Why We Need More Than Engagement Surveys


October 13, 2021

Engagement surveys are a commonly accepted aspect of most HR strategies, yet they only tell a partial story of your people’s actual experience. Surveys are self-reported and conducted at a fixed point in time, and according to a Cornell National Social Survey, 26% of the employees withhold information about ideas for improvement or problems they face due to the futility of the exercise. In fact, futility was 1.8x more common reason than fear for withholding information.

Having accurate insights into your people’s wellbeing, productivity and fulfillment is crucial, so if engagement surveys only give a partial answer, how can you see the bigger picture?  This is the question that’s driven the past 20+ years of Rob Cross’ work. As the leader in organizational network analysis (ONA), he’s made major breakthroughs in understanding how important internal networks are in predicting retention, performance, productivity, well-being, and realizing inclusion. ONA is poised to completely reinvent employee engagement as we know it.

What is ONA?

Organizational Network Analysis (ONA), is the visualization and analysis of formal and informal employees’ relations in your company. After years of research and analysis,  Rob Cross discovered that mapping and analyzing these networks helps predict what engagement surveys hope to, and much more.

Why is ONA So Valuable?

In the old model of engagement surveys, responses are self-reported and at a fixed point in time. ONA allows for a much richer and more accurate portrayal of what’s actually going on, and can be implemented in a way that allows ongoing analysis and insights.

The latest research on ONA has shown these four key takeaways:

1. Networks Predict Individual Outcomes

Analyzing your employees’ networks will show if they have access to relationships needed for effectiveness, creativity, and performance. It will also give you valuable insight into your employee’s wellbeing, as relationships are a key factor in employee wellbeing.

2.  Networks Predict Organization Outcomes

Strategically investing in internal networks leads to increased innovation, resiliency, agility, and productivity. ONA was recently featured in MIT as a key way to actually realize diversity and inclusion goals.

3.  Networks Can Be Built, Not Just Measured

ONA is incredibly valuable in measuring existing networks and their benefits, but new networks can also be built in a way that’s in line with a company’s culture goals. Most organizations are currently up against breaking down silos across their organization, which has become even more challenging with hybrid work..

4.  Purpose Is What Binds Connections

Another powerful insight from ONA is that purpose binds an employee’s network and connections. But in order to reap the benefits of this insight, you have to start by enabling each employee to uncover their individual purpose, which can be challenging to do at scale.

Bringing the Power of ONA to Life

Uncovering and activating purpose is at the very core of what Imperative does. Aaron Hurst, Imperative’s founder and CEO, is the author of the Purpose Economy and the foremost expert of purpose at work.

Based on years of research and expertise, Imperative’s peer coaching platform combines purpose and fulfillment profile data with traditional demographic data, and uses predictive organization network analytics to create connections that are proven to drive positive changes in the organization’s culture.

To use a tangible example, many organizations are trying to create a strong sense of belonging at their company. Imperative’s platform is able to build relationships across identities that share a purpose, making people feel seen and valued for who they are as human beings. From a company’s perspective, this cultivates a culture of inclusion, Increases diversity in the leadership pipeline, and improves retention of diverse employees. Employees then feel valued for the diversity they bring and build relationships with people who champion their growth.  

Imperative’s platform operationalizes the incredible potential of ONA in a low lift, immediately impactful way. This is the future of employee engagement. To learn more about how we can bring this to life for your organization, email us at hello@imperative.com.

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