Using ONA to Analyze How Managers Impact Employee Experience

Managers are 80% of Employee Experience, what can ONA tell us about their impact?

Employee Experience is currently a hot topic in HR circles, driven by the need to find new and better ways to improve employer brand and engagement. Undoubtedly one of the most significant drivers for employee experience is an individual’s relationship with their direct manager. Yet this aspect of experience is seldom given the attention it deserves.

The bottom line is that if you want to improve your employee experience, start with managers!

Managers have an outsized influence on employee experience and on people’s day-to-day lives at work. There is a large body of evidence backing this idea. From the significant impact manager engagement has on employee engagement to research backing the old idea that people don’t leave companies they leave their manager. The bottom line is that if you want to improve your employee experience, start with managers!

How Can Organizational Network Analysis Help?

Yet how we measure this impact and coach managers to improve team-level interactions hasn’t evolved very much in the past 10 years. Most organizations still rely on infrequent and often shallow surveys, with only 1 or 2 manager related questions. This information can of course be very helpful for identifying major issues but the infrequent nature and shallow insight mean that actions are usually only taken late and when things are already relatively bad.

Passive analysis techniques like organizational network analysis (ONA) based on IT metadata allow us to delve in real-time into the nature of the manager-report relationship in new and interesting ways. Below are a few examples of how we’re helping organizations measure and improve management skills using ONA.

How hands on is a manager?

Using ONA we can better understand how hands on or off managers are with their teams and what amount of oversight and interaction leads to better outcomes. This is achieved by analyzing team level collaboration in digital tools used for communication, meetings, writing documents, project management, versioning code etc. The analysis typically looks at the volume, frequency and type of interaction managers have with their teams and outputs a score for relative Manager Proximity. The score gives a sense of whether managers are heavily involved in day to day work or are more detached. By linking this to outcomes in long term survey results or attrition one .

Example of a network analysis for detecting manager proximity. Comparing two extreme cases of highly detached and controlling managers.

Are Managers Responsive?

ONA can provide insight into how attentive or responsive managers are to requests from their teams. This is achieved by looking at the ratio of messages sent to managers by their teams to their responses. For instance, a 5:1 ratio would indicate that a manger only responds to 1 in every 5 attempts a team member makes to communicate.


By analyzing Calendar data one can determine which managers schedule regular 1-on-1s with their teams and which don’t. In addition, one can determine how often these meetings are moved, cancelled or other meetings are scheduled over them. By looking at outcomes in employee NPS, we’ve found that individuals on teams running regular 1-on-1s are multiple times more likely to be highly engaged/satisfied. A finding confirmed by Spotify's Katarina Berg in a recent interview with David Green. We are now working with multiple organizations on experiments to automatically nudge managers skipping 1-on-1s with reminders and relevant content. See a simple example below.

Example of a nudge designed to convince a manager to schedule regular 1-on-1s with one of their team members.

Manager Impact on Work-life balance

Managers can have a significant impact on an individual’s work-life balance. By analyzing flows of information one can get a sense of whether managers are promoting a healthy balance or encroaching on personal time. This analysis typically looks at whether managers email employees after hours, scheduling meetings in the evening or asking team members to work over weekends.


Managers have a significant impact on the level of inclusion on teams. By structuring work and collaboration in certain ways managers can either include or systematically exclude certain individuals from information and opportunities for growth. By analyzing the level of inclusion in project work, communication and access to leadership ONA can provide insight into the role that managers play in this dynamic. This information can be used to make managers aware of their impact on inclusion and guide them toward creating inclusive team environments.

Manager Empowerment

How empowered your manager is can significantly influence how effective they are. Managers who are unempowered are likely to lack the confidence and resources required to effectively lead their teams. By analyzing manager networks one can gain insight into how empowered different managers might be. This analysis typically looks at the size, breadth and seniority of a manager’s network. Do managers have access to senior leadership where decisions are being made? Do they have access to critical organizational information? ONA can help to answer these questions and guide interventions that lead to empowered leaders down at the team level.


It’s clear that managers are a key driver of employee experience and HR teams should be expending more energy to understand manager-employee relationships. Network analysis provides a powerful new set of tools to help organizations analyze these critical relationships. Quantifying these relationships will give organization a better understanding of the key dynamics involved and help to provide managers with targeted coaching to improve associated skills.

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