• +91-9754677445
  • 457 Mott Street,NY 10013
  • 24 X 7

How to identify star employees using data

Is it possible for an exceptional employee to thrive in a setting where their dedication and efforts are not recognized? Understanding the science of people management reveals that career success is not solely determined by individual competence, but also by the dynamics within a team.

According to a study conducted by management experts Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas, high-performing employees excel by effectively utilizing their professional network and engaging with colleagues within the organization.

“The quality and scope of an employee’s network greatly influence their problem-solving abilities, learning potential when transitioning into new roles, and the successful implementation of substantial plans,” stated Cross and Thomas.

When individuals with a financial background start analyzing the formal and informal connections between employees – who they interact with, who they gather information from, and who they communicate it to – a whole new perspective on organizational dynamics emerges.

Understanding relationship and communication patterns is crucial in a subfield of people analytics that is transforming HR: Organizational Network Analysis (ONA).


What exactly is Organizational Network Analysis?

According to Deloitte, ONA is a methodical approach to visually represent the flow of communications, information, and decisions within an organization. These networks are made up of:

  1. Nodes – individuals
  2. Connections – bonds
  3. Connecting groups is the role of knowledge brokers.
  4. Peripherals are individuals who often find themselves neglected, ignored, or isolated from the group.

This area of analysis addresses inquiries such as:

  1. Who is communicating with whom within the organization and beyond?
  2. How often?
  3. Who is responsible for generating information?
  4. Who shares information?
  5. Who has the authority to make decisions?
    Individuals who specialize in analyzing data observe and evaluate communication and decision-making patterns. They construct visual representations of how information and decisions circulate within a network. Additionally, they pinpoint employees who have an impact on their teams, whether it be a positive or negative influence.

What insights does ONA provide about top-performing employees?

Within network analysis, certain employees emerge as central nodes or knowledge brokers. These individuals are the go-to team members who possess a deep understanding of a project and stay well-informed about management decisions. They provide assistance to their colleagues and act as a liaison between employees and management.

On the other hand, individuals on the outskirts of the organization possess a wealth of knowledge and expertise, but unfortunately, they lack engagement and connection with the rest of the team.

According to Deloitte, organizations may view high-potential peripherals as a risk due to their tendency to be overlooked and disconnected from the rest of the company.

Developers who excel in Java programming but fail to share their knowledge and promote best practices not only hinder the progress of product development, but also become susceptible to being lured away by other opportunities.

By utilizing ONA, companies can thoroughly examine their employee interaction data, which is occasionally concealed within anecdotal evidence.


Research conducted by Cross and Thomas, for instance, uncovered the traits exhibited by top performers and how they engage with their colleagues. Here are the findings:

  1. Successful individuals often strategically position themselves within a network, allowing them to effectively utilize the resources and connections available to them when executing their plans.
  2. Successful individuals often prioritize building strong connections that expand their knowledge and protect them from common pitfalls in their professional journey.
  3. “Successful individuals prioritize building meaningful connections and actively engage in actions that cultivate strong relationships, rather than solely focusing on the size of their network.”
  4. Successful employees thrive not just because of their exceptional skills, but also their strong work ethic and ability to collaborate effectively with their team.

The study demonstrates how ONA can effectively identify communication and relationship gaps within the organization, particularly between high and low performers.

Leaders can consider these as valuable indicators when formulating strategies for talent acquisition and development, performance management, and change management, among other areas of HR.

In today’s evolving business landscape, leaders must excel at exerting informal influence, constantly seeking ways to outpace the competition and fostering creativity in their teams. According to the researchers, these behaviors are characteristic of individuals who are well-versed in networking.