toolkit.

Greg Wallace is the Engagement Manager for Philosophy IB and launched their Organisational Network Analysis Tool SYNAPP. You can follow Greg on Linkedin here and follow SYNAPP on Twitter here.
Greg Wallace
Manager - Philosophy IB
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