Most learning and development professionals are familiar with the term audience analysis. To maximize the effectiveness of your learning experience, you need to analyze your audience. By crafting a learner persona, you can go beyond a typical audience analysis and paint a vivid picture of who you are designing a learning experience or materials for. This means gathering more than simple demographic data. Ideally, you will interact with the target learners. If that’s not possible, make sure someone on your design team has firsthand knowledge of the target – either she has been in the learner’s role in the past or the learners report to her.

How to Create a Learner Persona

Marketing professionals have long used buyer personas to gain a clear picture of whom they are selling to, what motivates them, and what strategies work best to target them. They base the personas on real market-research data, but fictionalize them to a degree to describe a single buyer, which personalizes the buyer for the marketer.

Your learner personas should be similar. Base your personas on the research you do to help you understand their goals, motivations, challenges, and daily work flows. Add to these data any company data that exist on age, gender, educational background, years of experience, and so on. The table below offers an example of a tool you can use to help create a persona. The column on the left identifies the type of information you want to gather and questions you want to answer. The column on the right is an example that shows you the right level of information detail to gather.

This particular tool is used to gather data with the intent of creating a learning game so it includes specifics around game play.

 Information-Gathering Tool for a Learner Persona

Persona Element and Description Example
Name: Give your persona a name. You want this persona to feel real to you and not be a bunch of statistics. Stephanie
Demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, college, etc.): Make your training look like your learner. Don’t assume anything. Age 41, Caucasian, Female. Four-year degree from a small liberal arts college. Majored in communications. Sorority member who achieved numerous academic honors while in college and was extremely active.
Experience with the company, within the role: What is representational of your learner? Go with the median, not the average. Averages can fool you. Ten years of experience within pharmaceutical sales with specific experience in three different therapeutic areas: cardiovascular, primary care, and gastroenterology. Shifted to selling biologics three years ago.
Biggest challenges on the job: Most roles have common challenges; find them and include them in your persona. ·       Pace—the days are long

·       Keeping up—there’s always more you could be reading to stay abreast of trends, issues, and competitors

What she values most about the role? What motivates this person regarding the role? What makes her want to do this particular job? Your training can acknowledge both challenges and values. ·       Being credible

·       Knowing her product helps patients have a better quality of life

·       Hitting goals she sets for herself

Workday flow: How does a day go from start to finish? Your training should reflect understanding of the workday flow. ·       Because her territory is urban, Stephanie may schedule as many as eight appointments in a day.

·       She’s up at 6 a.m., with her kids getting up at 6:30. She starts her “work” day around 7:30 and often ends as late as 10 p.m., although she may take a break in the late afternoon.

·       Evenings vary. If there is a professional meeting, she could be dining with healthcare providers (HCPs) at that meeting. If there’s no meeting, she could be planning calls for the next day, entering notes into Salesforce, catching up on reading, or responding to emails.

Sales call flow: Be clear on how the rep sells the product you are helping her learn about. Learn how much time a good sales call takes. Map what you believe reps need to know and know how to do with what they will actually use in a sales call.

Types of calls made in a typical day: Find out how many types of sales calls there are. If there are several different call types, make sure your training program reflects this reality.

·       Calls need to follow a “ladder” process. Early calls have different sales call objectives than later sales calls. The ladder is a six-call process. Each “rung” of the ladder has a specific call objective and message associated with it.

·       Call lengths vary from five minutes to 20 minutes.

·       Early calls focus on educating HCPs on the product category. Later calls focus on providing information on the specific product being sold.

·       There are two categories of customers: clinicians and pharmacy.

·       Getting from the bottom of the ladder to the top may take anywhere from six weeks to a few months’ time.

Devices and how they are used during the flow of a day: Design for the device that reps use the most. ·       Uses laptop in early mornings and late evenings. Does planning activities; documents information in Salesforce; takes e-learning courses (because they’re not available for phone or tablet).

·       Phone is constantly in her hand throughout her day. She uses it to track appointments, check and respond to emails and voice messages, and put quick notes into Salesforce between calls.

·       Uses tablet to pull sales aids up on tablet when talking with HCPs, if needed and appropriate.

Where self-paced training will be completed: Setting matters because it tells you how distracted reps are likely to be, how much time is realistic to allocate for any self-paced segments, and whether sound is a good or bad option to include. ·       Wherever she can squeeze it in. Usually she’s at home, later in the evening while she sips some herbal tea or has a glass of wine. She may also start her day with it, leaving it to a Friday when she does more home office work.

·       If she had access through a phone, she could do small bits between sales calls or while grabbing some lunch.

Games played and amount of time spent playing them: Ask your targets what games they play, how much time they spend playing them, and how frequently they play. ·       Stephanie is slightly embarrassed to admit it, but she is completely addicted to Candy Crush and other simple mobile games like it. It’s almost a stress reliever for her. She’ll play it whenever she’s in line or waiting.

·       She also really likes playing board games with her kids; it’s great family time.

The Next Step

Once you gather the information, your next step is to convert this into a more concise format that’s useful to your team. Learner personas are often shown to a team as presentation slides or printed so they can be posted on a workroom wall for ongoing reference throughout design and development of the learning solution. When you create your personas, search for images that capture their essence and help you think of the real learners represented by the personas.

Create your own learner persona with our learner persona worksheet. Reference our example profile above as you go along.

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