Redefining employee personas for the flexible workplace

What are employee personas and why do they need to be redefined for the flexible workplace?

9th Apr 2024

Employee personas are profiles that represent groups of employees with similar traits. They help organisations understand what employees want and need, making it easier to create a good work environment.

Traditionally, employee personas have been related to factors like business function, behavioural style and seniority. The challenge of this approach is that it was built on the assumption that everyone was in the office. In this blog Sam Raymond, the VP of North America at Desana shares his thoughts on what employee personas are and why they need to be redefined for the flexible workplace. 

In this blog we’re going to look at:

  • How employee personas help organisations understand their employees
  • Why we need to redefine employee personas
  • How to redefine employee personas for the flexible workplace 
  • The benefits of redefining employee personas
  • How to use employee data to enhance your workspace strategy

How employee personas help organisations understand their employees

In the past employee personas have been used mainly to help organisations better understand their employees in order to make more informed business decisions. 

Employee personas help companies: 

  • Gain insights into diverse needs: By understanding employee’s diverse needs and preferences employee personas serve as a window into the various demographics, personalities, and roles within a company. 
  • Create a more supportive working environment: Personas help companies  tailor their strategies and policies to work for each employee's different needs. By having a deeper understanding of these needs more tailored strategies can be put in place. 
  • Enhance workplace culture: By understanding employee goals and challenges, businesses can implement strategies and ways of working that increase employee satisfaction and wellbeing.  

Why we need to redefine employee personas

The way we work has changed significantly, with the traditional corporate office becoming less common. This shift begs the question: How can we determine if employee performance and satisfaction are influenced by workload, schedules, or workspace?

In November 2023, Slack conducted a survey of over 15,000 desk workers to explore how employee personas vary in their work styles, communication preferences, and embrace of technology. Focused on employee communication, this research provides organisations with valuable insights into the diverse needs of the modern workforce.

Among the five distinct workplace personas identified, it became evident that individuals have different approaches to work. For the 'Road Warrior' persona, flexibility emerged as a key priority regarding when and where they work. Described as individuals who work from various locations at different times, they thrive on building connections remotely and prioritise flexibility in their schedules.

So, what implications do these personas hold for organisations, and how can they leverage them to enhance the employee experience?

As organisations continue to navigate the evolving landscape of the workplace, it's important to refine how we characterise our workforce. This involves leveraging new solutions to measure where and how we work. Space utilisation is one way we can do this and by looking at this alongside employee satisfaction will help us better understand how employees prefer to work. Technology plays a key role in doing this. This can be done by enabling the measurement of space utilisation through methods such as heat maps, badge access data, and desk bookings, facilitated by both custom and third-party applications.

By deep diving into these insights, organisations can make better decisions about the workplaces that drive business success, and whether that entails embracing fully remote work or a hybrid approach with a mix of in office attendance and remote working.

How to redefine employee personas for the flexible workplace 

Each company has their own way of describing their workforce. To begin with they need to understand their people, and the objectives for each persona, the tools that will help them, and the KPIs that will track it. 

It is, unfortunately, not a simple task, or one that can currently be templatized. This is because how performance is measured is unique to each organisation. 

The key here is to break the standard way of categorising your workforce. Not everyone will have the same requirements just because they are in Sales or in North America. By recognizing that this an oversimplification of your workforce needs you are already in a position to start assessing their requirements. Below we explore two key areas for consideration when evaluating your workplace personas.

1. Think about which metrics matter to you

Employee personas, and how you will use them to measure successful workplace policies, should align to the metrics that matter to your organisation. For example, if employee retention and satisfaction are particularly important then you may want to track engagement. This often includes how much employees look forward to work, or if they feel they are well equipped to deliver their work.

Common reporting metrics would include:

  • Retention: This is normally measured over a year or more. Retention looks at  the percentage of employees still with the company. 
  • Productivity: This is the output an individual employee makes within a specified input (cost) and a specified duration. 
  • Engagement: eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) is a popular way of measuring engagement quantitatively but some organisations capture this during 1-1’s. 
  • Satisfaction: Surveys are one of the most common ways to measure satisfaction, this can be done on a ranking scale to provide baseline comparisons and then measuring ESI (Employee Satisfaction Index)

2. Review your flexible working policies 

It is important to consider the many ways your organisation can deliver workplace flexibility. Often organisations focus on place, offering work from anywhere, or hybrid working. However, research shows that true flexibility, and all the benefits it brings, also provides schedule and role flexibility, such as compressed hours or part-time roles. 

Flexibility is now essential to most employees and it’s important to look at what it means to them. The Buffer State of Remote Work Report is a great reminder of the different ways employees view flexibility with 19% said it’s flexibility in where they choose to live and 13% said it’s the flexibility to choose their work location. Both have equal importance when it comes to understanding what flexible working means to your employees. 

  • Assess the current situation: Evaluate existing flexible working policies, culture, and infrastructure. Think about job roles, technology needs, and communication methods.
  • Develop a flexible working policy: Craft a clear policy detailing options like remote work, flexible hours, or condensed workweeks, along with eligibility criteria, expectations, and communication guidelines.
  • Communicate and train: Inform all employees about the policy and provide training for managers on supporting flexible teams.
  • Promote a flexible culture: Use platforms like Flexa to showcase your flexible working policies, attracting talent aligned with your values. Emphasise your commitment to inclusivity and diversity, positioning your organisation as an attractive and inclusive employer.

The benefits of redefining employee personas 

Redefining employee personas with flexible working in mind brings several benefits to organisations. By offering choices and monitoring their impact, companies can better understand what kind of flexibility employees prefer, whether it's in their working hours, location, or tasks. According to a recent OC Tanner report on Global Culture, providing employees with flexibility in their schedules and work locations significantly improves various cultural outcomes:

  • Engagement increases by 41%
  • Retention rates rise by 77%
  • Likelihood of being a Promoter on the eNPS scale goes up by 41%
It's not surprising to discover that organisations that prioritise employee autonomy, connection, and mastery are 7.5 times more likely to enhance the employee experience.

How to use employee data to enhance your workspace strategy

Senior HR, RE, and Workplace leaders have traditionally collaborated to align workspace with employee needs for productivity and satisfaction. However, as employee personas evolve, it's essential to adapt how we assess workspace. This presents an opportunity to leverage metrics and technology to develop innovative strategies that prioritise employee well-being and maintain competitiveness for your business. Here are some of the ways we can do just that: 

  1. HRIS data

A crucial step toward understanding how workspace impacts employee experience is integrating this information to your human resources information system (HRIS). Refine employee personas to include the team level agreements on how they’re working, whether that’s remote, hybrid, or full time office, and, regardless of whether it's a single policy or based on individual need and demand, include this information when you’re tagging people in your HRIS. 

  1. Badge data 

Badge swipe data from owned offices can be added, and sometimes flex space providers will share data on employee use. Ultimately, this data is often siloed, disconnected from the employee persona and can require a custom solution to integrate into personas.

  1. Unified workspace data 

Take advantage of the growing technologies that offer a single platform for employees to book physical space and can anonymously connect this booking information to HRIS. Tracking workspace behaviours across an entire organisation could easily become a huge administrative task. Use the technology that's out there to bring this together into a single booking platform, making it easier for both employees and management. 

There is no one size fits all 

In the changing world of workspaces, it's crucial to focus on understanding what metrics matter most when it comes to analysing employee satisfaction and productivity. Trying new things, keeping track of what works, and gathering insights are essential. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to workspaces. and organisations should use the right tools to create strategies that work best for their business.

This blog was written by Sam Raymond, the VP of North America at Desana

Desana is an organisation that powers the complete hybrid workplace experience for global companies. Their platform is used to manage, pay for, and use workspace, across offices and the global flexible workspace market.

To find out more you can watch Desana’s latest webinar where they look at the key trends in the world of flexible work, the organisational challenges that commonly occur, and the emerging market solutions.