The Positive Side to Personas: How to Find Your Ideal Employee Persona

When you think of your ideal customer, they are a semi-fictional representation based on data and research and are often called a buyer persona. Most companies plan their marketing campaigns, website, and/or store design, on the customer that is most likely to buy their product or service.

Elaborating and detailing who your typical customer is will help you think through what this person currently experiences when they walk through your store, look at your website, or speak to a sales representative. If this customer is not instantly attracted to your offering, you need to refine your store layout, website, or sales technique until it fits what will most excite this person to purchase something from you.

Employee Persona

The same principle can be applied to your semi-fictional ideal employee representation based on data and research for an existing role or new hire. This is called an employee persona. You will likely never find this exact person without the right pre-employment tools. In recruiting, they call this hard-to-find person the "purple unicorn" due to how unlikely you will ever find someone with all the characteristics that meet your ideal employee persona.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned how using DISC and related PeopleKeys hiring tools are effective for supporting the process of finding employees that are both a fit for a role and the company culture. I stressed that it was not about using personality assessments in the hiring process to exclude people from a position. At their best, these tools allow for a richer discussion with managers about the employee persona based on specific workplace capabilities, skills, attitudes, knowledge, education, and excitement for the role.

In the best-case scenario, companies use employee personas based on what they understand to be the winningest combination of personality traits and characteristics they have seen for a given role.

Because there are multiple variables in determining the fit for a given role, the people you interview or are grooming for this position may alter aspects of the persona.

Case Example: An organization in the mature stage of growth is falling behind the curve

A mid-sized company with declining sales is looking to hire team members with experience in digital technologies and approaches to reinvigorate their offering and operations.

The original employee persona was shaped and defined by what they most wanted - someone with 3-5 years of experience at a well-known technology company.

The reality was that they could not afford to hire enough of these people, the select candidates they reached out to were not interested in joining the organization, or new hires quickly left the firm because they felt stifled by slow change.

The company's perspective of an ideal employee persona changed based on this new and sobering information. They updated the employee persona to describe someone who was eager to learn, had an interest in technology solutions, cared about their customers, and knew how the business operated. In addition, they were looking for someone willing to give up their comfortable and stable position for a more uncertain but exciting role that required risk-taking, collaboration, inclusion, and empathetic nature to succeed.

While this may have sounded like a purple unicorn, they were pleasantly surprised to learn how many applicants fit most of the aspects of the persona. They pulled a pilot group of candidates who matched this description and learned further which elements of the persona were vital as they developed into their new roles.

Variety is the spice of life and an organization

In the same way, companies aim to sell to their buyer persona but do business with anyone whose profile matches parts of this persona or have multiple buyer personas, it's okay to have variations of your employee persona.

You can develop this persona with DISC by profiling your top performers, creating a benchmark of your ideal candidate, and then aiming to find an applicant that matches this profile. Another approach is developing multiple employee personas where everyone brings different strengths to the team.

Knowing the folks who most often succeed in a given role are of one DISC profile type is the starting point of a conversation, not a closed door. If you can understand why those with a specific profile have succeeded, test if there is something about this person, allowing them to succeed differently or in a different scenario.

Change or …

Organizations, customers, governments, and other elements in an organization's ecosystem change over time. Having an agile workforce that can react in multiple ways in new circumstances is vital to enabling your firm to persevere and grow while your competitors need to realign and regroup.

Well thought through and developed employee personas that focus on the role characteristics required for success are much more likely to produce positive outcomes over a stale and singular understanding of what a role should be based on what it has always been.

Discover your employee personas with PeopleKeys 4D Report and Performance Benchmarking. Profile high performer employees in current roles and benchmark their job role and personality traits to use in candidate selection or create your own benchmarks for the employee personas you're looking to acquire for your organization.

Learn More About Performance Benchmarks for Hiring

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Picture of William (Bill) Latshaw

Posted By: William (Bill) Latshaw

William (Bill) Latshaw is an Executive Coach, leadership and succession researcher, and organization development professional. His experience comes from over 20 years in consulting and research roles within Deloitte Consulting LLP, the Boston Consulting Group, Arthur D. Little, and Innovation Associates, Inc. Personality Style: SIC