Posted: 21 Apr. 2020 5 min. read

Using adaptable organization network analysis to reveal patterns that drive inclusion

Posted by Maya BodanDevon Dickau, and India Mullady on April 21, 2020.

Amid efforts to emphasize inclusion in addition to diversity, many corporations have struggled to accurately track and measure the sometimes-ambiguous concept of “inclusion.” Diversity—often measured via individuals’ self-reported identities and shared via pie charts and bar graphs—has for decades served as a straightforward metric for companies to assess what they have called “D&I” (or diversity and inclusion) efforts. In reality, point-in-time or longitudinal demographic data are largely only indications of diversity, not inclusion—not to mention that such data typically only includes percentages of a workforce who identify as a specific gender identity (male, female, or nonbinary) and race or ethnicity (for example, Latinx or Black/African American), let alone everyone else. However, assessing progress around inclusion has shown to be more difficult.

Yet, the difficulty of quantifying an inclusive culture does not make it less imperative; as Deloitte research and a multitude of other studies now suggest, “diversity without inclusion is worth less than when the two are combined.”1 So, how can organizations identify if their leaders, teams, or functions are not only diverse, but also inclusive? This is where Deloitte’s Adaptable Organizational Network Analysis (AONA) can play a role. Next to increasingly standard inclusion measures such as engagement survey results that reveal workforce assessment and quantitative assessments of the talent life cycle, uncovering potential organizational biases, AONA can give leaders relationship-based analytic insights on how work is truly getting done in their organization, shining a light on who is being included—and who is not.

Deloitte’s experience helping the world’s biggest organizations increase diversity and strengthen inclusion suggests that keys to success include a focus on six areas: business infrastructure, the talent life cycle, culture, customers, the external community, and brand. And each of these areas are enabled by two key factors: leadership and analytics.2 Analytics strategies—such as AONA—can help drive both diversity and inclusion by capturing a current state to reveal quantifiable organization-specific gaps and opportunities, measuring progress over time, and fostering accountability to drive decision-making.

What is AONA? Using network analytics and data visualization in the form of network maps, AONA can illuminate otherwise invisible information flows, connectivity, and collaboration between individuals and groups. It can surface individuals who serve as liaisons between groups, groups that operate in a vacuum without cross-functional collaboration, and employees who foster and hinder the flow of information.3 While it’s typical to identify which functions are isolated, less attention is often given to assessing the network impact on individuals who identify as members of underrepresented or minority populations. And while analyzing the networks of top performers is common, organizations rarely assess if the networks of top performers highlight systemic discrepancies for certain key populations as compared with others.

Beyond the surface: Uncovering discrepancies

Below, we’ve chosen a few questions that AONA can be used to answer. Organizations often start with questions like these and then ask increasingly targeted questions as their understanding of their workforce’s inclusion grows.

Where do we start the conversation on inclusivity in our organization?

In the above example, we see a firm that collects gender data as a binary with relatively equal proportions of men (navy node) and women (purple node). In this sample set, all employees selected female or male as their stated gender. Additionally, top collaborators (the largest circles) seem to be relatively equal between men and women. However, using AONA, we see that there’s a distinct community on the periphery (circled in yellow) that is male-dominated. The culture and inclusiveness may vary in that community compared with the rest of the network and will require deeper assessment and possibly interventions to provide more support.

Are our informal mentorship efforts and programs effective?

While an organization may be considered relatively diverse, informal mentorship at the leadership level often falls along ethnic and racial lines.

In the above AONA network, racial diversity is binary (white and nonwhite), and white (green nodes) and nonwhite employees (purple nodes) are closely clustered when asked who they go to for mentorship. Additionally, we see that the most senior employees (largest circles in this image) are more frequently white and are listed as informal mentors by other white employees. This is a common issue when organizations focus on increasing diversity, but make limited effort to ensure inclusivity. Realizing disparities in mentorship can be an important step in developing efforts to enhance inclusion.

Just as AONA can reveal how work gets done, an in-depth organizational analysis such as AONA can serve as a useful method to measure inclusion—uncovering quantifiable inequities in collaboration and mentorship, among other relationships, that reveal a critical need for focused efforts to promote equity and foster belonging.

Unlock more insights with AONA

AONA can increase visibility of networks within an organization’s complex ecosystem and can lay the groundwork for answering many more questions beyond inclusion. Read more about what it takes to become an adaptable organization in Deloitte’s perspective, here.

About Diversity & Inclusion Consulting at Deloitte

Deloitte has been helping shape corporate America’s diversity and inclusion landscape for more than two and a half decades. We have built our business on an inclusive culture that is widely recognized and is core to everything we do. Our Diversity & Inclusion Consulting practice functions as a “firm within a firm”—a boutique of passionate, deeply knowledgeable subject-matter advisers who draw on the power of the globally top-ranked human capital consulting firm to elevate diversity and inclusion as holistic business imperatives. Read more about Deloitte’s D&I consulting services here.

We gratefully acknowledge Christina Brodzik, Sharon Hong, Tiffany Mcdowell, and Charity Migwi for their contributions to this piece.


  • Maya Bodan is a senior manager in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Organization Transformation practice, with a focus on supporting senior leaders through large-scale organization design and operating model transformations to help them prepare for the future of work.
  • Devon Dickau is co-lead of Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) practice and a manager in the Workforce Transformation practice, with a focus on the intersections between D&I, talent, culture, social impact, analytics, business operations, and the future of work.
  • India Mullady

We gratefully acknowledge Christina Brodzik, Sharon Hong, and Charity Migwi for their contributions to this piece.


1 Deloitte Insights, “The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths.”

2 Deloitte’s proprietary D&I maturity diagnostic framework.

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Tiffany McDowell, PhD

Tiffany McDowell, PhD

Principal | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Tiffany is a principal in Human Capital and serves as the national leader for Deloitte’s Organization Strategies practice. Tiffany has more than 16 years of business and consulting experience, delivering operating model, organization design, and talent strategies. She is a forerunner in delivering Organizational Network Analysis insights to clients. She holds a Master of Business Administration and a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology.