Workday Learning: Putting the Person in Persona

The use of personas is as old as storytelling: The hero distracted by a siren’s song, the kids who have to rely on their wits to get out of trouble, the underdogs with a plan so crazy it just might work. But when it comes to powerful, easy-to-use technology, designing for personas is a relatively new concept that’s completely reshaping the user experience. That’s why we decided to approach our Workday Learning product through the eyes of the people who will use it.

Different people use technology in different ways. There’s a crucial distinction between the features you use periodically and those you use daily, and your coworker might use features you’ll never use. A well-designed learning tool serves many types of people, with varying educational needs and learning styles, in equally useful and intuitive ways.

Start By Listening

At the beginning of our Workday Learning journey we talked with people we believe will want to use the tool to lead richer, more successful professional lives. They spanned a variety of industries and job titles, and answered open-ended questions about what applications they normally use, what they like and dislike about them, and how they usually learn for their jobs. Talk to enough folks—we talked to more than 120 people at 16 customer sites—and patterns emerge.

Based on these discussions, we came up with a short list of representative personas: The recent college grad, the first-time manager, the intrapreneur, the historian, and the learning leader. Not every employee falls precisely into these personas and there’s often some overlap, but when it comes to user experience, these personas helped us design a learning system that meets the needs and expectations of all end users.

Users won’t need to know which personas they fit into to use Workday Learning. Think about how different people use a smartphone: A grandmother to FaceTime with her grandkids, an IT manager to remotely monitor network performance, a teenager to Snapchat with friends, a CHRO to lead her HR organization while flying above the Pacific Ocean at 30,000 feet. That, in many ways, is the point of persona-based design—meeting the very different needs of many types of people, within the same system.

What Personas Want

The recent grad is a digital native who is very comfortable finding the information he wants online, is often looking for a mentor to help him excel at his company, and has grown up with—and craves—constant feedback. He wants a solution that’s mobile and mirrors the consumer software experience he’s accustomed to.

Recent_Grad-01_for learning personas

The first-time manager, since she is learning how to lead a team, can benefit from the delivery of automatically recommended content (with delivery triggered by a change to her title within Workday Human Capital Management, for instance) on how to conduct effective meetings or provide productive employee feedback.

The intrapreneur is an internal change agent who’s learning all the time—he’s always sending articles and links to colleagues about new ideas and approaches, and gets frustrated by slow movers and impediments to progress. He wants a learning tool that’s flexible and fast, so he can quickly find learning content on his own.

The historian is that long-time employee who everyone goes to for institutional knowledge. She may run a lot of reports, for example, but would like to progress in her career to become more analytical, consultative, and strategic. She wants a solution that’s easy to use and quick to deliver business insights, and wants to create content—a training course to impart some of that knowledge, for example—in a simple and fast way.

Historian-01_for learning personas

The learning leader is a visionary who understands how learning helps drive the business forward and needs insights into the impact of learning initiatives. For instance, does sensitivity training lead to more diverse hiring practices? Or, does sales enablement content impact how quickly and consistently salespeople meet their quotas?

When the learning leader (say, the Chief Learning Officer) wants HR or business managers to share what courses are the most popular or that generate the best gains in employee productivity, most learning management systems are of little help. Those questions can only be answered by linking learning with key finance and HR data. Ensuring that Workday Learning is tightly integrated into Workday Human Capital Management and Workday Financial Management is important for us, because that’s the only way to gain insight into learning’s impact on the overall business.

We plan to release Workday Learning later this year in Workday 27, and HR leaders tell us they are excited about something that goes beyond compliance and accreditation. It will offer a consumer-grade experience on the front end, and on the back end, will be able to examine an individual’s behaviors and content interaction to predictively steer him toward more content of interest. For the learner this means continuous growth and enrichment, and for the business, the evolution of workplace learning from a cost center to a growth engine.

As we’ve previously written, working with our customers and finding the right design partners was the first step on our learning journey, and then we set out to uncover which personas were the most relevant for a modern learning solution. In my next post, I’ll talk about how video is making learning more personal than ever before, and will delve deeper into how companies can maximize the value of user-generated content.