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I have a custom list where employees can nominate colleagues to be recognised.

The company directory is connected to the list.

I want the person who is nominated to receive an email so they can see they have been nominated.

I know how to set up an alert for a group or specific person in SPD, but not sure how to get it to change each time a different employee is nominated.

Can this be done?

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Alerts

Alerts are a (personal) setting on a List/Library and have nothing to do with SharePoint Designer.
When Items appear in a View (checked by SharePoint, not when a user displays a View) SharePoint will notify the specified User.
Depending on rights a User can set Alerts to be sent to other accounts.

But this is a predefined account, so in your use-case Alerts wont be of help.
Unless you predefine one Alert for every user, which might be fine of you have a limitted amount of nominees.

Workflow

For a more flexible approach you need a SharePoint Designer Workflow which starts on every new Item creation (or maybe even when an existing Item can change the Nominee)
This can be a very simple Workflow which send an email to the Nominated person.

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