Videoconference: What Research Ops Professionals Have Learned from COVID-19

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    Marjorie Stainback is a Research Operations Manager for Fidelity Investments, a prominent brokerage firm. Working in operations, Marjorie is passionate about vendor management, compliance, and the staff onboarding experience. Her enthusiasm stems from a decade of experience as an educator, which she draws upon while creating smoother and more streamlined solutions.

    Molly Fargotstein has been working at Mailchimp for a tad over two years. In that time, she’s served as the UX Research Coordinator, continually finding ways to optimize recruitment efforts, streamline procedures, and maximize the evangelization of UX Research’s insights and impact throughout the company. Now, as Mailchimp’s Associate Research Operations Manager, she’s honed her current ResOps focus into three pillars: Recruitment, Knowledge Management, and UX Research Marketing and Communications. Of course, she has a life outside of Mailchimp, where she bakes, writes essays, makes cocktails, and plays with her (2-year-old) puppy, Clementine.

    Maddy Vasquez joined the Research Ops community in 2018 as a UX Coordinator at Deliveroo. Not only was she brand new to Research Ops, but she was also new to UX. Within the first couple of days, she fell in love with her job and realised she had found her calling. Nothing brings joy to her heart like creating and streamlining processes, testing out tools, creating efficiencies and seeing researchers smile when they have so many resources at their fingertips. Outside of work, she enjoys eating her way around the world, petting all the dogs she can and trying out new things, such as learning how to code. 

    Stephanie Marsh has been interested in Research Operations since her days as Lead and then Head of User Research and Analysis at Government Digital Service figuring how to do ReOps as a user researcher community without a dedicated team. In November 2019 she fully joined the research operations community as UX Research Operations Manager at the science publisher Springer Nature. Stephanie has worked in the field of user research since 2003, and loves being able to tactically and strategically support others doing high quality, effective research as smoothly as possible a ReOps Manager. 

    What we’ll cover 

    Marjorie Stainback

    I’m planning to talk about how COVID-19 shifted how we conduct research as well as our onboarding experience. We were used to using our in-house lab to speak to in-person participants and while we had the capabilities to go fully remote, we hadn’t built a process around it prior to the pandemic. Once we had that settled, we started hiring which led to an update of our onboarding process.

    Molly Fargotstein-Sanders

    Taking a step back at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, research leadership came together and decided to halt recruitment until we understood the landscape a bit better. Ops took that time to rethink the way we structure our recruitment communications (language, compensation, flexibility) & we worked with researchers to be more flexible with cancellations, no shows, and unwillingness to participate due to the climate (how to navigate deadlines and roadmap expectations). Because of the types of users and customers we have, we took this opportunity to really listen to them & meet them where they are. It really allowed for Ops to take a step back and understand that we can function as the “bleeding heart” of research when the opportunity arises.

    Maddy Vasquez 

    Talking about the Ops team being proactive and keeping safety as a top priority for both our participants and researchers when COVID-19 was just beginning to enter the UK. We began by acknowledging COVID-19 and changing our tone to our recruitment emails and offering consumers the option of doing phone calls instead of coming to a lab. We also reached out to our restaurant and rider operations team to find out what type of support we were offering to our partners and created a FAQ sheet for our researchers. This FAQ sheet allowed researchers to have an idea of how the company was planning on dealing with COVID-19 in case a rider or restaurant had questions. Not only did this make researchers feel less stressed about the possibility of providing misinformation, but also provided participants with some kind of reassurance as we were all on the same page. 

    Stephanie Marsh 

    The quickest decision to be made and supported by the whole organization was not to invite or to do research with scientists and health care professionals that we knew would be working directly on COVID-19. Which meant supporting the pivoting of research to understand new needs both temporary and potentially permanent to our users – Scientists and students. The Research Operations team then worked on recruitment messaging to reassure potential participants that we can be flexible. We have supported and enabled researchers to share lessons learned more widely, such as avoiding afternoon sessions in India because of heavy internet traffic and poor connections. The pandemic prompted us to do emergency planning and identify critical tasks – if all ReOps people weren’t available what would still need to happen, what to do if all research tools were broken etc. We’ve included metrics to track participants’ cancellation to quantify impact if any, to understand if perception and reality are the same or different. Longer term we are enabling the wider team to proactively shape the new normal of remote and office working. 

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