What is Active ONA?

In all organizations, employees create informal groups with whom they interact on a regular basis. We all know someone in our company that we can reach out to if we need help solving a technical issue, or that other person that we can trust for personal support with a work-related problem. These spontaneous connections are of critical importance, since they define the way knowledge is generated, distributed and retained across an organization.

The problem is, that these connections are not always created in a predictable manner or between those employees that can most benefit from being more connected. Because of this, in order to design an effective organization, it is essential to understand where these connections exist or should exist.

Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) allows you to visualize and analyze relationships that exist within your organization, enabling you to model a business strategy that effectively exchanges information and ideas to help your company thrive in a rapidly changing environment.

Active ONA refers to the implementation of ONA through an ad-hoc online survey, which is aimed to map informal interactions between employees. This enables the identification of informal leaders within the organization, also referred to as hidden talent or top influencers (positive or negative).

Recent research reveals that if a company identifies the 3% of employees who possess informal leadership, it can turn them into early adopters and influence up to 85% of the remaining population, thus accelerating the adoption of strategic changes.

Implementing Active ONA

Active ONA consists in mapping informal relationships between employees through an online survey, which captures different types of informal interactions. In the survey, employees identify who they interact with and how they interact with each other. Examples of informal interactions mapped include sharing information, technical/expert support, personal support and inspiration. This is a highly-customizable survey where the client can tailor logo, colors, font and content among other things.

Each employee needs approximately 5-10 minutes to complete the survey, where a series of multi-tier look up questions will enable user-friendly identification of colleagues in large organizations. An company typically needs 2 weeks to implement an active ONA survey, and the results can reflect the whole organization even with a level of participation as low as 40%. This is because even if an employee does not participate in the survey, he/she might be reflected in the analysis after being identified by a colleague.

Visualizing the results

Once the informal interactions have been captured through the online survey, they are visualized in an interactive network where employees are categorized by level of influence (central, intermediary and peripheral). These categories are based on the position the employee holds in an automated ranking based on the results from the online survey.

When assessing an employee's level of influence it is important to take into consideration the employee's role. An employee working in a technical help desk role might provide technical support to a large number of people within the organization, but this does not necessarily mean he/she is an informal leader. Because of this, our algorithm considers all types of interactions when ranking the employees, which enables us to reduce the impact of noise introduced by the employee's roles.

When visualizing active ONA results, we might come across a large network that is difficult to analyze due its size. In this context there are different options for reducing network density:

  1. Reduce network density by grouping or merging nodes
  2. Show sub-sections of the networks by applying filters based on specific areas of the organization, timeframes or centrality measures

Our tool also indicates whether the employee's level of influence is aligned with the expectations given his/her role and level of experience. For example, a senior employee in a managerial role will be expected to occupy a central position in the network, while the same level of influence will be deemed to be above expectations for a non-managerial, junior employee.

Finally, our tool providers customized recommendations at employee level, enabling the client to obtain actionable insights that result in tangible benefits. The recommendations consider the employee's level of influence, role, experience and specific interactions he/she excels at to suggest specific development actions and roles.


In a new reality characterized by its volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, active Organizational Network Analysis not only enables companies to leverage the influence of informal leaders to accelerate the adoption of strategic changes, but also helps them prevent those informal leaders from using their influence to create resistance towards the adoption of those changes. This empowers companies to operate in a more agile fashion and maximize business success.