Common challenges for Unions include;

  • Hierarchical structures common in larger Unions can be at the root of challenges such as poor sharing of information and good practice between departments resulting in siloed data and compromised communications.
  • Where Unions have grown through mergers there are often complex internal architectures which would benefit from the reorganisation and streamlining of systems and processes.
  • Unions face some perception issues, whether that be the negative connotation of being an ‘insurance policy’, or that in some way they lack relevance to younger prospective members. There is work to be done to dispel these perceptions and prove the relevance of the Union to the prospective millennial member.
  • Where internal structures are mirrored in online platforms the user experience is rarely intuitive or relevant and compromises the potential for engagement. This results in a propensity for generic messaging or inconsistency in content and tone with no clear communications strategy of guidance for contributors and an audience who are left confused and disconnected.

21st Century solutions;

  • Implementing a CRM that consolidates all data across the organisation into a single point of truth will help to eliminate the siloes, provide comprehensive visibility and encourage good information sharing. Utilising technology to address this challenge will only work through a cultural transformation piece in terms of setting expectations as to good practice and communication standards and providing relevant training. The potential benefits are significant, so this is something well worth pursuing if not currently in place.
  • The challenge of unifying unions that have merged definitely requires a commitment to intentional cultural transformation. Analysing systems and processes to identify where some would warrant reorganization, unification and/or streamlining should be done in line with the cultural piece, and not purely a technical project as it needs to take account of the wider business and people implications.
  • Perception issues are commonly the toughest to address. Positioning your organisation to be seen as a relevant, active campaigning union is critical. Broadcasting frequent news and activity across various digital channels (focused on where the majority of your members and prospective members are) will be helpful. Adopting a more holistic approach can also be of benefit, considering how your current member value proposition connects with the needs and expectations of a younger prospective member and researching whether there would be a way to add to the perceived value of membership through providing a member engagement app with specific tools such as petition signing utilising mobile fingerprint technology, how push notifications might be used to prompt immediate action, or reminders etc.
  • Understanding your audience and being able to communicate in a personalised way with relevant content is key. A website that is integrated with your CRM and digital marketing tools can really improve your connection with your audience through providing a personalised experience and tailored content. Add to that further digital engagement tools such as a mobile member engagement app and you can deliver:
    • Segmented campaigns/content with specific messages for clearer and more targeted communications.
    • Push notifications for rallies, campaigns, petitions, meetings, events etc. to increase engagement, especially with a younger ‘digital native’ audience.
    • Tailored and personalised content, with self service capabilities for members to enable the streamlining of processes and make interactions with your union easier and more personalised for potential and existing members.
    • Integrated systems to allow for better sharing and management of information, best practice and messaging.

It was our privilege to host a focus group for Unions on 3rd April reviewing the TUC’s report on ‘The Missing Half Million: How Unions Can Transform Themselves to be a Movement of Young Workers’ with its author Clare Coatman, Senior Campaigner from the TUC. The event was minuted and we have produced a document summarising the discussion. We've categorised the content into three main areas; identifying and addressing the key challenges, how Unions are looking to connect with this audience currently and guidance and insight into what Unions should be doing in light of the research findings.

If you’d like to discuss these and other challenges and solutions further please contact us and we can contribute the experiences we’ve had collaborating with unions such as the National Union of Rail Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU).

We have a further program of focus groups and seminars planned on the subjects of ‘Tools to listen to your members’, ‘Developing digital tools to grow and support your organisation and members’ and ‘How to build an online/offline Union community’. Register for our webinar and focus group series where you can join peers from other UK unions to discuss these challenges by emailing