Aug 12, 2021 Return to Work Planning: Why Persona Development is a Priority
As business leaders plan for permanent and often hybrid workplace options for their employees moving forward, there is a corresponding issue to address: What technology kits do they need, based on their workstyles, responsibilities, and locations to ensure optimal employee productivity and satisfaction?
Many organizations already had developed “personas” for their employees. Typically, they include four to eight types of workers, and each type corresponds with necessary hardware, licenses or software, and services. Post-COVID-19, however, these personas have largely become moot, and IT leaders must re-examine their persona classifications to accommodate for changes.
Why? Well, workstyles have changed, along with the applications and end-user equipment needed. People assume that the same work role has the same workstyle. That’s not always the case. Changing requirements are largely driven by so many people working from home, but it’s also driven by the improved quality and capabilities of technology. For example, video applications have become reliable with functional quality.
But the level of video and audio quality requirements will vary, based on the job description and the location of the worker. For example, noise cancellation headphones and a high-quality video camera may be significantly more important at a noisy, kid- and pet-filled home office than at a more quiet, private company office.
Those who think they can wait it out, and at some point, things will go back to the way they were will be disappointed. The workplace will not go back to the way it was pre-2020, when just 34% of employees worked from home, compared to 87% at the end of 2020. Moving forward, only 12.4% of companies have mandated employees will return to the office full time. The rest will be required to work from home (38.3%), work part-time in the office (9%), choose where they want to work (36.4%), or are unsure (3.9%). And in the contact center, only 6% of companies have said they will not allow work from home, and 20.9% are still evaluating. The rest will have agents work from home full- or part-time.
The number of technologies to consider has increased, as well. For example, with video so widely used, IT leaders must evaluate who needs lighting, backdrops, or high-quality video cameras. Then there are the additional end-user devices: Who needs handsets, headsets, mobile phones, monitors, laptops vs. thin clients, executive desk systems, small room video hardware, or webcams? Who needs business-grade Internet access, access through a VPN, licenses for team collaboration or UCaaS? And who pays for what?
Companies are investing in many of these areas in 2021 (see chart below), but which employees get what—and what level of sophistication?
Issues to Consider
Given the changing workplace of the future, as well as the new technologies available, consider these issues when developing your personas:
- Who will decide who’s coming to the office and who stays at home? And who, then, pays for the technology kit that supports employees? As stated, the same work role does not always have the same workstyle. For example, location matters when it comes to workstyle. If I work from home, I may need a high-quality video camera for webinars I conduct because I can’t leverage the commercial grade cameras we have at the office.
- Make sure to show empathy to employees. Some can’t handle the thought of returning to the office; others don’t appreciate the work invasion into their homes—and their productivity is affected by working in an undesirable location. Others have equal productivity and equal interest working in either location. Select the location on what will be best for both the employer and employee—but recognize the persona and corresponding IT kit may be different when employees with the same work role have different locations.
- With WFH becoming more of an option (for the employer and employee), what are the rules of engagement? From the employer’s perspective, will WFH employees be required to have a dedicated office (vs. a dual-purpose bedroom or kitchen), or if they don’t have the space, are noise-cancellation headphones and virtual backgrounds sufficient? If so, consider these requirements for the personas.
- Persona development is much harder than it seems on the surface. You can’t have a persona for every employee, but one size doesn’t fit all, either. Typically, six personas can be used as a framework that covers multiple metrics, including work role, work location and surroundings, workstyle, level at the company, and more.
- What are the financial considerations? Do you want to simply give employees stipends and tell them to select products from a pre-approved list? Allow them to decide how to spend their stipends without limitations (and if so, how do you handle the customer service agent who bought earpods rather than noise-cancelling headsets?)
I preach this in so many walks of life, but here…data is key. You have to understand the different types of positions you have in your company, the nuances of the work location and surroundings, preferences of employees, technologies required to do their jobs, and opinions of employees to develop a solid set of personas. So, gather the data from your employees and their supervisors. Spend some time evaluating the findings, and then make your buying decisions based on the final set of personas.
Poly has developed a pretty slick and unique tool to help organizations identify personas and associated technologies to complement them. You can learn more about the six personas Poly identified through analysis of 5,000 enterprise users, as well as access the profiling tool for your organization, here.
Persona-based buying makes life significantly easier. Once an employee is placed into a persona, you can automate the purchase of equipment and licenses, as well as the IT support required to get them started.