23 Oct 2020

Learner Personas

How Personas act as a prototype and help in employee learning

Introduction

There is a lot of buzz going around Personas and how it helps in an employee’s learning experience. Hence, I decided to debug the aura around Persona and make it simpler for the audience.

Why Personas?

So, what are these Learner Personas? Basically, they are fictional representations of our learners. They are based on learner’s data from various sources like interviews, surveys, assessments, observations etc. Besides general characteristics like name, age, gender, qualification, we assign specific attributes like feelings, needs, goals, life stories, etc. to make it more real.

Personas are a great tool to help design interventions, specific to the learner’s need. It helps develop empathy between the content designer and the learner and make the content more appropriate for a specific target audience segment.

The origin of the persona can be traced to Alan Cooper, the famed American Software Developer and Designer.

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In his book “The Inmates are Running the Asylum”, he used the concept of User Personas in detail. It was picked up by the marketing domain where User or Customer Personas are commonly used to develop a marketing plan. Angus Jenkinson, a professor of integrated marketing used Customer Personas to understand customer segments. It was later adopted by OgilvyOne Worldwide, a premier marketing organization, to implement the persona strategy in marketing. Customer or Buyer Personas became a central piece to a comprehensive marketing plan.

Organizations started taking note of the role personas play, in understanding learner’s perspectives. In the process, the talent management team was able to design interventions that are more engaging and sustainable.

Developing Personas

To develop personas, a well thought out research with valid data is required. For the data to be valid, the talent management needs multiple perspectives i.e., they need to look at the sample size from at least three different perspectives or data triangulation, as it is called in the research methodology parlance. Some of the data triangulation methods for this process can be surveys, interviews, observations and assessments among others.

Secondly, data has to be qualitative and quantitative to help identify the following:

  • Who  is your learner?
  • What do they they value?
  • What are their pain points?
  • How  does your program fits into their daily lives?

The learner’s motivational drivers and learning styles too play a key role in developing the learning personas.

Application of Persona

Our team participated in the Stanford Embark project to look at new ways to address the needs of the learners during & after COVID. In this process, we interviewed more than 25+ Learning & Development Heads, HR Heads and Business Heads from various organizations to understand learner needs. We used surveys and one-on-one interviews with professionals to get a comprehensive learner view in the current situation. From the data obtained, many personas emerged. One such persona that emerged is illustrated in the image given.

90% of the people interviewed said that women in their organization are impacted by the “double burn syndrome” where, they are now expected to double up on the home chores, Also, increased workload from the office is impacting their mental wellbeing to a great extent.

From the persona, we were able to better understand the needs of a select segment (women workers here) of employees in the organization and we are in the process of designing an intervention and pilot it.

One can further fine tune the persona by getting learner’s psychographic details to customise the learning paths on an AI based learning management system. More about this in the next blog.

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From the persona, we were able to better understand the needs of a select segment (women workers here) of employees in the organization and we are in the process of designing an intervention and pilot it.

One can further fine tune the persona by getting learner’s psychographic details to customise the learning paths on an AI based learning management system. More about this in the next blog.

Resources:

 
–By Vidya Balasubramaniam[Associate Consultant, Being You! Consulting]
 
Authors bio:

I am a Learning and Development professional with 15+ years of experience in organizations like Finastra (legacy Misys), Tata Communications, and Mahindra Comviva. I am passionate about learning outcomes and its impact on the business. I have conceptualised, designed, and executed a range of behavioural interventions related to self-transformation, leadership development, group dynamics, team building, personal growth and empowerment of middle and senior managers to help navigate change and drive business outcome.

I have a Masters in Electronics from Delhi University, PGCHRM from XLRI and ODCP from ISABS.

I strongly believe in “self” as an instrument of change, to facilitate any change process. I continuously innovate and bring methods and processes relevant to people and organizations that I work with. I can be reached at vidya@beingyouconsulting.com

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