an essential step in the attraction process
If you’re serious about recruiting talent that’s going to add value to a firm rather than just filling in headcount gaps, then you probably have an employer value proposition (EVP) enshrined somewhere. To not have means you’re missing out on an essential component that, when effectively employed, provides (in no particular order)
- Greater talent competitiveness
- Access to better people
- Opportunity to leverage greater talent for greater results and greater financial opportunity
- Improved retention through swifter hiring and more effective delivery capacity
- Greater retention through demonstration of listening to employees, articulating what they have said and responding to concerns they have raised
But that’s a story for another day, because today’s blog is about one of the logical next steps from the creation of your EVP, namely the creation of personas that provide you with another stepping stone to market your organisation to the right individuals.
Whilst there is no centrally agreed upon stance as to what an EVP looks like, it is generally agreed that its purpose is to provide a consistent platform for employer brand communication and experience management, whilst articulating the “sense of self that permeates the organization.” Meanwhile, the role of myself and my colleagues in consultancy is to conduct research and analysis that articulates an EVP that is both grounded in the reality of the employment experience and aspirational in its outlook.
My concern is that much of the time we see the work that goes in to creating the employer value proposition getting lost in the ether, often because it only gets used in the context of one specific project and then gets brushed to one side until the next strategic HR attraction project gets funding. Personas provide a logical next step in the application of the EVP and bring them to life through the creation of simple tools to be used by every employer brand ambassador, irrespective of their role in sourcing or securing talent.
To put personas in context we need to understand briefly what an EVP looks like. For me,it usually consists of three key components – a decent strap line, a market positioning statement and relevant messages that appeal to potential and existing talent. Depending on the nature of the organisation these can be sub-divided based on target demographics. For this article I am going to use the fictional example of Dingles Dairy. Dingles is a third generation family business with strong internal values of family, community, integrity and stewardship. These values have been entrenched for many years and are well known to employees, customers and suppliers like. And we’re not going to touch these, indeed they have played a major part in the research and informed an EVP that looks something like this:
Strap line: Dingles Dairy – demonstrably different
Positioning Statement: Dingles dairy is a demonstrably different organisation. Through a commitment to family, community, integrity and stewardship we have created a business that has lasted through the generations based on a commitment to the people that work here, the customers we supply and ethical innovations in products and business practices that keep us at the forefront of the dairy sector.
- A firm that puts the lives and development of its people first
- A past, present and future based on product and business innovation
- A firm that’s active in the communities it serves
- A place where good ideas are listened to no matter where they come from
- A family business that will remain in the family
Long used in consumer and business sales and marketing, a persona is a mock-up of the ideal person you want to engage with. By creating this persona, you are then in a position to target your messages to the talent audience that you need to be effectively engaging with.
Few organisations have the luxury of relying on reputation alone to cherry pick the best people in their market, and often the breadth of applications they receive is as much to do with their consumer brand as to any conscious efforts made to improve their employee offering. In my experience of leading recruitment programmes in large and small firms, as well as being involved in the attraction strategies of several major organisations, I have found it is rare to see an organisation that has managed to immediately reduce cost, time or quality of hire by relying on one channel alone – those that have come closest have invested massively in both internal recruitment operations and above average, market skewing salaries, often to the point of negating any gains made from getting rid of much derided external recruiters fees.
I’m firmly in the camp that successful recruitment occurs from realising the value of every resourcing channel available, be that direct internal resourcing teams, employee referral and agencies, and that each should be provided with the tools they need to perform their job to the best of their ability for the benefit of your business. Clearly the long term goal is to cut cost whilst keeping quality high, but it can’t be at the expense of ignoring the immediate quantitative and qualitative resource needs of management.
Consequently, EVP’s should not be used for internally based recruitment collateral alone. They need to be informing every channel of talent communication, including communications and conversation held with candidates by hiring management, recruitment consultants, employee referrers, careers advisors and every other conceivable way in which your business is marketed implicitly or explicitly to external talent.
The use of personas when shared amongst all your talent ambassadors brings your proposition to life with a tool that can be shared to hook the best people from all the best places in the right ways.
The creation of personas can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. What they must be is well evidenced. They must be representative of the realities of your current organisation and of the talent you are reaching out to. This requires research that should be extracted from every resource available. The most obvious place to look is with the people you already employ. What can the hiring managers tell you about their key characteristics? What information can you gain during engagement and related staff surveys? Looking wider afield, what do the LinkedIn profiles of the people you want to hire look like? The CV’s of the people that turned you down? And then crucially, how do the key elements from your employer value proposition relate to them?
As in all aspects of marketing, there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution and you can expect to create several profiles for certain roles that take into account the professional and environmental factors that determine their career decisions and then map your EVP across accordingly – in a recent project for one type of software developer we created three representative persona’s that took into account differences in seniority and nationality. Although it took a few hours to complete, it was time well spent since it provided a focus not just for our own internal attraction content creation but also in the approach taken by the other recruiting partners we were working with.
The following is an example of a fictional persona that we can use with Dingles Dairy as it struggles to hire the right sort of category controller.
|Section 1: Who?|
|Background||• Senior Category Manager in a household name FMCG organisation
• Started her career on the graduate programme of a Tier 1 or 2 FMCG firm and has moved companies only once or twice since then
• Accustomed to handling complex national account issues
• Married with 2 children (4 and 6)
|Demographics||• Skews female
• Age 30-45
• Dual HH income C 120k
|Identifiers||• Highly professional and process driven
• Amenable to communications when handled discreetly and professionally at a time suitable to her
• Will require credible collateral emailing across before proceeding with conversations
|Section 2: What?|
|Persona Name:||Category Karen|
|Goals:||• Maintain a rewarding career in a high quality firm
• Have a positive and visible impact on her company and co-workers
• Balance work with the demands of being a parent
|Challenges:||• Lack of promotion opportunity in current organisation
• Frustrations at lack of chances to impact centrally made decisions
• Balancing the demands of parenthood when both she and her partner have demanding careers
|What can we do?||• Provide career advancement
• Provide greater access to the decision making process
• Provide a more innovative environment
• Provide a business that is recognised for its forward thinking policies towards work life balance and flexibility
|Section 3: Why?|
|Persona Name:||Category Karen|
|Quotes:||“I’m not unhappy hear but I’m starting to wonder where is left for me to go”
“I enjoy my job but often it feels like I am actioning someone else’s ideas rather than being able to show my own entrepreneurial talents”
“My partner’s company is really good when it comes to being able to work flexibly, but the culture of my firm is such that we are expected to be in the office unless there’s a real crisis no matter that I could get a lot done remotely”
|Common objections:||“I am concerned about moving from a recognised global firm to a mainly UK business where I’ll be working with smaller numbers”
“The staff in family firms can be quite entrenched and set in their ways – how do I know this will not be the case?”
|Section 4: How?|
|Persona Name:||Category Karen|
|Marketing Messaging:||A growing, respected family firm that encourages innovation, can show multiple examples of innovation, has ample opportunity and evidenced work-life balance
|Elevator Pitch:||Dingles Dairy lets you take the expertise gained and ideas conceived working in multinational firms and apply them in an environment that is innovative in its product strategies whilst being family friendly in its work practices
n.b. It is important to note that whilst the persona may contain information relating to gender, age and environmental factors that impact on what is required to attract talent, this in no way should influence the selection process and cannot be regarded as a substitute job specification for recruiters to base their shortlists on. As ever, candidates must be selected on their abilities to deliver on the competencies required for the role irrespective of age, race, gender and ethnicity.