If you want to improve the employee experience, an important step is to work with personas that represent the own employees. This is what we learn from Marketing, which has been studying its customers in this way for a long time now. After all, ‘one size fits all’ thinking does not work if you really want to connect with your own employees. Thinking in terms of target groups (male, 25-35 years old, middle secondary vocational education) does not lead to the necessary alignment either. The next step to deepening and real empathy is working with personas.
What are personas?
Persons are fictitious people you create based on research and data and that represent specific target groups. A persona tells the story of the specific target group that you would like to work for your organisation – or that is already working for it – and for which you want to improve the employee journey. It gives a segment a face, makes your target group come to life. This makes it easier to understand and comprehend with empathy. This way, you get to know your employees better and you can develop something that makes them happy at work.
We recommend analysing the personas for each subjourney (e.g. recruitment and selection, development, offboarding). It will often be necessary to adapt one persona or to create a new one per subjourney. After all, the characteristics of young professionals at a higher secondary vocation education level who are in the process of onboarding are not the same as those of an experienced employee who is leaving the organisation after 15 years. Also, often you won’t be able to do with just one persona. More personas will probably be needed per journey, but more than 6 or so personas are not recommended.
What information does a persona give?
Personas are based on research and data, for example from your best employees of which you want to have more in your organisation. The information is so specific that your persona will come to life for you: you will get images and sound. Not just objective information, but rather characteristics that illustrate a person’s character, motivation, attitude, convictions and expectations. The persona (male or female) has a name, specific age, place of residence, education, they indicate how many years they have worked in your organisation or elsewhere, whether they are single or have a family with small children. What does the persona find important in the job and what makes them happy, what annoys or worries them. What does a typical working day look like for the persona. But also, which life events are in the pipeline for them outside work, how they deal with social media and what they do in their spare time. The more specific, the more tools you have to find and address your persona. The better you describe their triggers, the better you can estimate what affects them and how you can use this to improve the employee experience for your persona.
What are the advantages of working with personas?
1. Working with personas enables you to better focus on your own employees so that actions are more in line with actual needs. It prevents you from shooting randomly. Which personas are right for your Employee Experience statement? Who can you and who do you want to make happy as an organisation, so that they will make your customer happy again? What purpose, vision and company values do you stand for, and to which your persona wants to commit.
2. The persona provides a common image and language for those who will work for this persona. “How would this work for ‘Jasmine’ and for ‘Yuri’?” It provides focus, agreement and direction. For this to happen, however, it is necessary that prior in-depth research, testing and coordination have been conducted. This will improve communication within the team.
3. It helps you to put yourself in the persona’s shoes, to think from that other person’s point of view and to understand their expectations and needs with empathy. This makes the HR team more involved than when it works for an anonymous segment. It keeps you away from assumptions made by you and your team and represents the real needs of your employees.
4. It helps to understand more quickly what the other person needs to be the best version of themselves in the (sub) journey. HR asks itself the question: what is the ideal employee experience that the persona wants to experience in this subjourney? As a result, improvement actions will lead to results more quickly and employees will become happier. Differentiation may be necessary. Ultimately, happier employees will lead to higher productivity.
5. It helps to improve communication with employees because it knows better with whom it communicates, where to find its information, what it wants to know and what tone of voice affects the other person.
Drawing up personas for your organisation takes time, but it benefits the employee experience to such extent that it is worth investing in. When the personas for your organisation have been defined, it doesn’t mean that they’re cast in concrete forever. Periodically, you’ll have to reassess, adjust or part company with personas and create new ones. It will be worth it!