See here for a whole introductory lecture on Human Resources & Organizational Network Analysis!
Traditionally, human resource management considers the intelligence, education, personality, skill, knowledge, and tenure of the organizational population. Hiring, retention, (firing!) decisions are then made with regards to how these factors impact organizational financial capital and performance. While this practice has been useful, it is no doubt dated.
Why would we say this? Good question. Let us explain.
The aforementioned views on employee management consider each employee as an atomized and singular individual. The qualities of Employee A exist entirely independent of Employee B.
But, this doesn’t echo how the world works. We live in a relational world, where people, places, and things are connected to one another. In the case of human networks, we Network Science folks like to refer to pipes, and processors. You see, there are inherent benefits in relations among actors--knowledge, trust, resource transfer norms, reputation, learning, policing, ethical behavior, promotions, innovation, and so on. If we consider all these relational benefits, simply, as “information,” then the pipes and processor metaphor works like this: humans are the processors which receive and send information. And the structure of the relations between these processors are the pipes. Thus, the structure of the relations among employees impact the type, quality, and quantity of the information flowing between them.
Have a look at the following two idealized networks. What can you infer about the the benefits, risks, and information contained in these employee networks?
It’s all about the pipes, my friend. The network on the left (known as a Coleman Centrality Network--the basis for Putnam’s famous Bowling Alone Book) is highly connected. People can easily communicate, and monitor one another. This type of network breeds trust, norms, reputation, safety, emotional support, and resource sharing. Unfortunately, though, this graph also contains little in the way of novel information. Because everyone is so connected, most know exactly what the others know.
The graph on the right is far less connected. And in particular, it contains a potential structural hole--a place where if an actor was not present (known as a Broker), the graph would fracture. The orange circle represent a broker who connects two otherwise disparate groups of employees. Known as Burt Centrality, the broker stands to gain material rewards, access to novel information, professional success, and the ability to act strategically. On the other hand, though, this graph contains little in the way of normative enforcement, and the broker is able to act without high levels of peer monitoring.
Here at interstitio, we can use ONA to help you in a variety of ways. What’s even cooler is that we can do it with information you already have on record--email, social media, or other communication platforms. We can use ONA to assess and predict job satisfaction, knowledge and knowledge silos, termination practices, turnover and retention, informal communication networks, and even your organization's real v. espoused values. If you’re interested in learning more about how this powerful analytic technique can help realize your organization’s goals, be sure and drop us a line.