HR Maps and Visual Network Analysis


November 15, 2010

Last week I wrote about wanting to create a fun, funky map of HR information.  The post received many comments with good ideas on what direction that creativity could take in the HR industry.  One comment in particular really stood out to me.  Josh Letourneau, owner of Knight & Bishop, is one of the industry leaders in using visual network analysis to aid organizations in key areas of key employee retention, succession planning, new leader development, and social software selection.  His comment about visual network analysis is something worth reading.  Thank you Josh for providing such a thoughtful comment and the embedded resources.

I completely feel you on this, Trish – in fact, everything I do with Network Analysis is visualized in maps. The reason is very simple:

“The eyes can think in ways that the brain cannot.”

The eyes are very sensitive to patterns and colors, etc., even if most of the information our brain is processing is unconscious.

Great visualizations are an art form – there is nothing more than impressive than ‘knowledge compression’ through visualization and mapping. Great visualization is, in my eyes, a form of relief. With today’s web and ability to store more info and data than ever before, we need a new way to ‘see’ and make sense of this data.

When you combine eye-thinking (visuals) with numbers and text, etc., you’re bringing together 2 ways in which the mind works. To combine the language of the eye with the language of the mind is truly amazing.

When visualized properly, data can be beautiful and lovely.

This leads me to the notion of simplicity – in a world of Consultants and Vendors that want to make our space more and more complicated, beautiful visualization is the key to making complex things simple.

Instead of buying into the new (but soon to be evaporated) fad that the HR Pro needs to become a Sociologist and/or Anthropologist, what we really need is beautiful visualization that keeps us focused on the right things. The insights that Steve mentions can be found within visualization; like a lighthouse cutting through the fog.

Real-life application

I truly believe that something as simple as a tree-map an shape something as complex as looking at all our of our talent acquisition efforts through a portfolio perspective. On the surface, it seems complicated, when in reality, all you need is the right visualization to convince Upper Mgmt why increased investments in certain talent pools are necessary.

For example, check out slides 18 and 19 here:

Slide 18 is a series of boxes showing SBU Revenue (bigger boxes = higher % of revenue) with the color indicating Revenue Growth (red = hot, blue = cold). Slide 19 is similar, but shows EBITDA per Employee. As you can see, the bottom right SBUs (in the little boxes) are small, but red hot in terms of growth.

Be sure to check out Knight & Bishop for more information on what Josh can provide to your organization.


  • So intrigued with this blog series Trish. As a visual person it speaks. Yes! to Knight & Bishop and “The eyes can think in ways that the brain cannot.”

    A book that was hot when I was in grad school was “Envisioning Information” by Tufte. He has several books that relate to visualizing math. I always thought I would have been far better at math if it was taught to me in a visual way rather than as a rote language of numbers.

    Seeing data is such a charge! Pattern is such a great reinforcing/persuading method when illustrating thought. Thanks for your posts and the comments.

    • @Lyn- Glad you liked Josh’s comment. I found it to be beautifully written. Also, interested in the book you mentioned. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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