Blog post

Why Traditional Performance Reviews Are Out: The Radical New Approach Explained

Transform performance reviews with Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) for fairer, more effective employee evaluations.

The Problem with Traditional Performance Reviews

In today's fast-paced and ever-evolving business landscape, traditional performance reviews often fall short in effectively evaluating an employee's work performance. These reviews, typically conducted annually, tend to focus on past performance and day-to-day work, but they may not capture the full spectrum of an employee's accomplishments or areas for performance improvement. A significant issue is that about 60% of a manager's performance ratings are influenced by bias, overshadowing the actual strengths and weaknesses of the team members.

Moreover, traditional performance reviews often rely on a grading system that fails to provide meaningful performance feedback. With most employees receiving similar scores, it becomes challenging to distinguish between high performers and those who merely meet the company standards. This lack of differentiation can demotivate top performers and hinder the identification of those in need of additional training or a performance improvement plan.

Why Rethinking Performance Reviews Matters

Rethinking performance reviews is crucial for fostering a more dynamic, responsive, and effective workforce. According to SHRM's article "Fixing Performance Reviews for Good," the traditional approach to performance reviews can lead to various negative outcomes, including decreased employee morale, reduced engagement, and a lack of personal and professional development.

The article emphasizes the importance of performance reviews as a tool not just for evaluation but for goal setting, career development, and enhancing employee well-being. When done right, performance reviews can be a powerful means of aligning individual goals with the broader business strategy, fostering strong relationships between managers and their team members, and promoting a culture of continuous performance feedback and improvement.

Furthermore, in the context of the modern workplace, where organizational change is constant and team dynamics are more fluid, traditional performance reviews often fail to capture the true essence of an employee's work and contributions. This is particularly true in remote or hybrid work environments, where day-to-day work interactions are less visible to managers.

In essence, rethinking performance reviews is not just about improving a process; it's about adapting to the changing nature of work, recognizing and nurturing talent more effectively, and ultimately driving better business outcomes through a more engaged and well-supported workforce.

Introducing Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) in Performance Reviews

Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) represents a transformative approach in the realm of performance reviews. This method transcends traditional metrics, exploring the intricate web of interpersonal relationships and collaborations within an organization. ONA is a powerful tool for understanding the hidden dynamics of workplace interactions, offering a more nuanced view of employee's work performance and team dynamics.

How ONA Transforms Performance Reviews

  1. Identifying Real Impact Players: ONA uncovers the "quiet contributors" who may not stand out in conventional reviews but are pivotal in the team's success. These individuals often form the backbone of projects, offering crucial support and expertise that drives collective achievement.
  2. Reducing Bias: Traditional performance evaluations are often clouded by personal biases and limited observations. ONA cuts through these subjective layers by providing objective data based on actual work interactions, leading to fairer and more accurate performance feedback.
  3. Enhancing Internal Mobility: ONA's insights extend beyond performance evaluation to career progression. By identifying those who are central to networks or have untapped potential, organizations can better guide their employees' career paths, aligning individual aspirations with organizational goals.
  4. Improving Managerial Oversight: In today's dispersed work environments, managers may struggle to maintain visibility over their teams. ONA offers a clearer view of team dynamics, enabling managers to make informed decisions and provide targeted support where it's needed most.

Implementing ONA in Performance Reviews

  1. Collecting the Right Data: The foundation of effective ONA lies in gathering relevant data. This involves asking insightful questions about work relationships, information flow, and influence within the organization.
  2. Analyzing the Data: With advanced analytics, the collected data is transformed into actionable insights. This analysis reveals the informal networks that often play a critical role in how work is actually accomplished.
  3. Integrating ONA Insights with Performance Reviews: The real power of ONA comes from integrating its insights with traditional performance metrics. This combination offers a holistic view of an employee's contributions, both in terms of individual output and their role within the broader team network.
  4. Training Managers: Successfully implementing ONA requires managers to be adept at interpreting and utilizing the insights it provides. Training sessions and workshops can equip them with the necessary skills to leverage ONA data effectively for performance feedback and employee development.
  5. Continuous Improvement: ONA is not a one-time exercise but a continuous process. Regularly updating and analyzing network data ensures that performance reviews remain relevant, accurate, and reflective of the ongoing changes within the organization.

By incorporating ONA into the performance review process, organizations can achieve a more dynamic, fair, and effective system of evaluating and managing employee performance. This approach not only enhances the accuracy of performance assessments but also fosters a more collaborative and cohesive workplace culture.

Case Study: Transforming Team Dynamics in a Digital Agency


A global digital agency, specializing in customer experience and digital transformation, faced challenges in accurately assessing employee performance. Their traditional performance review process was not capturing the full spectrum of employee's work and contributions.

Implementation of ONA

The agency implemented Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) to map out the complex web of interpersonal relationships and collaborations within their teams. This approach aimed to uncover the hidden dynamics that traditional performance evaluations often missed.

Key Findings

ONA revealed several "hidden influencers" within the teams. These individuals, crucial in problem-solving and project success, were instrumental in driving projects forward and mentoring other team members. Their central role in the network was previously unrecognized due to the limitations of standard performance appraisals.

Impact on Team Structure and Recognition

The insights from ONA enabled the agency to restructure their teams, ensuring that these central figures were recognized and given opportunities to further develop their leadership qualities. This not only boosted team morale but also enhanced the overall efficiency and effectiveness of their teams.

Career Development and Talent Retention

The agency also used ONA data to support their employees' career development. They identified individuals who exceeded expectations in their current roles and were ready for new responsibilities. This proactive approach to career progression helped in retaining top performers and ensured a continuous infusion of fresh ideas and perspectives into their leadership pipeline.


This case exemplifies how ONA can uncover invaluable insights into an organization's internal dynamics, leading to more informed decisions in performance reviews, team structuring, and talent development. By moving beyond traditional performance metrics and embracing a more nuanced understanding of employee interactions and contributions, companies can foster a culture of recognition, growth, and continuous improvement.

Final Thoughts: Embracing ONA in Performance Reviews

The integration of Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) into the performance review process marks a significant leap forward in how organizations assess, understand, and develop their workforce. This approach transcends the limitations of traditional performance reviews, offering a more dynamic, fair, and comprehensive system for evaluating and managing employee performance.

Addressing the Core Issues of Traditional Reviews

Traditional performance reviews, often criticized for their bias and limited scope, fail to capture the full range of an employee's contributions and impact. ONA addresses these core issues by providing a data-driven, objective view of how employees interact within their networks and contribute to organizational goals. This method significantly reduces the bias that clouds traditional evaluations, ensuring that performance assessments are based on actual work interactions and contributions.

Enhancing Employee Recognition and Development

ONA's ability to identify "quiet contributors" and hidden influencers within an organization is particularly transformative. By recognizing these individuals, companies can ensure that every significant contribution is acknowledged and rewarded, fostering a culture of appreciation and motivation. This approach aligns with the understanding that a small percentage of employees typically create a significant impact, and accurately identifying these individuals is crucial for organizational success.

Improving Retention and Internal Mobility

The insights provided by ONA also play a vital role in enhancing employee retention and promoting internal mobility. By accurately identifying top performers and those ready for new challenges, organizations can provide targeted career development opportunities, reducing turnover rates and increasing employee loyalty. This approach echoes the success seen in companies like Chipotle, where a shift to internal hiring for managerial positions led to a significant drop in turnover rates.

Supporting a Modern Workforce

In today's evolving work environment, where remote and hybrid models have altered traditional work dynamics, ONA offers managers and leaders a much-needed tool to understand and effectively manage their teams. By providing insights into how work really gets done in these new settings, ONA helps in adapting management and support strategies to fit the modern workplace.

Driving Organizational Success

Ultimately, the implementation of ONA in performance reviews is not just about improving a process; it's about fostering a more engaged, motivated, and well-supported workforce. This approach aligns individual goals with broader business strategies, driving organizational success. Companies that embrace this innovative method will likely see not only enhanced employee performance and satisfaction but also improved overall organizational health and effectiveness.

In conclusion, the adoption of Organizational Network Analysis in performance reviews represents a crucial step towards a more equitable, accurate, and effective approach to employee evaluation and development. By leveraging the insights provided by ONA, organizations can better recognize, develop, and retain their talent, ensuring a robust and dynamic workforce poised to meet the challenges of the modern business world.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is Organizational Network Analysis (ONA)?

Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) is a method used to map and analyze the relationships and interactions within an organization. It focuses on how work really gets done through these networks, rather than through formal hierarchical structures alone. ONA provides insights into the informal connections between employees, identifying key influencers, collaboration patterns, and information flow. This approach helps organizations understand and leverage the hidden dynamics of their workforce for more effective performance reviews and talent management.

Q: How does ONA improve traditional performance reviews?

ONA improves traditional performance reviews by adding a layer of data-driven insights that are often missed in conventional methods. Traditional reviews can be biased and limited to a manager's perspective, but ONA provides an objective view of an employee's performance based on their interactions and influence within the organization. This approach helps identify not just the most vocal or visible employees, but also the "quiet contributors" who are central to team success. By reducing bias and providing a fuller picture of employee performance, ONA leads to fairer and more accurate evaluations.

Q: Can ONA be integrated with existing performance review processes?

Yes, ONA can be integrated with existing performance review processes. It is not meant to replace traditional methods but to complement them. Organizations can start by incorporating ONA data into their current review systems, using it to enhance and validate the assessments made through conventional methods. Training managers on how to interpret and use ONA data effectively is crucial for successful integration. Over time, organizations can refine their approach to make the best use of the insights provided by ONA.

Q: Is ONA suitable for all types of organizations?

ONA is versatile and can be beneficial for a wide range of organizations, regardless of size or industry. It is particularly useful for organizations with complex structures, remote or hybrid work environments, or those undergoing significant changes. However, the implementation of ONA should be tailored to the specific context and needs of each organization. The key is to start with clear objectives and a well-thought-out plan for data collection, analysis, and application.

How does ONA support employee development and career progression?

ONA supports employee development and career progression by providing insights into an individual's strengths, areas for improvement, and their role within the larger organizational network. It helps identify employees who are ready for new challenges and those who might benefit from additional training or mentorship. By recognizing hidden talents and potential, ONA enables organizations to make informed decisions about promotions, succession planning, and talent development, aligning individual aspirations with organizational goals.

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