Organizational Network Analysis – What is it and why does it matter?

Organizational network analysis (ONA) is a proven technique that helps you visualize how the organization functions by studying defined relationships like communication and collaboration throughout the organization.

 Figure 1. The striking visual difference between the organization seen as a network and as a hierarchy. 

ONA is a species of social network analysis that focuses on informal networks of employees working within formal work settings. In research and practice, these settings are typically private sector but often university or government work settings are examined, as well.

In the research article written by JOIN21 organizational specialists: Starling Hunter, Jan Taug, and Henrik Bentzen demonstrate the impact of a formal organizational structure on the pattern of informal connections – such as expertise and information-sharing.

Figure 1 visualizes what a typical retail organization looks like as a hierarchy, and as a network.

“Our key finding is that the further apart two people are in the formal structure, meaning the more steps there are between them, the less likely they will connect informally”, says Hunter. “And these could very well be people that should be connecting in order to create innovation and share expertise.”

– Starling Hunter, Ph.D.



This tendency of not connecting in more formal networks was true for networks shaped by information-sharing, both when it happened directly between people in the network as well as in collaboration platforms like Workplace by Facebook.

ONA is a technique for identifying hidden but vital patterns of interaction among workers. It accomplishes this by mapping informal relationships and interactions, with special emphasis given to relationships that span locations, functional silos, hierarchical levels, and socio-cultural differences.

Analyze “Status Quo” and Identify Improvement Areas


Companies use ONA to identify problems with the flow of information, decision making, influence, or energy across their teams and departments so that they can promote innovation and propel organizational effectiveness.

Companies use ONA to solve specific issues and address challenges, including:

Hybrid Work Analysis

Analyze relationship patterns to support a hybrid work strategy. The Hybrid Work Network Analysis is aimed at helping companies that are currently transitioning from Work-from-Home to a hybrid office model.


Analyze achieved connectedness and overall performance of onboarding process. We analyze communication and expertise flows, as well as Aspirational Networks (key people that would make one’s efforts more productive) to discover key areas of improvement.

Engagement and Top Talent Retention

Analyze levels of connectedness that ensure retention.

The core idea behind the ONA is that connectedness and exchange of information and knowledge play a vital role in engagement. To truly understand how your organization works you need to be able to visualize and analyze the ties between employees.


Knowing how your organization really works is of the essence whether you’re restructuring, need to become efficient in a new capacity, or you are merging with another organization and need to understand how to bring people together.

Innovation boost

Organization Network Analysis will show you how to awaken the leader in every employee and how to restructure and break down silos, and connect people, teams and projects for the best possible outcome.

Due Diligence

A typical Due Diligence looks at founders and management, legal matters, financials, employees, and clients. But what if something is missing from the Data Room? Although collaboration is at the heart of modern business processes, very few investors analyze this, and most companies are still finding it hard to manage it. Ensure the success of an investment by uncovering the hidden weaknesses of a company’s collaborative network.

Time Wasters

What if you could uncover a hidden cost within your organization and save millions of wasted dollars? Focus your attention on the hidden costs that go undetected, never show up on the financial reports but impact the bottom line.


Who is ONA for?

Organization network analysis can be done on a wide range of companies, from small organizations with only 20 to 50 employees to large multinational corporations with hundreds of employees.

There are no size restrictions for organizational network analysis, and no one-size-fits-all solutions can be applied to all companies. Each company benefits from insights gained from the data and from visualizing relationships between employees, customers, suppliers, or partners.


Conclusion: Your Network is your Net Worth



A famous “quote” is the dialogue between two managers:

Question: “What happens if we invest a lot of money in our staff and then they leave?”

Reply: “What if we don’t invest in them and they stay?”

The most valuable resource for many companies is their people – their network.

But how many have a plan for how to develop them in a 12-26 months timeline? 

How do companies ensure that the organization and its employees have the opportunities they need to develop and grow? 

◾Are companies aware of how they function internally and of problems that could arise?

Do they even have a way to assess this? 

If people and organizations do not focus on these questions, they will experience a brain drain, an arduous process of attracting top talent as well as a lack of innovation and competitiveness.

More than ever, Organizational Network Analysis is needed to show how your organization works in today’s business landscape, and how it changes over time (for the better or worse). With minimal effort, you get critical insights and competitive advantages on how your organization works as a network of relationships both internally and externally.



JOIN21 Baseline is the first step in using Network Leadership to transform your organization.