With many unions facing the loss of 50% of their reps to retirement in the next 15 years, the need to mobilise and bring through the next generation is pressing. The solution to this seems to lie in 3 key areas: recruit, engage and mobilise.


There is not always a clear point of qualification or accreditation at which to acquire members and therefore recruiting becomes more of a challenge. Identifying your prospective member market can be the first challenge (let alone who might make a good rep). Finding commonalities can be a good place to start: traits, needs, employers, behaviours and locations can all feed into an acquisition strategy. Has your prospective market changed demographically? We know that there is a growing trend of those with responsibility in senior leadership dropping to the mid 20’s demographic, is that a consideration for your union?

Where recruitment centres around a workplace that you may already have an influence is there the potential for a member get member scheme, or mentoring people into membership program? How can you step up awareness and activity in those environments to make your union more visible and the value of belonging more apparent?

Is your point of needing to raise awareness targeted at the right audience at the right time in their lives in order for them to connect with you at the appropriate time? Are the key younger worker territories of retail, hospitality and social care relevant to your union? Might there be a partnership worth establishing with an organisation they are likely to be connected with prior to the time when becoming a union member might be relevant?

Where recruitment needs to take place in a workplace where you have no existing influence, how might that be established? Where it’s possible to identify the common challenges workers in that context might be experiencing, communicating with them around those is a solid start. It’s fundamental to begin with a problem in order to identify where you can provide an appropriate solution. Some of the key challenges the TUC research report identified included:

  • Understanding their rights in the working environment
  • Support in petitioning for change in the workplace
  • Understanding of family commitments in scheduling shift work
  • Support in career progression

Recruitment methods also need careful scrutiny and rationalisation, an example of this is the merits or otherwise of providing free membership. Seen as an ideal means of making the initial connection, free membership comes at a cost! These unseen costs can include recruiting members who don’t value what they don’t pay for and then not being prepared to pay when their free access point is no longer valid. It’s also important to consider the feelings of fully subscribed members towards those who seemingly gain the same benefits for free. This in itself is a massive discussion!