Personas, Empathy Mapping, and Great Engagement Strategies

You can’t really understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. 

That time-worn piece of advice highlights the importance of looking at any problem from the viewpoint of other people and figuring out what’s truly important to them.  

Here’s another way to describe it – empathy. 

In my role as a solutions consultant at Dynamic Signal, I’ve come to believe that empathy may be the most crucial component in creating a successful employee engagement strategy. Our platform improves the employee experience by enabling organizations to reach all of their people, wherever they are, and in the manner they prefer. It’s a powerful tool with so much functionality that it can reinvent how an organization connects with its workforce. 

But if you don’t understand what kind of content employees want and need, it’s going to be more difficult to keep them coming back to the platform. And you can’t truly understand what makes employees’ tick until you make a concerted effort to earn about what they think, feel, and do. Otherwise, your efforts are at risk of becoming a generic, top-down communication megaphone that talks at employees and not with them. It’s a monologue, not a conversation.  

True engagement requires empathy. It’s also how you can learn to segment your employee audience in meaningful ways so that you’re always targeting them with relevant, personalized information. 

That’s why I incorporated the design thinking process into a workshop that helps our customers understand what their employees want from a communication and engagement platform. A Framework to Build Relevance into Your Engagement Strategy through Employee Personas” is a structured exercise in empathy mapping. It allows you to step into the shoes of your workers and walk around a bit. 

My experience is that communicators and HR professionals are driven to reach, and help, everyone in their organizations. They instinctively understand that blasting out the same messages to everyone doesn’t engage people because the workforce has so many unique, diverse individuals in various roles, divisions, and locations. They want their content to be tailored to each employee as much as possible. 

A question I often hear is: How much segmentation do we need to do? 

And while the answer is unique to every organization, the opportunity to expand your strategy to incorporate more advanced segmentation will always be there. Always remember to start simple by identifying the core building blocks for your unique employee landscape. That means doing your homework and asking some thoughtful questions about those foundational groups up front. 

What would help employees get the most out of their workday? What information would make them happier on the job and feel more connected to the company? Do different groups want different types of information? Do they use the platform in different ways? Do some groups use it more than others? 

The workshop format is designed to help you build out personas within your organization that represent the real people you’re trying to reach. Here are the key steps:

  • Identify core groups (management, field workers, and so on)
  • Determine the job traits of these personas
  • Consider the requirements, goals, pain points they see/feel/hear each day
  • Conduct a focus group to refine your personas
  • Craft strategies to engage the people behind these personas 

I suggest starting with just three personas that can represent the broader groups you need to communicate with most at your organization. This allows you to test out your hypotheses and the effectiveness of those personas before further segmenting the employee base. 

Once you really understand who you’re trying to engage, you can decide on clear, meaningful engagement goals that can be measured with platform metrics. The result is a more creative, holistic approach that gets the most out of your communication strategy. 

When people feel a platform is designed for them as individuals, filled with information they find interesting and helps them shine on the job, they’re more likely to visit on a regular basis. They’re also more willing to become active participants of a thriving community through comments, submitting their own contributions, and even sharing approved content with their social media networks. 

But for all of that to happen, it must begin with empathy. 

 See the full Design Thinking Workshop here. 

Post Author

G.I. Sanders

G.I. Sanders is Senior Director, Creative Services at Dynamic Signal. He specializes in entrepreneurship, digital and social media, design, and marketing. G.I. is based in Dallas, TX with his wife and two sons. Passions include technology, startups, music, fitness and sports.