One of the largest challenges experienced by companies who grow quickly and broadly is that of communication. It’s like the old childhood game of telephone. After it has been repeated 8 times, the message is no longer the same. It’s not on brand, it has lost its intent or worse yet, it is simply no longer factual. Some companies are turning to People Analytics, a subset of Organizational Network Analytics (ONA),to start to solve these problems.
People Analytics allows organizations to visually see the flow of information within the company. There are three main kinds of communicators, according to the Deloitte consulting firm, one of the main proponents of ONA. Central communicators are influential people who seem to know everyone, are up to date on important news, have lots of information to share and willingly share it. They can be located anywhere in a hierarchy and often times may be in lower level positions. Knowledge brokers, in contrast, facilitate information sharing by serving as bridges between nodes. These are people who are situationally connected based on a work product or short term project. Peripheral communicators are low-profile people with poor or nonexistent connections to the organization. In order to have an effective communication strategy is has to be defined and executed with all three types of communicators in mind.
Uses for ONA
For example, knowledge brokers often have important connections, not only situationally internal to the organization, but external to the organization as well. This outside information and expertise can go underused if the broker lacks strong internal ties. Peripheral communicators are at risk of leaving the organization, which can be a detriment if their skills are highly valued. The insights from ONA may also reveal that people with formal authority and titles are not the real leaders of the organization. Identifying the leaders can, for example, speed buy-in and adoption of new initiatives.
Most companies have a strong focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives and companies can use ONA to spot exclusionary tendencies that might indicate discrimination or bias. Consciously creating project teams to ensure that there is diversity of experiences and thoughts goes a long way to securing the best outcome. ONA can also help identify internal candidates for job openings and promotions. Strong communication skills are necessary at almost all levels in an organization.
Workforce planning is another talent management function that can benefit from ONA. Managers can use the analysis to decide where to reassign people so they collaborate more effectively using the least amount of resources. ONA can help identify where work is being done and who is doing it, which can affect decisions about hiring, promoting and developing employees.
While not the only answer, ONA and the use of People Analytics can be one strategy to employ when contemplating your communication strategy. Knowing where your starting point is, who your informal organizational leaders are and who you need to spend extra time with to ensure optimum levels of engagement is a big step forward!