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Employee personas: creating unique experiences in a hybrid world

HR could – and probably should – learn more from marketing. One of the main areas of interest is how marketeers approach a diverse client base: with personas, semi-fictional cohorts of people with similar traits, values and behaviours. Translated to HR, this idea might significantly improve the employee experiences (EX) in a hybrid team.

Our recent employer survey, The Future of Work and People, showed that delivering unique employee experiences is considered the second biggest HR challenge for the future. That doesn’t come as a surprise. In today’s world, work is no longer a place – it’s an activity that can be performed anywhere, anytime. Many workforces have become hybrid, enlarging the diversity of possible employee experiences. A new approach towards EX, with tools like employee personas, is therefore a pressing issue.

    What are employee personas?

    Employee personas are models that represent different groups of employees. Like customer personas, they’re based on data and insights from multiple sources to create rich profiles. These contain detailed information about each persona’s characteristics. Afterwards, you bring them to life by building a narrative around them and by using them to tailor employee experiences.

    Common characteristics to include in employee personas:

    • Age and stage of life
    • Position, status and experience in the company
    • Career goals
    • Pain points and frustrations
    • Attitude towards change
    • Professional experiences
    • Values, behaviour and personality
    • Work preferences
    • Performance and motivation
    • Digital tools at work/home
    • Preferred communication channels

    With a handful of distinct employee types, you’ll be able to create more personalised employee experiences that are likely to resonate with employees.



        Why do employee personas make more sense now than before?

        In many ways, employees have become customers of work. They have a greater awareness of and access to other opportunities. People have also adapted a consumer mindset at work as they expect frictionless experiences with, among other things, digital tools and employee benefits. So, within a single workforce, the individual needs can vary greatly. And as an employer, you can only address these needs if you know about them. That’s where employee personas come in.

          Employee personas allow you to leverage the flexibility that hybrid offers.

          How to get started with employee personas in 4 steps

          Don’t try to guess at the employee personas in your organisation. Instead, use qualitative and quantitative data to develop profiles. And always keep in mind that these types of employees are generic to a certain extent and won’t capture every unique trait.

          #1 Decide on a game plan

          Browse through employee personas from other organisations to better understand the concept and pinpoint the characteristics you’d like to include in yours. Then, check which data you already have and which not. For example, you probably have access to statistics on demographics, information on absence rates and results from employee surveys.

          A tip: reach out to colleagues who have experience with creating personas as they can help with drawing up questions to obtain the needed feedback and could provide formats.

          #2 Gather employee feedback

          To obtain the missing information, it might be a good idea to organise employee focus groups. Get a conversation going and have them build off each other’s ideas, motivations and experiences. Other possible research methods include one-on-one interviews, workplace observation and employee surveys. All this input will help you to develop a concrete understanding of what makes your hybrid workforce tick and what doesn’t.

          #3 Look for patterns

          Now, it’s time to identify potential cohorts that share pain points, behaviours, teleworking preferences, etc. You can do this by passing the datasets through a powerful analytics tool or – if you have the time – by analysing the data yourself. Every cohort should then get a name and all the key information.

          Remember, try to stick to a handful of profiles. Too many personas will make it difficult to translate your work into actionable employee experience plans.

          #4 Reiterate your personas

          It’s likely that you won’t hit a homerun right off the bat. Your employee personas will probably need some finetuning. So, validate them with the employees they represent before you actually use them. To do this, you can organise a second round of focus group talks. The final versions can then be designed into highly polished profiles.

          Ready. Set. Go.

          Employee personas contribute to more personal and valuable employee experiences. Especially if you combine them with employee journey mapping. This last technique is about breaking the entire employee journey down into individual moments, helping you to identify the moments that matter most for employees. With personas, you can then make a bigger difference during those moments – a nice prospect now people are working in entirely new situations and companies are having to overcome unprecedented change.

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