What is ONA? What can I use it for?

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.

This issue can be addressed by leveraging the capabilities of Organizational Network Analysis, a method that has been utilized for more than 20 years but has recently grown in importance thanks to the integration of new technological developments.

Organizational Network Analysis 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.

In practice, Organizational Network Analysis allows you to see what is happening inside of your organization with an unprecedented level of detail. This helps you identify informal leaders and leverage their influence in strategic roles, whether it is in managerial positions or as early adopters of organizational changes.

Recent studies reveal, that with only 3% of the population acting as informal leaders, the adoption of strategic changes can be spread to up to 85% of the remaining population, thus allowing your organization to transform itself in a more effective and efficient way.

ONA can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including diversity and inclusion, burnout risk assessment or best practice identification. New use cases are identified as ONA adoption increases at global level, resulting in the documentation of more case studies.

Active vs Passive ONA

Active ONA surveys help companies understand how their employees perceive the value created by their colleagues, whether it is by obtaining information that they need to do their job, receiving personal / technical support or becoming inspired by them. It usually runs at department level, although its results can be consolidated at company level. While the insights provided by active ONA can create great value for companies, this exercise only provides a point-in-time overview and has a strong dependency on high response rates.

Passive ONA is based on regular data streams from a wide variety of sources, including email communication and collaboration tools. It runs in a continuous manner, often at company level. The insights provided by passive ONA are more objetive, and the implementation has a lesser impact on the company’s operations.

For companies without previous exposure to ONA, we recommend the implementation of Active ONA as a first contact. As the company gets more familiar with ONA and learns to leverage its insights, we explore opportunities for integration of passive data sources. The combination of both passive and active ONA is eventually the best option, as companies get a holistic overview that help them understand both how their employees feel about their colleagues and what they actually do.

Redesigning your organization with AI-based recommendations

ONA proposes new optimization problems involving network manipulations, which are related to effectively embedding a set of new actors in the network so that they become key for the flow of information.

Thanks to AI-based algorithms, companies can now obtain detail-level recommendations on where to position new employees in an existing network, which is especially useful when it comes to executing mergers and acquisitions. These algorithms can be instructed to infiltrate new actors in a network in a way that maximizes its robustness, reducing the negative impact of turnover among key employees and increasing the overall exchange of information.

At Cognitive Talent Solutions we leverage these AI-based algorithms to help companies reshape their organization in a data-driven fashion, resulting in a significant increase in the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations.


In a new reality characterized by its volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, Organizational Network Analysis empowers your company to operate in a more agile fashion, leveraging the influence of informal leaders to maximize business success. Over the last years, technological developments in data visualization and data warehousing have increased the relevance of ONA in business environments. More recent developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will lead to the discovery of new use cases, resulting in an even greater adoption of ONA and its consolidation as one of the pillars in the field of People Analytics.

For anybody interested in learning more about ONA, David Green’s article “The role of Organisational Network Analysis in People Analytics” is a must-read. This comprehensive piece of work covers ONA’s concept, types, historical context, use cases and case studies among others.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: