With more and more companies across the globe instigating work from home as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) is providing key data to more effectively navigate the changing landscape.

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, effectively managing employee interactions has become a matter of critical importance for companies. In this context, ONA can no longer be considered as a nice-to-have capability, but rather should be viewed as a must-have.

ONA is a People Analytics method that allows companies to visualize and analyze how employees interact with each other within an organization. There are two possible approaches to map these interactions: asking them directly through an online survey (active ONA) or monitoring their digital footprint on collaborative tools like email or Slack (passive ONA).

Here are some examples on how active and passive ONA can help companies remain successful during the new reality imposed by the coronavirus outbreak:

Accelerating adoption of new strategies, policies and procedures

The global outbreak of COVID-19 is a wake-up call for companies to carefully review the strategies, policies, and procedures they have in place to protect employees, customers, and operations during this and future epidemics.

A key figure within this equation is the ‘‘informal leader’’, an employee with the ability to influence the behavior of others by means other than formal authority conferred by the organization. When positioned as early adopters, informal leaders influence their peers and accelerate strategic change adoption in a significant manner. On average, informal leaders' influence in the organization is 40% greater than formal leaders. This use case is only applicable to active ONA, since informal leadership cannot be inferred through the analysis of the employees' digital footprint.

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Figure 1: Acceleration of strategic change adoption. Source: Cognitive Talent Solutions

Monitoring employee burnout

Deloitte Consulting initiated a survey on HR policies during the outbreak, receiving 1,232 responses. In the survey, more than half of government and public service entities indicated that they focused on addressing employees' psychological stress at its current state. Passive ONA can help companies assess employee burnout risk by monitoring indicators in the employee's digital footprint such as the percentage of communications outside of working hours, the percentage of unread messages or the average response time among others. This enables companies to identify potential employee burnout scenarios in a proactive manner and implement mitigations when needed.

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Figure 2: Employee burnout risk assessment. Source: Cognitive Talent Solutions

Accelerating new hires' time-to-productivity in remote teams

The onboarding process is a time when employees need to feel welcomed to the team and have everything clearly explained to them so that they can hit full productivity in their new role faster. Unfortunately, onboarding a new team member while everyone is working from home makes the process of building team cohesion and trust even more challenging. Active ONA enables the identification of informal leaders, who can be positioned as "buddies" to new hires during their adaptation period. This results in shorter time-to-productivity, lower turnover risk and a better employee experience for the new hire.

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Figure 3: Acceleration of new hire's time-to-productivity. Source: Cognitive Talent Solutions

Preventing employee isolation during remote working

People suddenly working from home may feel disconnected, distracted or somewhat disoriented due to a natural unfamiliarity with being away from their place of work. This can lower productivity and engagement and increase turnover risk. Both active and passive ONA allow for the identification of employees who have a peripheral position in the organizational network, enabling the implementation of proactive mitigation actions. Active ONA enables pairing peripheral employees with informal leaders to prevent a potential disconnect from the team's network. Passive ONA enables companies to monitor whether managers are scheduling one-to-one meetings with their employees on a regular basis, which is particularly relevant when it comes to preventing employee disengagement.

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Figure 4: Peripheral employee detached from team's network. Source: Cognitive Talent Solutions

Understanding and predicting the virus spread within the organization

Contact history is crucial during an outbreak of an infectious disease and vital when seeking to understand and predict its spread. During an outbreak such as COVID-19, the transmission usually forms networks of infected individuals (cluster of outbreaks) due to the way in which the virus crosses from one infected individual to a healthy person. When analyzing their organizational networks, companies can quickly and easily identify infected employees to predict which of their colleagues are likely to be infected, allowing for the rapid implementation of mitigation plans in a proactive manner. This approach has been successfully used in the past in other infectious disease outbreaks such as SARS in Beijing (2003), Ebola in West Africa (2014–2015) and MER-CoV in South Korea (2015).

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Figure 5: Predicting virus spread within an organizational network. Source: Cognitive Talent Solutions

ONA – the new strategic imperative

In conclusion, ONA can help companies 1) accelerate adoption of new strategies, policies and procedures, 2) monitor employee burnout, 3) enhance remote employee onboarding, 4) prevent employee isolation during remote working and 5) understand and predict the virus spread within the organization.

As a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, effectively managing employee interactions has become a matter of critical importance for companies. In this context, ONA can no longer be considered as a nice-to-have capability, but rather should be viewed as a must-have.

Francisco Marin

Co-founder & CEO at Cognitive Talent Solutions

Categories: Blog

Cognitive Talent Solutions

Cognitive Talent Solutions focuses its activity on Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) and Organizational Restructuring powered by AI. ONA allows you to visualize and analyze both formal and informal 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.