People and Spaces

Understanding employee personas and workspace strategy

March 21, 2024

Traditionally, employee personas have been related to factors like location, business function, behavioral style  and seniority, which are then anonymously tied to longitudinal employee experience data gathered from pulse surveys. The challenge of this approach is that it was built on the assumption that everyone was in the office. 

The corporate office is no longer a commonality, so how can you know if their performance and satisfaction is linked to their workload, or their workspace?

Breaking assumptions about personas

In November 2023 Slack surveyed over 15,000 desk workers to understand how employee personas differ in the ways that they work, communicate and embrace technology. This research, centered around employee communication, helps organizations better understand the myriad of needs from a modern day workforce.

What is interesting about this research is that, again, place wasn’t a central component of the analysis, but featured heavily in the ‘Road Warrior’. Organizations are still navigating the ‘new normal’ of workplace and how this intersects with performance. 

The key to unlocking this opportunity is adjusting the way we describe our workforce, while harnessing new solutions to measure space utilization and employee happiness in a way that connects to business outcomes. Through this combination, you can make smart workplace decisions that deliver for your business, regardless of whether that decision is to pursue full flex or bring everyone back to the office

How to define your workplace personas

Each company has their own taxonomy in describing their workforce. 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 organization. 

The key here is to break the standard way of categorizing 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 cover some of the elements for consideration when evaluating your workplace personas.

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 organization. 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. Traditionally, we’d simply focus on the tools required to do a good job, but the workplace is a clear component in our ability to do a good job.

Common reporting metrics would include:

  • Retention
  • Productivity
  • Engagement 
  • Satisfaction
  • Recruitment 

Review your flexibility objectively 

McKinsey, in their employee archetype report, estimated that by prioritizing six key factors at work, which includes workplace flexibility and a safe work environment, companies could save up to $56 million annually. The same McKinsey research demonstrated significant talent advantages to providing employees, particularly an organization’s best talent, with autonomy and flexibility in how they work.

Flexibility is essential for a  large percentage of remote and distributed workers, highlighted by the Buffer State of Remote Work Report. The report is a great reminder of the two ways employees view flexibility, place and schedule:

  • 22% of respondents said  the biggest benefit to remote work is flexibility in how they spend their time
  • 19% said  it’s flexibility in where they choose to live
  • 13% said  it’s the flexibility to choose their work location.

By providing workplace flexibility which is no longer tied to traditional workplace personas, such as departments, you will be able to gather behavioral data and connect this to your performance metrics. 

The advantages of persona driven policies 

Providing choice, and monitoring that impact helps organizations understand what type of flexibility the employee prefers; working hours, location or tasks. A recent OC Tanner report on Global Culture, shared that when employees have schedule and location flexibility at work, this significantly increases their cultural outcomes:

  • Engagement: 41%
  • Retention: 77%
  • Likelihood to be a Promoter on the eNPS scale: 41%

It comes as no surprise to learn that organizations have a 7.5x increased likelihood of improving the employee experience when they meet the needs of employee autonomy, connection and mastery. 

Data and workspace strategy

Senior HR, RE and Workplace leads have always worked closely together to ensure that workspace matches what employees need to be happy and productive. As personas have shifted, how we evaluate workspace should too. This new landscape means there is an opportunity to utilize metrics and technology to build fresh strategies that serve your people and ensure your business remains competitive. 

HRIS data

A crucial step toward understanding how workspace impacts employee experience is integrating this information to your 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. 

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.

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 behaviors across an entire organization could easily become a huge administrative task. Utilize the technology that's out there to bring this together into a single booking platform, making it easier for both employees and management. 

Leveraging workspace strategy for positive change

In the changing world of workspace, building data on the metrics that matter is the single most important action for today’s leaders. The smartest thing we can do is experiment, measure and build intelligence. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to workspace. Leaders need to leverage suitable solutions to develop a strategy that cuts through the noise and drives business to the next level.