In the realm of leadership development and succession planning, organizations strive to identify high-potential employees who can lead the company to new heights. Integrating Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) into the process has revolutionized the identification of these individuals. However, when it comes to analyzing individual-level data, data privacy considerations become crucial. In this article, we will explore how active ONA, as opposed to passive ONA, proves to be more suitable for identifying high-potential employees while respecting data privacy constraints.

Active ONA: A Dynamic Approach to Identifying High-Potential Leaders:

Active ONA involves the deliberate collection of data through surveys, interviews, or other interactive methods. This approach allows organizations to gather valuable insights into employee networks and relationships while maintaining a higher level of data privacy compliance. Here's why active ONA is more suitable for identifying high-potential employees:

  • Data Privacy Considerations:

Analyzing passive data sources, such as email communication or digital footprint, can raise significant data privacy concerns when done at individual level. Companies need to respect employees' privacy rights and adhere to data protection regulations. Active ONA, on the other hand, ensures that individuals willingly participate in the data collection process, providing their consent and maintaining control over the information shared. This approach mitigates privacy concerns and fosters a more ethical and transparent approach to leadership development.

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  • Individual-Level Analysis:

While passive ONA can provide valuable insights at an aggregate level, it often falls short in identifying high-potential employees at an individual level. Active ONA allows organizations to collect specific information about an employee's network connections, collaborations, and influence, which are crucial for determining leadership potential. By engaging individuals in the data collection process, active ONA provides a more accurate and nuanced understanding of individual capabilities and social connections.

  • Contextual Understanding:

Active ONA facilitates the collection of qualitative data, such as employee perceptions, opinions, and feedback. This qualitative insight is invaluable in understanding the context behind network connections and identifying individuals who not only have strong networks but also possess the necessary leadership qualities. Research conducted by Cognitive Talent Solutions revealed that two thirds of high performing employees are not recognized as informal leaders by their peers.

  • Targeted Development Opportunities:

Active ONA enables organizations to provide targeted development opportunities based on the insights gathered. By involving employees in the data collection process, organizations can provide personalized feedback, coaching, and mentorship to help individuals strengthen their leadership capabilities. This targeted approach ensures that development efforts align with identified strengths and growth areas, maximizing the potential of high-potential employees.


In the pursuit of identifying high-potential employees, active ONA emerges as the preferred approach, especially in light of data privacy considerations. While passive ONA may provide valuable insights at an aggregate level, active ONA offers a more nuanced and individual-level understanding of leadership potential. By engaging employees in the data collection process and respecting data privacy constraints, organizations can identify and develop high-potential leaders while upholding ethical standards. As companies navigate the complex landscape of leadership development, embracing the power of active ONA proves to be a strategic and privacy-conscious choice in unlocking the full potential of their workforce.

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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.