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Analytics Seminar: Social Capital Intelligence - The New Frontier of People Analytics

Analytics Seminar 13th June 2018 by Mr Arun Sundar

Big Social Capital Intelligence - The New Frontier of People Analytics


Mr Arun Sundar
Chief Strategy Officer, TrustSphere Pte Ltd

The words Social and Capital are both commonly used and heard. The generally accepted meaning of the word Social has taken a substantial change in recent years, thanks to the revolutionary technologies including Facebook, Twitter etc. However, these are technology tools for online Social networking. The effect they have on the word ‘Social’ is akin to the effect Xerox had on photocopying industry where the tool is considered the industry. Social however is deeper than just online networking, it is the connections people have, it is essentially what makes man a social animal. The general assumption of the value (capital) of being ‘Social’ started being perceived to be the value that comes from one’s connections. A closer look would defeat this view.

When addressing the topic of disruption, the phrase ‘Traditional businesses are disrupted by the “new normal”’ is commonly brought up but not everyone understood why. The rise of Uber and Netflix shared a thing in common – the pattern in which they changed traditional businesses. Both companies understood the prominence of the ecosystem between people and data. People is the main ingredient that makes up this ecosystem, in other words, business is “humanized”. To succeed in this ecosystem, we must change our perception that people and business are separated entities as business would be non-existent without the people behind it.

Aside to the inherent tendency of humans to be ‘connected’, there is a profound urge to be ‘relevant’ to fellow humans. The measure of a man is not just the money he makes or assets he owns or the number of people he knows. It is also the relationships and relevance he has built or helped others build over time. This combination of being ‘Connected’ and ‘Relevant’ to others is what the institute terms as ‘Social Capital’. In most definitions of Social Capital, the focus has been purely on connections. The value that comes from those connections or the relevance part to the connections has been largely ignored.

Business is driven by people, for people.

A successful business is a machinery that generates social capital. Hence, it is crucial for managers to understand what drives their employees, what are their work patterns and what make them tick. The Maslow Hierarchy of Needs differentiates humans from animals wherein we have higher order needs and are able build relevance with the things we do such as forging relationships with others. This makes the evolution of mankind the most successful one in history. Forging of relationships generates social capital. The focus should be on building relevance to the ecosystem as that is what drives people forward.

The value of an individual to the society or even to oneself is the relevance she or he has to the ones measuring him, not just the number of connections he has. Similar is the value of a business, the measure is the relevance it has with its customers, not just the number of customers. ‘Relevance’ is a key component of Social Capital, the institute aims to bring this vector into the thinking, understanding, measurement and leverage of ‘Social Capital’.

With advancements in science and technology, leaders in the analytics are getting more and more interesting in discovering the value of people analytics. By using the data collected, we will be able to see patterns and by understanding them, we will be able to unlock its value. Employee value is divided into two categories – capability and connectivity. Traditionally, HR departments are only capable of evaluating capability but not connectivity. Capability comprises of traits and skillsets that enables employees to perform while connectivity, the fundamental of social capital, represents the relationships and networks built by employees to help them get their work done. Social capital is built using networks, a person with one, a hundred or a thousand networks does not really matter as it is the quality and relevance of these networks that really matter. Through analytics, companies will be able to better quantify the intensity of relationships between individuals using Organization Network Analytics (ONA). There are two ways to it – active collection and passive collection. The former would be collecting information upfront with employees knowing about it through ways such as company wide surveys. The latter would be sieving through data sources without the knowledge of employees to establish email connection patterns between employees.

The use of ONA can go a long way to help the company make smarter workplace decisions. Firstly, it enables the company to identify and develop potential leaders by measuring and analysing the networks and relationships these employees have across the organization and determine if they have strong social capital. In the leaders’ development phase, theorganization can discover the influences, collaborations and impacts these employees have on the way their teams function. This allows the company to make better judgements and address potential pitfalls in a quicker and more efficient manner. Secondly, ONA can be used to improve employees’ wellness. Network and communication behaviours can be leading indicators of changes in employees’ wellness. Passive ONA enables organizations to measure factors such as over-collaboration, poor work-life balance and lack of concentrated efforts which all indicates an increased risk of burnt out employees. Lastly, the collection of data can be used to drive diversity and inclusion. TrustSphere enables its clients to measure differences in networks, influences and relationships that different employee groups built. This data can later be used to help D&I officers to understand where issues exist, prove conjectures and help employees build the right relationships and stronger social capital networks. This also helps organizations set realistic achievable measurable goals which is better than simply changes numbers blindly like in the past.

There are various tech which aid enterprises to measure the Social Capital of its employees. TrustSphere is an example. TrustSphere is a widely recognized market leader in Relationship Analytics. They help organizations leverage a most valuable asset – their collective relationship network. By analyzing privacy compliant metadata from enterprise communication and collaboration systems and applying technology driven Organizational Network Analysis, TrustSphere creates the enterprise relationship graph and measures the social capital of individual employees, teams and organizations.

Current uses of their workforce analytics solutions include measuring the impact of leadership development, identifying HIPOs and those at risk of burnout, understanding the effectiveness of line managers, finding hidden influencers and assessing the effectiveness of inclusion and diversity programs.

The use of people analytics goes beyond businesses and can be used areas such as education. An example would be in India where the teacher to student ratio is 1 to 72, making it very difficult for the teachers to manage everyone and identify the needs of every student. In this area, people analytics can be used to justify a child’s behaviour and attitude which would be helpful in identifying those with ADHD. A child with ADHD would be one that builds social capital regardless of time and lesson. However, if the child is only building social capital in a particular lesson, this may suggest that he is merely not interested in that subject and notone with ADHD. This will help teachers and schools better manage the students and address issues more accurately, which will help release the child’s potential in the long run.

The use of people analytics looks promising and with the help of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, it seems that we can leave this to technology completely without human interference. However, Mr Arun aptly pointed out that even with the best technology available, human wisdom can never be replaced. Instead, the use of analytics can only be used to augment and analyse if the right social capital is established. At the end of the day, humans must still be the one that make the final judgement.

Last updated on 27 Aug 2018 .