David Rosenblatt: How Dynamic Personas Help Employees Do Their Best Work
When it comes to providing employees with tools and technology, does your IT organization follow a one-size-fits-all model, or lean to the other extreme where everything is a custom fit? According to David Rosenblatt, distinguished solution architect, digital workspace at World Wide Technology (WWT), organizations that want to provide the best employee experiences fall somewhere in the middle.
“The idea is to right-size your employee personas so you can evolve and be innovative while also delivering a fit-for-purpose set of tools and experiences,” said Rosenblatt. “By standardizing on a commodity set of experiences, and then allowing variation in things that are differentiators for your business, you can avoid the tool and technology sprawl that keeps many organizations from delivering great digital experiences to their employees.”
WWT is a global technology solution provider based in St. Louis, Mo. and a sponsor of Reworked’s virtual Digital Workplace Experience (DWX) Conference. During the conference, Rosenblatt will present the session, “Dynamic Persona Modeling: How to Personalize Employee Experiences Without Complicating IT.” We spoke with him about how organizations can evolve their employee personas to ensure they’re delivering the technologies and capabilities needed for outstanding employee experiences.
Pairing the Right Technology With the Right Employees
Simpler Media Group: What are organizations doing today to identify the technologies that will help their employees do their jobs better? Where are these methods falling short?
David Rosenblatt: One of the critical things we see is that, for a lot of organizations, their personas are almost like device selection personas. For example, if you’re part of a mobile workforce, you get a laptop or a tablet. If you’re a frontline worker or an engineer, you get a high-performance device. If you’re an executive, you get to choose your technology.
However, these personas don’t always take into account the job role, function, work styles and all the other things that tie into the workflow piece that people need to drive forward. We help organizations evolve their existing personas to align the devices, applications, data security, access, work styles, and whether they’re hybrid, on-prem or remote, to get an aggregate view of the users in these groups.
That way we’re delivering the right set of technologies and capabilities that help somebody perform their job. Because it’s not the job of end users to consume the technology that IT provides. It’s our job to provide them with the technology that makes their job better — whether that’s more productive, more secure, faster or easier.
SMG: Please define dynamic personas and describe how they’re used in the workplace.
Rosenblatt: A dynamic persona is the collection of devices, data applications and a person’s identity bundled together. It incorporates the various factors that affect how employees engage with technology and what kinds of services they need. These could be things like job role, collaboration, work style and function. For example, does the employee spend most of their time in large meetings, in-person meetings or virtual? Is the employee remote, hybrid or are they always in the office? This helps us determine the right set of technologies and capabilities that can be built around those workflows so people can do their best work.
Here are some additional things to consider: If an employee can only perform their job while in the office, is that detrimental to the employee, the experience and their productivity? Or, if they have a better experience at home, but are now being encouraged to return to the office, does that deliver a worse set of experiences? All these different areas factor into how well people can engage and do their jobs.
SMG: When employees don’t get the technology they need to do their jobs well, how does this affect the customer experience?
Rosenblatt: Employee technology friction is very quickly translated to customer friction. We’ve all had that help desk call where the representative says, “Hold on, my computer’s slow. I can’t pull up your record.” Or, if there’s a lot of technology friction in the warehouse, does it mean that my product doesn’t get shipped for another day? Does that make me want to reorder that product again? If that technology frustration builds and slows productivity, you could be losing business you don’t even know about.
Enhancing the Organization and the Employee Experience
SMG: What are the organizational benefits of using dynamic personas?
Rosenblatt: One of the major benefits to organizations is envisioning and alignment. It’s critical to gain alignment with various stakeholders in business units, who may be different from the sponsors of digital transformation. For instance, from an HR perspective, there’s real cost to onboarding and retention. You don’t want technology frustrations or delays, even in provisioning.
For HR, mean time to productivity is important. We talk about it like a metric — the time it takes from onboarding or changing job roles until you’re productive. If we can shorten that lifecycle, it’s a huge benefit for the organization. It allows people to engage with the rest of the workforce and the organization in a better fashion.
Conversely, if employees are frustrated every time they turn in an expense report or time sheet, you have a higher chance of disengaged employees, as well as issues with retention. There’s a real cost associated with that.
SMG: How do digital personas enhance the employee experience?
Rosenblatt: If you look at the digital workspace maturity curve, the ideal area is what I like to call “technology transparency.” This is when you’re just performing your job function, not thinking about the underlying tools or capabilities. For example, if you make a phone call, you don’t have to think about the steps needed to place that call, or which tool was needed. Or if you’re a nurse and just scanned a medication and gave it to a patient, you didn’t have to think about the steps needed to find the patient’s health record in the system.
When you can get to that kind of technology transparency where the technology falls back and you’re just performing your job functions, that’s nirvana. The idea is to make incremental improvements to help people get there. For instance, there’s no reason for you to enter the same data into different places. Let’s automate some of those tasks. Let’s find out whether the technology, device or form factor are causing friction in how applications are being delivered.
Look for those points of friction in employee workflows and smooth them out. You don’t have to make it perfect right away, but if you can start to make some of those incremental improvements, you’ll have more engaged employees, less frustration and higher productivity.
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Overcoming Challenges and Identifying Metrics
SMG: What are some of the biggest challenges in creating dynamic personas?
Rosenblatt: One of the biggest challenges we always run into is: data, data everywhere, but not a drop to analyze. Organizations have huge sets of disparate data they’re trying to pull in and correlate, like HR or line of business data, job role data, performance metrics, collaboration tools, surveys, and sentiment analysis tools for things like return to work or new technology rollouts. In addition, different stakeholders have different views of measuring what matters. So, those two pieces of being able to pull in, aggregate and correlate the authoritative data, and then pulling that into a cohesive kind of model tends to be challenging.
The other side of it is identifying key metrics, getting alignment on those, and then bubbling them up so people can see what’s making a difference. If we can’t show how an activity is going to make the organization money, save them money, or keep them out of trouble, then why are we doing it?
SMG: Can you expand on the key metrics organizations should consider during this process?
Rosenblatt: Different stakeholder groups have different metrics. For example, one organizational metric might be speed of transaction. For that we might look at things like device performance, application performance and connectivity. HR might measure employee retention and speed of onboarding. You might also have individual technology pillars within the organization that care about mean time to provisioning — how long it takes from when we get a request until we have a user device and applications provisioned for them.
But what we really try to look for is what we call XLA or experience level agreement areas for our persona groups. For example, if it’s a clinician, were they able to get to the important data they needed to treat their patient? It’s important to look at the experience from an end-to-end perspective.
Getting Started With Dynamic Personas
SMG: During your presentation, you’ll discuss the key factors to consider when building dynamic personas. Would you please give us a preview of what these are?
Rosenblatt: It’s about understanding which tools and job flows your discrete populations need and how to group them together in a meaningful, manageable way. If you look at the end user as your customer for technology and capabilities, you should have a customer-first mindset. You should understand your personas and the capabilities needed so you can deliver technology that helps the organization work better. If you come at it with that kind of mental approach, you can build upon it and look for commonalities.
You should also limit the total number of personas you have. Otherwise there’s so much sprawl, it becomes unmanageable. For example, if a user is in the European Union and their job is regulated, you don’t need a separate regulated persona for 17 different job roles. Instead, you just need a flag or a modifier. Same with a hybrid worker. They don’t need to be a separate persona because their workflow and functions look much more like a larger population in group. So, you should align those and identify the key things that make a group a discrete, separate population within your organization instead of creating arbitrary divisions.
SMG: How can organizations get started with creating dynamic personas?
Rosenblatt: The first step is to invite your stakeholders, including employees, line of business representation, various technology areas, and line of business owners who are setting the vision. Because it’s not just about how people work today, but how you envision what you want to be in the future. From there, it’s about looking at the kind of data sets you have and getting a true assessment of where you are, including considering tool sprawl. Next, identify gaps and then roadmap and prioritize your different activities across the board and align that prioritization to execute.
SMG: What is your vision for an ideal digital employee experience?
Rosenblatt: My vision for an ideal digital employee experience goes back to technology transparency. I don’t want you to think about the technology at all. I just want you to do your job. The technology fits into that flow, so it’s automatic.
Watch David Rosenblatt's Digital Workplace Experience session here.
About the Author
The events staff at Simpler Media Group, publisher of CMSWire and Reworked, work to inform our readers and community on our two conferences, CMSWire CONNECT and Reworked CONNECT.