Why a Persona-Based Approach to Compensation and Benefits can make a Big Impact on Your Organization

By: Lori Block & Leah Reynolds

We live in a diverse society — we’re multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-geographic and have rich family diversity, talents and experiences that create a world of individuals with many beautiful, human things in common. It’s in those human things that most often, the “Golden Rule” applies. For example, it’s a good idea to speak kindly to others or hold the door open for the person behind you, or not cut in line at Disney World.

The Golden Rule is a great concept, but in many other areas of our lives, it’s more important we treat others not in the way that we would like to be treated — but rather in the way they would like to be treated. That means we treat them with respect for their different life situations, experiences, cultures and circumstances. This approach to human interaction is often used in the areas of sales and marketing when a company is trying sell into a particular demographic, age group, or niche population. This is typically referred to as using “buyer personas.”

Personas are also used in product development — providing the lens through which to bring empathy to design, the first step in the “design thinking” or “human-centered design” process. But for example purposes, we’ll focus first on how personas are used in marketing.

Personas work for marketing
Marketers use personas so that a company can gain a better understanding of the various consumers they want to engage, and thusly, communicate with them in ways that are most likely to create a connection. For example, in the consumer world, a retailer like Target may hone in on personas such the stay-at-home mom, the college student, or the retiree on a fixed income.

Each of these personas surely has subsets of people with very different views, life experiences and situations. However, by creating targeted segmentation (no pun intended), Target (the store) can zero in on common characteristics within those personas to create customized experiences. For example, they might text coupons to parents with children the week before a big toy sale—or they might host a special back-to-school night for college students with special sales and incentives.

Personas work for compensation and benefits, too
In the world of compensation and benefits, personas can be used in much the same way. The big difference is, what companies are trying to “sell” to their employees has nothing to do with toys, cosmetics or camping gear. In compensation and benefits, the stakes are much higher because the way we speak to employees and the programs we design around them have a significant impact on wellbeing: their wellbeing, the wellbeing of their families,  and the company’s wellbeing (in the form of better financial results).

Defining the demographics in your workplace, and communication preferences across the generations, is an important step in developing a persona-based communication strategy — but it’s just the first step. Understanding the wants, needs, concerns and learning styles of individuals (and their families) across your organization is the key to any successful change implementation, whether benefits related or otherwise. When you develop “real-life” personas, you’re better prepared to:

  • Assess the impact and likely reactions of employees to your total rewards offering — and any changes you’re considering
  • Identify which programs are likely to be “sticky” with different groups of employees
  • Develop a multi-media approach to communication with the right mix for each target persona
  • Support a culture of inclusion within your organization where employees feel valued and respected

What can you achieve using personas?
By using personas as part of your comp and benefits strategy, you’ll be in the best possible position to make big decisions such as:

  • Whether or not to adopt (and how to adopt) a high-deductible health plan
  • Making changes to your retirement plan
  • Recalibrating your total compensation program toward performance-based rewards
  • Adopting new job classifications and career ladders that tackle future talent needs

We’ll be talking about these topics and more during the upcoming World at Work 2018 Total Rewards Conference & Exhibition. You can catch Lori there on a panel with one of our top clients, where she’ll talk about our experiences working with employee personas — and we’ll show attendees how they can use personas to their advantage. We would love to see you there, so if you’re going, be sure to stop by our booth and say hello! If you can’t make it, feel free to leave your comments and questions below to get the conversation started.

How is your organization using personas to create a better compensation and benefits program?

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