Organizations are a web of relationships and complex social entity and consist of influencers who cut across management hierarchies and functional silos. Social network analysis can be used to identifying hidden influencers in the organization.
Organizations are a social entity. When we recruit a talent, they come as individuals with their own thoughts, views, opinions, ideologies, likes and dislikes. Employees form their cohort, beyond the professional boundaries and hierarchies. These cohorts have people who share similarities in their passion, hobbies, professional aspirations, their experiences like graduating from same college and many such unrelated, beyond professional reasons.
Consider this typical example. Amit works in Rahul’s team. Every week in the review, Rahul delegates the tasks for the team along with the timelines. This is pretty much a standard practice. Amit plans his tasks for the week and in the process reaches out to Sunita regularly for any technical help on the task.
Sunita is a tenured and senior colleague and is considered as an expert in her domain. Many others like Amit, reach out to her for guidance.
Amit also has a close friend Sunil, a college senior and from the same town, working in another team. Amit and Sunil spend lot of time outside office hours and end up discussing both personal and professional issues. Amit has been working with Rahul for over 2 years now and considers him to be a thorough professional, objective in his views and thoughts, setting clear expectations with the team and walks the talk. With Rahul setting a good example as a Leader, younger professional like Amit, look up to him and wish to become a leader like him someday.
3% of influencers can potentially reach 80% of employees
At work, we come across such everyday influencers around us who impact the way we perceive organizational change, process automation, high potentials and successors identified for key positions and many such organizational decisions.
If we visualize organizations as a web of relationships, then these influencers are those that connect with and impact large number of individuals around them. They connect with others, sometimes as technical experts, buddies or live wires in the team, leaders who inspire, close friends who can advise on personal and professional matters.
As organizations become more agile and find innovative ways of engaging and communicating with their talent, research has indicated that these hidden influencers, typically forming 3% of the employees, have the potential to reach 80% of the employees. It is this potential that needs to be harnessed in organizations using social network analysis.
The social networks existing in an organization can support in building a culture of teamwork, collaboration, and innovation when the hidden influencers are identified and engaged in the change initiatives. Influencers act like change agent who can diffuse the right message across the organization in a faster and more effective than the formal and traditional communication channels. By leveraging social influencers, we are not undermining the importance of formal channels of communication, rather we are complementing the formal channels by penetrating deeper in into the organization.
In another scenario, organizations implementing strategic initiatives, digital transformation initiatives can leverage these influencers by involving them in projects and core team. Including influencers in the team has proven to increase strategic change adoption by 40% which in turn leads to faster implementation.
Hidden influencers relate to others, sometimes as technical experts, buddies or live wires in the team, leaders who inspire, close friends who can advise on personal and professional matters.
On many occasions, we have experienced that when a technical expert leaves the organization, the team around the expert also starts getting disengaged. Social network analysis can help organizations identify such risks in advance and prepare them to mitigate such risks. Using network analysis, organizations can identify the teams or cohorts that rely solely on a single technical expert for guidance and if that expert leaves, they will not have any other technical go-to person.
To conclude, social network analysis is emerging as an impactful tool for identifying and leveraging social and informal networks in the organization. Those who have harnessed social networks are able to build an organization culture that is agile, innovative, equipped to better manage people risks and drive effective change adoption for their strategic and digital transformation initiatives.
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