How To Improve Employee-Manager Communication

Think of Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) as an insightful tool that reveals hidden communication patterns within your company. This communication is the foundation of a thriving work environment.

The manager-employee relationship plays a vital role at the heart of these communication patterns. It’s an intricate dance of sorts. When in sync, both parties contribute to a productive and impactful workspace. The performance can be less than optimal if they’re not in sync.

The key here is that this relationship isn’t static; it evolves with the rhythm of the company. As the organization grows, the dynamics shift and the relationship needs to adapt. That’s where ONA comes in, providing a constant pulse on these ever-changing dynamics, enabling the company to make necessary adjustments. Stagnation is what we aim to avoid.

A vibrant company culture directly mirrors dynamic manager-employee relations. The more adaptable these relationships are to changes, the more agile and lively the company becomes.

Utilizing ONA offers a profound understanding of how your managers and employees interact. It pinpoints areas of success and illuminates growth opportunities. This insight empowers organizations to fine-tune management styles, improve communication, and cultivate a culture of respect and trust. In this blog post, we’ll explore the role of ONA in improving manager-employee communication.

The Importance of the Employee-Manager Relationships

A company’s success doesn’t solely rest on its strategic objectives or innovative products. At its core, it’s about the people – specifically, the relationship between employees and their managers. This relationship isn’t just about fostering a pleasant work environment. It has profound implications for leadership development and overall performance.

When managers effectively communicate with their team, they can better understand their aspirations and hurdles. In doing so, they can support their team to reach their potential, improving satisfaction and heightened productivity.

But let’s face it, establishing robust manager-employee relationships can be a tough row to hoe. If it goes south, the ramifications are severe, affecting employee engagement and retention rates significantly. To illustrate, a Gallup study reveals that 50% of employees have quit their job to escape their manager at some point in their career.

The good news is that there are ONA strategies that companies can use to overcome these challenges and build stronger relationships with their employees.

The Obstacles to Employee-Manager Communication

Communication between managers and employees is the lifeline of any thriving organization. Yet, keeping this line open, transparent, and consistent can be a real headache. When this vital line gets tangled, the impact can be severe, leading to plummeting morale, high employee turnover, and a hurting bottom line.

Let’s break down the challenges that employees and managers often face:

1. Communication barriers: Managers and employees may face communication barriers such as language, cultural differences, or technological difficulties. When messages get lost in translation, it can spark misunderstandings, triggering conflicts and dropping productivity levels.

2. Lack of trust: Navigating through constructive feedback isn’t everyone’s forte. Managers can fumble when delivering feedback, and employees may struggle to provide their managers with meaningful input. Robust feedback channels that encourage employees to speak up and managers to listen and act will serve as a solution.

3. Poor feedback mechanisms: Navigating through constructive feedback isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Managers can fumble when delivering feedback, and employees may struggle to provide their managers with meaningful input. The solution? Robust feedback channels that encourage employees to speak up and managers to listen and act.

4. Time constraints: Both managers and employees grapple with the relentless demands of their schedules. Amidst the many tasks and responsibilities, carving out time for quality communication may seem like an indulgence rather than a necessity. However, to prevent vital dialogue from being overshadowed by the urgency of daily operations, it’s critical to establish and adhere to regular, dedicated communication slots.

5. Hierarchical structures: Traditional hierarchies can create an invisible yet palpable distance between managers and employees. The antidote? Ditch the ivory tower approach and embrace a collaborative stance, nurturing a culture that celebrates openness and inclusivity.

Leveraging ONA for Enhancing Workplace Communication

Organizational Network Analysis, or ONA, is a highly effective tool for companies seeking to enhance communication between managers and employees. It provides a detailed analysis of the company’s communication structure, shedding light on the organization’s patterns and flow of dialogue.

What makes ONA uniquely valuable is its ability to pinpoint critical communicators within the company alongside areas where the flow of information may be hindered. With these insights, companies can strategize and implement interventions to improve communication and collaboration. ONA also allows companies to uncover informal or “hidden” communication networks beneath the surface. The discovery of these networks offers a realistic perspective on how work gets done and the genuine concerns of employees.

If ONA identifies an individual as a central communication node within a team, the company might consider providing additional training or development programs to further their leadership and communication skills. Also, ONA is a reliable tool for detecting communication bottlenecks. By addressing these issues, companies can ensure timely and effective dissemination of important information, thereby making every team member feel valued and heard.

Case Studies: Proven Success of ONA

Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) has demonstrated its potency as a tool for advancing the relationship between employees and managers, with several notable companies achieving success through its application. Let’s delve into a few examples:

1. GE Aviation: The company stands as an exemplar in utilizing ONA and self-service systems for improved decision-making and communication. By applying ONA, they identified key influencers, often not in managerial positions, who were pivotal in driving change and influencing others within the organization. Management leveraged these insights to create a targeted communication plan, enhancing employee engagement.

Simultaneously, their implementation of a self-service system empowered various departments with real-time data for informed decision-making. Engineering efficiently redesigned parts, Supply Chain streamlined processes, Finance grasped crucial financial metrics, and the commercial group built analytics services for customers in collaboration with data scientists. Thus, the synergy of ONA with the self-service system bolstered operational efficiency and fostered a more integrated work environment.

2. Zappos: The renowned online shoe and clothing retailer effectively utilized Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) to discern the social networks within its employee community. The analysis highlighted a noticeable communication chasm between employees and managers. Addressing this finding, the company decided to venture beyond conventional methodologies.

Zappos adopted a Holacracy culture, a system advocating self-governance and autonomy, effectively eliminating traditional managerial roles. This approach stemmed from the belief that employees, knowing their business expectations well, should operate with the trust and freedom to meet those expectations swiftly and effectively.

Zappos innovated its performance review system in line with its commitment to continuous learning and growth. Transitioning from annual performance reviews to real-time feedback, they encouraged more frequent and meaningful conversations among employees, peers, and leaders.

This strategy ensured that employees consistently met team expectations and aligned with the company’s core values. Thus, through ONA and innovative communication and performance management approaches, Zappos has fostered a culture of open communication, building more substantial and compelling relationships within the company.

3. London Gates Education Group: An international educational organization that utilized Performica’s data-driven tool to enhance workforce management. Through key features like OrgGraph™ and Peer Rank Score, London Gates could identify influential personnel, top performers, and those needing extra support and thus devise strategic actions to boost morale and productivity.

Performica also facilitated better conflict resolution and effective onboarding. It empowered London Gates to make data-backed decisions during conflicts and evaluate new hires, fostering a culture of transparency and radical honesty. Performica significantly improved London Gates’ employee engagement, team performance, and retention rates, underscoring the company’s commitment to a free, open, and positive environment.

These instances exemplify how ONA can successfully strengthen employee and manager relationships. Companies can use ONA to reveal the informal communication networks in their organizations, identify key influencers and communication gaps, and form strategic communication plans to increase employee engagement.

Implementing ONA for Maximum Impact

When enhancing employee-manager relations, ONA proves to be an invaluable tool, yet its application necessitates meticulous planning and execution. Here’s a streamlined guide to implementing ONA effectively:

1. Clearly Define Goals and Objectives: Before deploying ONA, businesses should identify their specific aspirations for the tool, such as augmenting communication, elevating employee engagement, or uncovering development opportunities. With clearly outlined objectives, the application of ONA can align seamlessly with the overarching business strategy.

2. Use ONA as a Starting Point for Conversation: While ONA provides indispensable insights into internal communication and collaboration patterns, it shouldn’t supersede human interaction. Companies can employ ONA data as a foundation for productive dialogue between managers and their teams, identifying areas for improvement and facilitating solution-oriented discussions.

3. Use ONA to Identify Opportunities for Employee Development: By mapping the intricate network within an organization, managers can identify well-connected employees suitable for leadership roles or those who seem isolated and may benefit from additional support.

4. Use ONA to Foster a Culture of Collaboration: Highlighting the importance of cross-functional collaboration and motivating employees to network outside their immediate teams can foster a more communicative and collaborative environment, thereby driving superior business results.

5. Be Transparent and Respectful: When it comes to wielding the power of Organizational Network Analysis (ONA), it’s not just about harnessing valuable insights—it’s also about doing so ethically and keeping a keen eye on data privacy. As one of the many tools in people analytics, ONA needs a sturdy ethical groundwork, guiding crucial decisions like what data to gather, who gets to see it, and how to mitigate privacy risks.

The art of ONA lies in finding the perfect blend of safeguarding privacy and extracting meaningful insights, where fostering trust and transparency takes the lead. Companies need to be clear, almost like they’re giving a guided tour, showing what data is collected, how it’s used, and the security measures forming the fortress around it. Let’s not forget to invite employees to participate in the process, as it will help ensure that ONA programs are ethical and fruitful in achieving business goals. The result would be an ethical, secure, and participatory use of data that will allow for a successful ONA execution.


Companies that implement ONA effectively are equipping themselves with a road map that outlines the current communication pathways and pinpoints hidden networks and key influencers within the organization. This invaluable intelligence enables companies to strategically nurture productive relationships, address communication bottlenecks, and empower potential leaders who might otherwise go unnoticed. In addition, ONA promotes a change from rigid, hierarchical structures to more flexible, inclusive ones, promoting an atmosphere of open communication and mutual respect.

However, the value of ONA extends beyond simple problem diagnosis and resolution. As seen in companies like GE Aviation, Zappos, and London Gates Education Group, the effective utilization of ONA has transformative potential. These companies leveraged the insights gathered through ONA to improve existing communication channels and innovate on traditional managerial practices, creating more engaged and integrated work environments. Whether through identifying influential non-managerial employees or transitioning to a self-governed, autonomy-encouraging structure, these companies illustrate the significant, tangible impact ONA can have.

No organization can afford to let its manager-employee interactions to stalemate, given the unbreakable link between efficient communication and a company’s success. Even while ONA requires investment, it might pay off through increased satisfaction, improved productivity, and a stronger, more resilient corporate culture. Tools like ONA will definitely grow more and more helpful as workplaces continue to change and adapt, assisting businesses in navigating changes, seeing opportunities, and relentlessly pursuing a more communicative, collaborative, and prosperous future.

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