What is Organisational Network Analysis?
In our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, there are numerous theories around how to create organisations where employees are happy and motivated to give their best. Studies show that organisational performance is driven by interactions and relationships among employees, rather than employee attributes such as tenure, skills, or performance ratings. ONA is the visualisation and analysis of these formal and informal relationships, and depicts how information, communications and decisions flow in an organisational network.
An organisational network is a social network made up of individuals who regularly engage with one another within an organisation. In this network, social interactions are described in terms of social objects (i.e., individuals or groups). Objects may not be connected to the entire network if there is a lack of interactions, and some objects can share more than one connection. These connections are created by the interactions between the network’s actors where they exchange knowledge, influence, commodities and services. In other words, a company consists of a network of workers, or “nodes”, connected by their interactions.
What is the goal of an ONA?
Mapping a company’s social network shows the nodes with the highest and the lowest number of interactions. Those with the most interactions are the influencers, the subject matter experts, the energisers – the people the organisation would benefit from keeping the most. By identifying emerging leaders, ONA enables leadership development as the company can invest in them for higher returns. As for the people least connected with the rest of the organisation, a thorough analysis can identify the reason, whether it is due to a personality mismatch between the employee and the team, an inherent deterrent in the organisational setup, or a completely different reason. Such peripheral nodes carry the risk of flight if they are high potential, and the company would benefit from taking initiatives to connect them better.
In this way, ONA aims to improve understanding of managerial structures, human interactions, and information flow inside a company. The range of this analysis can be very broad in this regard, ranging from descriptive analytics of the traits of identified influencers, unofficial leaders, people who leave (exit the network), and highly/poorly engaged workers, to predictive models that seek to add genuine value through a more thorough interpretation of these types of internal behaviours.
Just like any data science project, the organisation’s data maturity must be taken into account before proposing any of these solutions. As such, the first step is to define an objective and scope – whether it is conducted on the whole organisation, or certain subsections of it, for example, just the Sales department — and then start gathering and processing the data accordingly before offering analytics.
How is an ONA conducted?
It can be challenging to access the organisational network and measure influence. Depending on the objective and scope of the analysis, the active or the passive method can be used. The active method is directly asking participants questions about their social interactions, typically via conducting surveys in which employees suggest co-workers as their go-to person for various areas of their work lives. These can be completed online or with any preferred resource management programs. Example questions may be:
- Who would you contact if you wanted to learn crucial information about the company’s future?
- Who supports you emotionally in the workplace?
- Who do you turn to when you need to solve technical problems (like using software A)?
The passive method is examining frequencies of communication via emails, calendar invites, instant messages, and shared drive access. For privacy purposes, communication metadata is used rather than decrypted text.
Using these data, ONA draws up the social network and derives insights about the strongest and weakest nodes in line with the goal of the project. If you wish to conduct an ONA, working with one of the top vendors such as Innovisor, Polinade, Trustsphere, Microsoft Workplace, and Worklytics might be a good choice depending on the size of your company.
Should you conduct an ONA?
ONA aids retention of key employees, measures the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, enhances productivity, drives innovation, enables succession planning and leadership development and change management. According to today’s challenges and the work conducted, companies can design organisations that are fit for the future, but more significantly, one that is suitable for their mission thanks to ONA, which provides models and analyses. This way, companies can develop a business strategy that increases organic information sharing by visualising and evaluating the formal and informal interactions between their employees.
This centrality of the health of social interactions as a precursor to organisational performance led us to design our products with organisational alignment at their core. At Digitopia, our Digital Maturity Index (DMI) and Sustainability Maturity Index (SMI) both hinge on getting your employees to openly discuss and reach consensus on company matters, be it company culture, operations, governance, or more. Do you agree? Check out DMI and SMI to see the 6 core dimensions and details of each model, and let’s start a journey together.
Many thanks to Hasan Ali Polat for his guidance on this article.