The Case for Persona Creation to support Employee Communications

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400+ days after WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, employees have had 400+ days of working through “the new normal”. And Communications leaders have had just as many days of communicating to those employees in hybrid or fully -remote work environments. The thing about the “new normal” though is that it’s not that new anymore – and it’s certainly not normal. Employees have different working environments, workspace preferences and personal and team-level priorities that not only influence their information needs and message consumption trends, but also inform their willingness and ability to support organizational change. All these differences require MORE personalization from Communications to drive action from messaging. As such, it’s time to step back and create an internal comms messaging strategy for the current normal. To scale the personalization needed, Communications leaders have been increasingly relying on employee personas*. Personas offer an opportunity to really get to know employees when you have a specific behavior or objective in mind. Beyond employee segmentation (which is a necessary exercise in itself) – personas amplify Communications leaders’ ability to target employees by considering non-demographic attributes that influence an employee’s information consumption and decision making — including their attitudes and behaviors. Now, many of you will have heard of, or used, personas to understand customers or consumers….but it seems to be an emerging trend for Internal Comms. Our question to you then is: Why aren’t you using personas internally? Here’s our case…. You have the data: Or at least the ability to gather it. Employee feedback surveys and listening tools have increased in frequency and access over the course of the past year. Originally leveraged to pulse employees on COVID-19 related decisions, they now give Corporate Comms insight into employee sentiment. There are other necessary inputs for employee personas but consider all the existing data you have FIRST. Then, you can move on to focus groups and partnerships with HR and frontline managers to complete the personas. Segments are not enough right now: Maybe you think you know how employees will react to messages/announcements, but is that enough to stake your content and channel strategy on? With so much change impacting the way employees interact with Comms messages, personas are a valuable input in refreshing your content and channel strategy to align most directly with their current needs and access to information. Elevate your function’s strategic impact: Related to Return to Workplace planning and Vaccine Comms especially, personas can help your team anticipate reactions and target communication more directly. This intel will uniquely position Comms to inform ongoing business decisions. There is cost and time associated with persona creation yes; however, given the extent of change right now, having the clearest understanding of how and why employees are experiencing it is invaluable. Personas will help address psychographic barriers to employee behavior change. Ultimately, personas should inform the answers to questions like: What kind of information does this individual need? What content will likely engage them? How can we present the message in an appealing and engaging way? If we’ve got you convinced, start with the below framework to determine if personas are right for you, right now. For Gartner clients, full details are available here: Using Personas to Target Employee Communications  and Ignition Guide to Creating Employee Personas (Gartner Subscription required) *An employee persona is a hypothetical character who represents a particular segment of the workforce that might have shared values, behaviors, motivations, attitudes and demographics. Like user and buyer personas, employee personas can be a means by which to consider the goals, behaviors and barriers that the target audience faces. Persona development requires having a behavioral objective in mind (e.g., use of software, purchase of a product); likewise, communicators must have an objective in mind when creating employee personas to ensure that the finalized personas help achieve that goal. Abigail Blair and Alexandra Earl

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400+ days after WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, employees have had 400+ days of working through “the new normal”. And Communications leaders have had just as many days of communicating to those employees in hybrid or fully -remote work environments. The thing about the “new normal” though is that it’s not that new anymore – and it’s certainly not normal.

Employees have different working environments, workspace preferences and personal and team-level priorities that not only influence their information needs and message consumption trends, but also inform their willingness and ability to support organizational change. All these differences require MORE personalization from Communications to drive action from messaging. As such, it’s time to step back and create an internal comms messaging strategy for the current normal.

To scale the personalization needed, Communications leaders have been increasingly relying on employee personas*. Personas offer an opportunity to really get to know employees when you have a specific behavior or objective in mind. Beyond employee segmentation (which is a necessary exercise in itself) – personas amplify Communications leaders’ ability to target employees by considering non-demographic attributes that influence an employee’s information consumption and decision making — including their attitudes and behaviors.

Now, many of you will have heard of, or used, personas to understand customers or consumers….but it seems to be an emerging trend for Internal Comms. Our question to you then is: Why aren’t you using personas internally? Here’s our case….

You have the data: Or at least the ability to gather it. Employee feedback surveys and listening tools have increased in frequency and access over the course of the past year. Originally leveraged to pulse employees on COVID-19 related decisions, they now give Corporate Comms insight into employee sentiment. There are other necessary inputs for employee personas but consider all the existing data you have FIRST. Then, you can move on to focus groups and partnerships with HR and frontline managers to complete the personas.
Segments are not enough right now: Maybe you think you know how employees will react to messages/announcements, but is that enough to stake your content and channel strategy on? With so much change impacting the way employees interact with Comms messages, personas are a valuable input in refreshing your content and channel strategy to align most directly with their current needs and access to information.
Elevate your function’s strategic impact: Related to Return to Workplace planning and Vaccine Comms especially, personas can help your team anticipate reactions and target communication more directly. This intel will uniquely position Comms to inform ongoing business decisions.

There is cost and time associated with persona creation yes; however, given the extent of change right now, having the clearest understanding of how and why employees are experiencing it is invaluable. Personas will help address psychographic barriers to employee behavior change. Ultimately, personas should inform the answers to questions like: What kind of information does this individual need? What content will likely engage them? How can we present the message in an appealing and engaging way?

If we’ve got you convinced, start with the below framework to determine if personas are right for you, right now. For Gartner clients, full details are available here: Using Personas to Target Employee Communications  and Ignition Guide to Creating Employee Personas (Gartner Subscription required)

*An employee persona is a hypothetical character who represents a particular segment of the workforce that might have shared values, behaviors, motivations, attitudes and demographics. Like user and buyer personas, employee personas can be a means by which to consider the goals, behaviors and barriers that the target audience faces. Persona development requires having a behavioral objective in mind (e.g., use of software, purchase of a product); likewise, communicators must have an objective in mind when creating employee personas to ensure that the finalized personas help achieve that goal.

Abigail Blair and Alexandra Earl

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