The art of character development in designing engaging workspaces and memorable employee experiences.
The next time you find yourself reading a book that you simply cannot put down, take a moment to consider the characters in the story. Can you see them clearly as they weigh up their options, deciding what to do next? Or feel their disappointment and frustration when the thing they most desire slips through their fingers?
More often than not, the most engaging stories are built around a set of memorable characters that are well-defined. Real and complex people you can relate to.
In fiction writing, character development is one of the most important aspects of the writer’s planning phase. Without solid characters, even the most brilliant plot will falter.
At the heart of character development lies an intense creative process that demands the writer to design a complete person from the bottom-up and then determine how this person will evolve as the plot unfolds.
Character development is as much about understanding where someone comes from and the experiences that have shaped them, as it is about progression and envisioning the change that they will undergo on their journey through the plot.
Hop across to the world of work and there are parallels to be found in designing engaging and memorable work experiences.
In the same way, as the writer has to identify a cast of distinct characters and the individual roles they will play in revealing the plot, success in designing engaging work experiences start with identifying distinct employee groups who have key characteristics in common.
Marketing disciplines have long used personas to design customer experiences and as a way to unpack the moments that matter to groups of individuals. With the increased focus on personalisation in the workplace, more and more organisations are turning towards employee personas as a useful tool to help HR teams design personalised experiences that meet employee needs.
Having met the cast of characters, the writer will work endlessly to really understand what their characters are looking for and what brings meaning to their lives.
For the novelist, character development is a creative process of digging into their own experience and imagination and finding inspiration in the world and people around them.
In doing so, writers are encouraged to ask and answer questions as they get to grips with the people in their stories:
- Who is this person and what do they really want?
- What is their role in the plotline?
- What will motivate them into action?
- What do they fear and what do they dream of?
- Where are they going in this story? How will they evolve and change?
- How do they relate to the other characters in the story?
In the workplace, we can learn a lot about colleagues. The thoughtful use of analytics, a mix of qualitative and quantitative survey tools and person-to-person interaction can help us gain rich insights into the real people priorities that should shape the design of our workspaces, talent programmes and employee experiences.
Interesting and well-thought-out characters are essential ingredients to the memorable books we simply cannot put down.
In the same way, investing time upfront in getting to know the real people we design programmes for, will help us build the kind of workplaces and experiences that people will want to be a part of and which will support them in bringing their best to work, every day.