A research incentive for a colleague

A red envelope
Photo by Lucas George Wendt on Unsplash

The other day, Alex Slowman asked a question about how to recompense colleagues for their time when they help us in user research activities, but it’s not appropriate to pay a financial incentive.

I’ve found that a thank-you to the person’s boss works well, and even better when it goes on to become part of the formal performance management framework.

I’ve usually sent the thank-you as an email, but I ought to recognise that some organisations don’t use email all that much any more. If your organisation keeps these things in some other corporate tool such as Confluence or SharePoint, then maybe put the thank-you into that as well.

Before sending the thank-you, check with the participant that it’s OK.  They may have sneaked out and the last thing we want to do is to embarrass them.

Always copy the thank-you to the participant so that they have a record of it.

The thank-you needs to:

  • thank the boss for allowing the participant time to take part
  • acknowledge the value of the participant’s contribution
  • explain the importance of the service/tool/whatever that the participant helped with
  • say absolutely nothing about what the participant actually did or said in the session.

(And while we’re here, another thought: check with the participant whether they would like to be acknowledged by name, by role, by both, or kept strictly anonymous in the reports. I’ve been surprised how often participants prefer to be acknowledged over being anonymous. Of course, anonymous is the default).

Participants value these thank-yous both at the time, and also when it comes to the next meeting with the boss, and also when annual review or appraisal time rolls around. And all it takes is a few minutes of writing it, and a little care in making sure that the participant does want it to be sent.

Alongside the main thank-you, it can be nice to add an extra note to a messaging or discussion service such as Slack,. One Slack that I  particularly enjoyed had a #thank-you channel that was very handy for these little notes.  (I’ll add my thanks to Vicky Teinaki for reminding me that these messaging services aren’t ideal for the main thank-you, as messages tend to disappear and may no longer be around at annual review time).