Psychographic profiling is a term that marketers are familiar with. Companies use this to segment their customers and clients, which further helps them tailor their products according to their needs and preferences. Further, it also suggests which channel to use to distribute and advertise the product.
In the past, marketers used demographics to segment their customers on the basis of location, age and gender. However, in the 1960s, Daniel Yanklelovish, a social scientist, suggested that companies use non-demographic segmentation for better results. Later, Arnold Mitchel came up with the VALS methodology— short for values, attitudes and lifestyle— for segmentation.
Psychographic profiling, where people are segmented according to their values, interests, hobbies, principles and preferences, can be used by HR to tailor their programmes related to employee health and L&D initiatives.
Nowadays, one size does not fit all. Therefore, products and services need to be tailored on the basis of the demographics and psychographics of the population. The demographics reveals ‘who’ and ‘where’ the targeted audience is, while psychographics goes deep into analysing the behavioural patterns of the people and reveals ‘what’ product they will buy and ‘why’.
“In my earlier stints as CHRO, we have used normal conversations to decipher the hobbies and behavioural patterns of people and track consistency of behaviour”
In HR, psychographic profiling tells us about the motivators, which stimulate the person to take some action. The values, interests, hobbies, principles and preferences of individuals define the motivators of their actions. This can help to segment employees and get to know the real motivators for different groups and individuals.
Though many companies use demographics to segment their employees, with the advancement in technology, they have now begun to collect vital data required for psychographic profiling.
Rajendra Mehta, executive director, Synergy Capitals, told HRKatha that in his career, he has witnessed companies using psychographics during the recruitment process to get to know the candidates better. The data for the same is collected through conversations asking different questions and delving deep into the behavioural patterns of the candidates.
In addition, data pertaining to the employees is also collected by HRMS platforms, and then HR programmes are tailored accordingly.
“In my earlier stints as CHRO, we have used normal conversations to decipher the hobbies and behavioural patterns of people and track consistency of behaviour,” says Mehta.
For psychographic profiling, long questionnaires are not used to collect data. People are given essay-writing tests and hypothetical situations, from which data for psychographic profiling is collected.
Ferns & Petals, an online retailer, also uses psychographic profiling, in its recruitment process.
“We have been using psychographic profiling for a few months now. It has helped us remove bias, bring in transparency, and also find a scientific basis for all our actions now”
It has proved very useful in identifying the gaps in the competency levels of the employees.
Nishant Madhukar, group head-HR, Ferns & Petals, explains that if a person is at level 2, but should be at level 3 based on competency, that means there is a gap. Psychographic profiling helps identify the training gaps and needs of employees or groups of employees.
It also helps Ferns & Petals gauge whether employees aspire to grow, as well as their future development needs for which an individual development programme or IDP is created.
Madhukar explains that they send out online links to employees, which contain essay-writing tests and hypothetical situations, through which relevant data is collected.
“We have been using psychographic profiling for a few months now. It has helped us remove bias, bring in transparency, and also find a scientific basis for all our actions now,” shares Madhukar.
“Within our health and safety pillar, the initiatives for the sales team focus more on driving safety, as they spend a large part of their time driving their vehicles to meet customers, while those for office staff focus on ergonomics, as they spend a significant time at workstations and in meetings”
Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company also uses the segmentation approach which fits to their workforce. The company segments its employees on the bases of their job profile, gender, age, tenure and preferences.
As rightly explained by Anant Garg, director HR, Eli Lilly, “Within our health and safety pillar, the initiatives for the sales team focus more on driving safety, as they spend a large part of their time driving their vehicles to meet customers, while those for office staff focus on ergonomics, as they spend a significant time at workstations and in meetings. Similarly, our L&D approach for our sales team, who are less than two years old in the company (6, 12, 24 month interventions) is different from what we have for those with a longer tenure.”
The Company collects data through real time, structured and continuous feedback. “The collected data helps us draw trends and make major adjustments in our HR processes and initiatives. This makes our initiatives and offerings relevant and engaging for each group,” mentions Garg.
It is reported that psychographic profiling was widely used to target voters during the US presidency elections, where the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal came out. However, it was widely criticised for the way people’s personal information was used to target them during elections.
If collected ethically, the data can be definitely used by HR for the betterment of not just the employees, but the organisation as a whole.