How can we apply ONA at our organization?

ONA is one of the fastest emerging trends in the field of HR Analytics, and lots of people are reaching out to us to ask for concrete examples of how ONA could be applied in their organization.

At TrustSphere we are lucky enough to work with a whole range of forward-thinking organizations, who are applying ONA data to support processes like HiPo identification, Diversity & Inclusion, increasing collaboration and creating high performing teams. But for this blog, I am focusing on our hottest topic, leadership development.

This blog explains how our ONA technology was used to measure participants Social Capital at a global FMCG company as part of its leadership development program.

Our ONA data provided the participants (and course facilitators) with specific feedback on their ability to influence internal and external networks to improve their teams’ productivity and effectiveness.

TrustSphere’s technology and approach to ONA enable organizations to extract and analyze a wealth of previously invisible Social Capital data. In the global FMCG company, we presented these insights in easy to consume reports that participants were able to relate to and apply to improve their own work and leadership.

Measuring Leadership Development for a Fortune 100 Company.

TrustSphere was engaged by a global management consultancy to provide ONA technology to measure the impact of a leadership development program for one of the worlds largest FMCG companies.

By extracting and processing the meta-data from corporate communications systems such as Email, Instant Messaging and Telephony, TrustSphere’s revolutionary passive ONA technology enables our customers to continuously measure the workplace relationships that employees have, both internally and externally.

This passive data gathering process requires no surveys, no online forms or questionnaires. As the name suggests the data is collected ‘passively’ meaning that it already exists in systems that automatically collect data, such as the date, time and person to whom or from whom an email, message or call is sent. By analyzing the networks continuously and in real time, our customers can see the workplace relationships that employees have and how they may change over time. For this project, we baselined the leader's networks at the start of the program, then measured the change every two months for the duration of the six-month program.

Unlike traditional survey-based approaches, because this data is continuously changing, we can apply key algorithms to measure how networks changes, such as TrustScore, which measures the strength of every relationship in the network, and Network Impact Score, which measures the employee's ability to exert influence over their network.

With our scalable technology, we didn’t have to consume the network of the whole organization, in the initial pilot phase of this engagement our customer was able to consume the networks of just the 20 managers on the leadership course and their 200 direct reports (out of an overall population of over 100,000 employees).

What behaviors were measured?

Great leaders have a winning combination of both Human and Social Capital.

1.      Human Capital refers to the skills, experience, qualifications, and knowledge to do their job. These attributes have always been easier to measure through workplace assessments and gathering details of qualifications.

2.      Social Capital refers to the softer skills around building relationships with people and influencing, managing and leading people

Social Capital has always been harder to measure, until recently. With the technology underpinning ONA, TrustSphere (and others) can measure Social Capital.

Figure 1. A great leader needs both Human and Social Capital

Let's look at some of the critical questions we answered:

 1.      What networks do our top leaders build?

Figure 2. Top leaders build significantly stronger networks

2.      Are their behaviors changing?

Figure 3. Top leaders networks grown and change over time

3.      How does their leadership impact the people they lead?

Figure 4. Top leaders are central to their team's network

For this project, we were able to provide answers to these and many more questions in the form of three easy to consume summary documents:

Network Summary

Focused on the individual leader, it measures changes in their own behavior, relationships, and networks.

Team Insights

Looking at the impact the leader has on the team they lead, it measures changes in their direct reports behavior, relationships, and networks.

Consolidated Report

To understand the total impact of the course, we provide a summary report for the course facilitators which shows the overall impact on the entire cohort.

Figure 5. Individualized reports for the leader, their team and the entire cohort.

Let's look at some of the data points that was included in these documents in more detail and understand why they are so important to being an effective leader:

Understanding the leader’s network:

Why is this data important:

Leaders with larger networks of strong relationships, spread through the organization can leverage their relationships to get work done faster and drive innovation.

Understanding how they communicate with their manager and their team:

Why is this data important:

Teams where the manager communicates more with their direct reports create an environment where the whole team’s internal communication and collaboration increases.

Why is this data important?

Employees with strong relationships with employees in a wide range of departments can cross-pollinate ideas faster and gain key insights into the way the organization functions.

Why is this data important?

Large volumes of emails outside working hours can be a significant contributor to burnout for both the leader and their team.

Why is this data important?

Building a broad network of working relationships, with a mix of people of different gender, tenure, seniority, ethnicity etc. opens a leader up to a diversity of thought and promotes innovation.

These are just some of the many data points that we were able to measure, about the leader, their team and the entire cohort, with changes in behavior being observed for all participants.

Some of the key changes we measured were:

·       115% change in leaders own networks

·       38% increase in the number of working relationships with different business units

·       114% increase in the number of strong relationships

·       148% increase in strong relationships with employees at lower levels of the organizational hierarchy

·        40% improvement in their team’s levels of collaboration


With minimal effort (or involvement from the business), we were able to extract, process and analyze a wealth of previously invisible social capital data. We presented these insights in easy to consume reports that participants were able to relate to and apply to improve their own work and leadership.

At the end of the course, participants rated this as the most important data presented in the course; the participants also requested access to data on an ongoing basis after the course completed.

In the next cohort, we are planning to correlate this activity data with business outcomes, as with any People Analytics project, being able to show a correlation between the changes in this data and an important business outcome is what is most important.

We are certain that there we can find evidence of many other leadership behaviors in ONA data, if you have any ideas for its application, please leave them in the comments or send me a direct message – we love talking to smart people!

If you enjoyed this...

Please check out some of the TrustSphere team's other blogs related to my favorite subject, Organizational Network Analytics:

Retain or let go? The data you need to react correctly when an employee resigns

Burnout - How to predict employee burnout

Identifying potential network disruption and its impact on the organisation

How can we better identify HiPos using network data?

What makes for a high performing employee?

Why Informal networks are set to revolutionize HR and People Analytics.

People Analytics practioners, here is what you are missing

It’s time to start eating HR data for breakfast….

Who is Greg Newman?

Greg spent 15 years trying to restore a 1956 Morris Minor and when time permitted, building global HR systems, over time he became increasingly frustrated that HR technology was focused on doing what was easy, rather than what was important.

Greg is responsible for the People Analytics product development at TrustSphere, pioneers of Relationship Analytics. At TrustSphere we are focused on delivering HR analytics that businesses can use to increase their bottom line.

  • Thanks for this Greg - I think that reporting is really powerful and I can imagine it will be much more impactful than a traditional 360 review, and without all (or at least a lot) of the palaver associated with that. Just one question - the earlier graphs on strong and active relationships, and also on network centrality distinguish top vs average leaders - but how are they judged? Eg some of the findings of CEB (Gartner) and others suggest we tend to mainly assess performance based upon individual vs network performance. If this was true here you might see an even greater separation between top and average leaders? I look forward to learning more of your insights here too.