How to create an employee persona

By David Kuneš
Employee

In our last article, we mentioned the persona, a typical representative of a specific group of employees. We said that when we work with a company with a large number of employees, we don’t try to find out the employee experience of each employee. Instead, we divide the workers into several groups whose members perceive the work experience in the same or very similar ways. This paper picks up where we left off and reveals the procedures we use to treat personas in our research and subsequent refinement of the employee experience.

There are several different ways to create an image of a typical representative of a specific group of employees. It depends on the purpose of the persona. We mainly use personas to improve the employee experience, so we approach them from that perspective. At the same time, however, personas are an excellent tool for communicating with company leaders, allowing us to back up our research findings with concrete examples.

Questionnaire survey

First, we cluster employees roughly into a few groups, usually four to six, based on their employment experience. To do so, we use our initial questionnaire. Using evaluation scales, employees rate how they experience the company at so-called touchpoints: they report how they perceive their work environment, how well they like the tools and facilities for their work, how well the work processes and internal systems fit, whether they feel valued, whether they have opportunities for personal and career growth, and comment on many other areas.

We use cluster analysis to help us identify people with similar employment experiences. Once we have the employees divided into groups, we search for typical features of each particular cluster and the common characteristics of the individuals within groups. We are usually interested in whether the group comprises people from a specific generation, similar educational backgrounds, or professional affiliation. We create so-called proto-personas, rough sketches of what future personas might look like.

group A (11%) group B (14%) group C (18%) group D (42%) group E (6%) nonspecific
generation z y y x, y baby boomer, x non-classifiable employees
education college high school college high school, college college
position junior specialist support staff specialist low- & middle-level managers, specialists middle- & top-level managers
marital status single single single married married
hobbies social networks, traveling social networks, sport environment protection family, living, traveling sport, advanced technologies

Tab. 1: An example of proto-persons

Qualitative analysis

In parallel with the questionnaires, we are starting in-depth interviews with employees. Initially, we do not use any sampling strategy. We only ask company representatives to provide us with a diversity of employees for the discussions. We usually start with ten to fifteen interviews, depending on the size of the company. These give us a general idea of what the employees are experiencing. We examine how closely the reality of the company matches the expectations of the employees. We also try to find out whether the experience of some respondents is repetitive. If two independent researchers process the questionnaires and the interviews, they do not share their findings and work independently.

Only in the next phase, we compare the quantitative questionnaire data with the qualitative results of the in-depth interviews. According to this comparison, we adjust the proto-personas. We put together a list of topics that need to be discussed with the different employee groups to elaborate on each persona in detail. This time, we use stratified sampling; we ask company representatives to select specific employees according to given criteria – for example, people of a certain age, job title, or employment length. The number of these interviews varies. We usually conduct follow-up discussions with employees until we have a clear idea of what a typical representative of each group looks like.

Rendering of personas

When we have all the data needed, we elaborate on the personas in detail. For each group of employees, we create as accurate a picture as possible of its typical representative. We focus on the persona’s main expectations and how well these expectations are in line with the employer’s requirements. These findings then form the basis for further work to improve the employee experience.

We then introduce the company representatives to the personas and their most pressing problems, the most considerable discrepancies between their expectations and the company’s reality. Together we then select the desired interventions. Usually, we first identify those personas that are important for the company’s operation. Then we choose the system changes that will have the most significant impact on improving the employee experience of those personas, their productivity, and thus indirectly improving customer satisfaction. But more on this in a future article.

See an example of a persona:

Persona