Before we go talking about blue people in the jungle, lets focus in on the other commonly used avatar: the customer avatar.
Customer avatars are used in marketing strategy as a way to define, visualize, and humanize a business’s ideal customer. It’s specific. He/she may be given a name, an age, even a physical appearance. For example, a photographer might say that her ideal customer is Rachel, a 35-year-old busy professional who is getting married for the first time. This can help make key marketing decisions. What are Rachel’s main concerns when hiring a photographer? What channels work best to reach her? And so on.
So what about internal customers? Our employees are key business stakeholders responsible for the long-term success (or failure) of the company. Certainly we know who they are. Or do we?
What is an employee avatar?
Similar to a customer avatar, an employee avatar is meant to provide detail and specificity to HR strategy. Onboarding and training programs, compensation and benefits strategies, mentorship and succession planning, all can be improved with the focus of an employee avatar.
Now, you might not have just one. Perhaps your workforce is made up of distinct generational groups. You have your Baby Boomer avatar who is making decisions about retirement and has a desire to mentor and shape the younger employees whereas your Millennial avatar is concerned about financial security and reducing their carbon footprint. They’re not necessarily at odds, but when you announce changes to the retirement benefit, you’ll want to make sure you’re addressing both.
Consider the following examples:
- José, the middle-aged married father of 3 who is the sole earner for his household and has been with the company for 25 years.
- Rita, the first-generation college graduate with a young child at home.
- Candace, the woman nearing 40 who is making plans to start a family with her busy working husband.
- Eddie, the young college graduate with no dependents who is high-energy and eager to prove himself.
Can you understand how each of these individuals might be looking for something different from their employer? How they might need a different approach to remain engaged?
The biggest risk when choosing an employee avatar (and why I don’t recommend you have just one) is that you might institutionalize your own unconscious biases.
It’s easy to think that “my employees are just like me,” or that the salaried office staff are representative of the whole company. Creating a single employee avatar based on these examples will only harden the “us” vs. “them” mentality whereby shop workers, warehouse workers, service workers, etc. are excluded from decision-making.
Type of work isn’t the only thing that varies among employees. Make sure your avatars capture the diversity of your employee population, including age, gender, schooling, marital and parental status, race, and ethnicity.
If you do have any blue people living in the jungle, now’s the time to include them.
Once you have a collection of employee avatars that are representative of your overall workforce, start asking them questions. No, really. Like they’re right in front of you.
What does José think of the new medical plan? The deductible is going up in order to keep premiums low, but is that an actual win for him? Will he be paying more for prescriptions? What about his daughter’s sprained ankle?
Maybe the medical plan is set in stone, or maybe it meets the needs of the other avatars. Are there other benefits (like a health savings account) that could help José with the increased costs? How will you help the real employees that are in his situation?
Build and test your policies, procedures, and employment strategies with these employee avatars in mind and you’ll be better prepared to meet the needs of your real employees.
who is your employee avatar?
So, how do you figure out who your avatars are? Metrics! Data! Reports!
Here are some examples of what to look for, and differentiators that might warrant their own avatar:
- Age groups/generations
- Race and ethnicity
- Level of education and/or computer literacy
- Geographic location
- Remote vs. on-site workers
- Income bands
- Pay type and/or frequency
Some details might be helpful for avatar creation, but are not reported on (things like family size). I recommend using census statistics from the surrounding area to help complete the picture.
So who is your employee avatar? Share in the comments below!
—Written by Nina Ottman
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