Human-Centered Participant Recruitment: An Approach to Facilitate Positive Participant Experiences

Updated: May 18, 2021

Research recruitment is a comprehensive process involving several elements, including identifying qualified participants, describing the structure of the study to prospects, ensuring their interest and commitment to the study, obtaining informed consent, scheduling participants, and providing support until the study is complete. Recruiting participants who are articulate and dependable, in the right target audience, is a foundational necessity for a successful user experience research study.

At Generation Focus, we know that the elements of participant recruitment listed above are meaningfully elevated when approached from a human-centered orientation. We recognize that user experience research is only possible through the time, energy and expertise of participants, and therefore as a team we are committed to facilitating positive participant experiences for every participant we recruit for a research study.

We know from psychological research, that at their core, people wish to feel that their matter: that they’re valued and that they’re invited to add value. Research suggests that this experience of mattering can boost positive emotions, deepen one’s sense of meaning, and enhance their whole-person well-being. The way that we communicate with participants demonstrates our belief that their thoughts, insights, preferences and opinions are important. At Generation Focus, we understand that user experience research provides a powerful invitation for individuals to add value, to share their experiences and perspectives for the benefit of us all.

Human-centered recruitment makes participants feel that they matter, that they are valued and that they add value. We know that this effect does not only make them feel good in the recruiting conversation, in fact we observe a ripple effect that translates to their participation in the research sessions themselves. Participants are more likely to be fully engaged in the session, share their opinions openly and invest in the conversation if they feel that their perspectives are valued and important for the study.

The primacy-recency rule in psychology suggests that we most recall the first and last impressions of a particular experience, and that these impressions will often color our memory of the entire experience. This means that the initial recruiting conversations play a tremendous role in building positive and engaging participant experiences for the study over-time. It is our experience that investing time and energy to create positive participant experiences creates a win-win-win situation for you, your client/the sponsor of the research, and the participants.

Here are a few of our best practices for human-centered recruitment:

  • Treat each participant as an expert of their experience. Express how much you value their time and the insights they share to make the participants feel that they matter.
  • Hold a supportive space for participants by inviting them to show up fully, practice active listening, and encourage them to take a break if needed.
  • Validate people’s experiences. Sometimes participants might share difficult experiences or in other ways make themselves vulnerable by disclosing information. When/if this happens, we suggest you validate their experience, express compassion, and check in to make sure they are OK to continue before proceeding.
  • Say thank you, often! Thank participants for taking the time to connect and for sharing their insights throughout your engagement. This one might seem obvious, but taking the time to express your genuine gratitude for their time and expertise is the easiest way for participants to know they are valued.
  • Communicate in a way that is friendly, professional and conversational. We encourage you to always use your own words when communicating with clients. Don’t feel like you need to be scripted on the phone, even if following a rigid screener or qualifying questions, speak in a way that feels natural to you to build opportunities for meaningful connection with your participants.
  • Operate from a place of generosity. User Experience research could not exist without the time, energy and perspectives of research participants. At Generation Focus we believe in compensating our participants generously to show our appreciation for their participation.
You Matter

What do you think?

We hope you enjoyed this blog post and that you feel inspired to revamp your recruitment processes to adopt these human-centered practices. Do you have any questions? Feel free to reach out if you would like more information about the recruitment services we offer or wish to explore how we can support your research projects.

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This post is co-written by Cecilie Løvestam (to the left) and Anna Lucas (to the right), who both hold master’s degrees in Applied Positive Psychology from the esteemed program at the University of Pennsylvania. They are passionate about applying their expertise in the field of positive psychology to their work at Generation Focus by creating high quality connections and positive experiences for their team, their research participants, and GF’s clients.

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