What is ONA?

Employees rely on informal connections with one another to get things done. We all know someone in our company we can reach out to if we need help solving a technical problem, or a colleague we can go to for personal support with a work-related issue. These spontaneous connections are of critical importance because 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 purposeful manner--between employees who can benefit the most from being connected. To solve this problem, we must first document where these connections exist or should exist. To this end, Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) allows you to visualize and analyze both formal and informal relationships that exist within your organization.

The benefits of ONA are real and meaningful. The insight gained from ONA enables you to see what is happening inside of your organization with a precise level of detail. It 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. It also diagnoses where "silos" may exist in the organization--preventing information flow and network ties across workgroups. Finally, ONA can help identify employees who may be "excluded" in ways that are otherwise difficult to detect. Armed with this insight, organizational leaders can take concrete action--leveraging their informal leaders in the organization, fostering better forms of collaboration, and creating an inclusive, well-integrated work environment.

Active ONA surveys look at how groups of employees feel about their colleagues and relationships in the organization. This method can identify informal influencers who might not always be at the top of the traditional organization charts. Informal leadership and influence are based on subjective perceptions, it is only by directly asking employees we can properly identify the informal influencers within the organization. Active ONA is the most useful tool here and used to support effective onboarding, change management and leadership development. Active ONA provides a snapshot of the collaborative networks of the organization at a particular point in time, and it is best complemented by passive ONA.

Passive ONA provides a complementary view of how teams are collaborating by analyzing communication patterns, for example from aggregated email meta-data of collaborative tools like Office 365. This can provide insights on a regular basis by monitoring teams’ digital footprint and has proven to be effective when assessing productivity and burnout risk.