Employee personas: What they are and how to use them

Employee personas: What they are and how to use them

Many companies use buyer personas to determine how to attract and serve their customers effectively. In the same way, employee personas can provide helpful information about the people who work in your organization. An employee persona describes a group of employees with similar characteristics, such as demographics or professional goals. Knowing how to use employee personas can improve the employee experience, creating a workplace where people feel valued and engaged.

What are employee personas?

An employee persona, also known as a workplace persona or a work persona, is a fictionalized description of an employee. Usually, this persona represents a segment of employees based on their shared characteristics. Employee personas often describe the following attributes:

  • Basic demographic information, such as age and education
  • Job title
  • Job duties
  • Professional experience
  • Employment duration
  • Career path
  • Professional goals
  • Motivations
  • Frustrations or challenges

Employee personas usually reflect the actual employees who work within an organization. Many human resources (HR) managers use employee personas to make workplace decisions and create a positive culture by improving the employee experience.

What are the benefits of using employee personas?

All employees have their own unique needs, goals, and challenges. While you can't get everyone's opinion when you develop initiatives or make decisions, you can use personas to keep employees at the top of your mind. Using an employee persona for HR purposes can help you:

  • Communicate internally: You can use workplace personas to determine what information employees need to know so they don't become overwhelmed by internal communications. For example, all employees may need to know about a new workplace policy, but only certain ones may need to receive updates on the status of an ongoing project.
  • Improve the employee experience: Employee personas can help you create personalized experiences for employees to make them feel valued and appreciated. For example, you may combine employee personas and journey maps to improve the personnel experience and retain your best workers.
  • Understand employees: When you better understand employees, you can make decisions with their best interests in mind. This understanding can lead to a positive workplace culture where people feel motivated to do their best and want to remain with the company.
  • Hire effectively: Employee personas can also benefit the hiring process. When evaluating a candidate, you can reference employee personas to determine whether they'd be a good fit for the organization.

"Employee personas can help you create personalized experiences for employees to make them feel valued and appreciated."

How to create and use employee personas

While you may already have some ideas about the personas within your organization, take the time to create a formal document with this information. By doing so, you can continue to reference the personas whenever you need to make HR decisions that affect employees. You can also share the document with others, such as managers or executives, who want to use the personas to guide their decision-making.

Here are the steps to create and use employee personas for your organization.

Get employee feedback

You should model employee personas after those who already work for the company. For this reason, getting employee feedback is essential to create effective personas. Don't make assumptions in this step since you don't know what employees think and feel. Instead, you can use a few or all of the following methods to get feedback from employees:

  • If you have a small team, meet with each employee individually to ask about their wants, needs, goals, and frustrations.
  • Create an employee survey and send it out to everyone in the organization.
  • Hold focus groups with different employees to ask them questions and gain insights about their experiences.
  • Observe employees in the workplace directly and ask questions to supplement your observations.

In addition to these methods, you can also collect indirect feedback by referencing other HR data. For example, you may look at past employee engagement surveys, retention rates, exit interviews, and internal ratings.

Develop different segments

Now that you have some data to work with, you can develop different employee segments or profiles. Consider how you plan to segment personas. For example, you may create personas for different job levels, such as entry-level workers, intermediate employees, managers, and executives. You can divide employees into groups based on their office location, work arrangement (in-person, hybrid, or remote), or employment status (full-time, part-time, or temporary). You can also segment personas by department, such as sales, accounting, and HR personas.

How many personas you develop will depend on your team or organization. Typically, one team will have between three and five personas. You may have a longer list if you're developing personas for a larger group.

Ask questions

Before you document the personas, ask some questions to get a better understanding of each segment. If you're unsure how to answer a question, consult with employees to get their answers so you're not guessing. Some employee persona questions you may ask include the following:

  • How much experience do you have in the industry?
  • What skills do you use to do your job?
  • What are the biggest work-related challenges you face?
  • What motivates you in the workplace?
  • What are your career goals?
  • What do you need to meet those goals?

Build personas

Now, you're ready to build each employee persona. In a document, list each persona and describe the various segments. For each persona, include the following information:

  • A name for the persona, such as HR Hillary, Manager Megan, and Remote Roger
  • A photo to represent the persona
  • Demographic information, such as their education, job title, department, tenure, and location
  • Skills or processes they use in their job
  • Professional goals and motivations
  • Workplace frustrations and challenges

Create a profile for each persona you've identified. Store this information where everyone who needs it can access it easily.

Review and test employee personas

Even after going through the above steps, your final personas may need adjustments. Review each one carefully to determine where to add information or collect additional feedback.

After you implement the personas, you can continue to change them. For example, you might gain new insights into a particular persona. Other factors, such as societal or economic shifts, may also make additional changes necessary in the future. That's OK. You can change and modify the personas over time to best reflect the current workforce in your organization.

Employee persona template

Here's a template you can use to build and implement your employee personas.

[Persona name]

  • [Job title and department]
  • [Basic demographic information, such as age, education, location, and family]

Role

  • [List of job duties]

Skills

  • [List of skills or processes they use to do their job]

Professional goals and motivations

  • [One or two of their career goals]
  • [List of what motivates them in their job]

Frustrations

  • [List of challenges they experience in the workplace]

You can create or update employee personas at any time. It's helpful to work with other HR managers or leaders as you develop these personas. This information can help the leadership team make decisions and create initiatives tailored to the unique needs of your employees. By building these personas, you can better understand personnel and create a productive, positive organizational culture.

More tips on improving the employee experience and workplace culture:

Employee personas can help you evaluate job candidates for cultural fit. Here are some other tips for hiring workers who'll be a good match for your business.

Every employee is different, making it hard to meet all their needs. Check out these tips to improve the well-being of all employees in your organization.

Culture is a key part of any business. These strategies can help you define the workplace culture so you can attract and retain top talent for your organization.

Employees who feel motivated in the workplace usually perform better and stay with a company longer. Use these tips to motivate your employees and reduce turnover.

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