I’m working on my own product these days. I compensate a lack of knowledge in some areas by talking to people and reading books. My current book is Lean Brand which I like very much. The chapter I read yesterday talks about the audience of any product. The authors say that entrepreneurs try to target everyone too often. Instead, they should start by defining a small group of clients they want to work with. And create relationships with just one person from that group. Then, with the second one and the third one. Step by step. By identifying a unique portrait of their first customers’ entrepreneurs could create a much better message and win the attention they crave. The idea is so logical and simple that there’s no surprise many founders — including yours truly — missed it or ignored it.

The size of this problem grows radically when we move from a product space to a recruitment space. Go to your local job search site and look for a description of open positions (hh.ru in Russia, for example). How many times will you see “relaxed agile environment”, “looking for the best”, “technical excellence” and etc? I bet more than in 50% of cases. Organisations tend to target everyone. No surprise they have troubles competing with well-known players. There will always be companies providing higher salaries, better perks and more challenging problems to solve.

To deal with it organisations should steal and tweak practices from product development. For example, personas. “Personas are archetypal sketches of the type of people who you hypothesize will interact with your organization. Although they can be profiles of fictional characters or rough outlines of people based on ethnographic research, surveys, interviews, and intentional customer development; it’s actually best to use a real, living, breathing person. If you don’t, the urge to create stereotypes can be too strong”, writes Jeremiah Gardner in Lean Brand.

Why don’t you create your employee personas? Start by selecting several employees who represent the identity of your company best of all. In many cases they are not the most senior or experienced people. Interview them to understand better:

  • What do they like?
  • What do they hate?
  • What do they stand for?
  • What are their habits?
  • What do they value?
  • What do they fear?

With created personas in hands, it’s much easier to see what attributes of your company and culture allure the talents you need. Even more, the personas will show you what to highlight while talking about your company and what to change to make it more attractive.

You can also use employee personas during interviews with candidates. They might become a powerful filtering tool together with your gut.

Unsurprisingly the organisations which care about happiness and engagement of employees are very good in defining their “employee target audience”. Let’s look at Equal Experts whom I visited this September. It’s an IT consultancy with the main office in London. From the very beginning they decided to hire only developers with 8+ years real extreme programming experience. Most of people with such experience level are older than 30, have families and kids and prefer to come home earlier to spend evenings with them. Some of them also prefer more flexibility and autonomy. As a result the largest part of Equal Experts employees are contractors. The company gives them a reliable flood of projects to work on, a great network of very experience colleagues and a friendly and unobtrusive environment to grow. The company fits for a specific set of people, fits that set greatly and is rated as one of the best places to work at in UK.

Here’s a task for you.

Create a couple of employee personas and share them with your colleague. Will they agree? Will they have something to add?

Good luck with it! For me, it’s time to work on personas for Yay4Monday.