The concept of a membership journey is novel yet somehow entirely obvious. And the overlap between 80 or so trade unions and our 6m members, with the 54.3m members of the UK’s other 8000 membership organisations is extensive.
From “first contact” with a potential member, to signing them up, building a relationship, demonstrating relevance, and making the renewal of membership as natural as breathing – all fundamental and well understood milestones for trade unions.
And yet, what is striking about Vic Barlow’s insistent celebration of the virtues of effectively managing the journey, is that it is easier to describe than enact.
In the latest UnionDues podcast, Vic and I discuss how engagement is at the heart of an effective membership journey. That in turn creates some particular challenges for us.
Smartphone natives are now the largest demographic in the workforce, but with the lowest levels of union membership. So that “first contact” means going, metaphorically and practically to where those younger workers are, not where we would like them to be. That’s not always easy and doesn’t always fit comfortably with established ways of doing things.
Then we need to create, maintain and use a Customer Relations Management (or CRM) system to understand our members – where they are in both their work/career/professional and life journeys, and how that affects what they might need expect and value from their union. We also need to use CRM to understand how members interact with us – what services do they use, how do they respond to requests for information or action, to what extent (if any) are they active?
And then that data and any analysis of it needs to move from CRM-specific data crunchers to policy makers, communications experts, negotiating teams and organisers to make sur that recruitment targets are accurately set, negotiating objectives orientated around what most engages members, and the “ask” is sustainable, sensitive and not contradictory or overwhelming at every level of the organisation.
And on top of all that, the process of joining, renewing, or leaving membership can itself affect the membership journey. If it is an annual cycle, then at least you can have a strategic plan with a series of staging posts set into a yearly cycle. But if subs are, for example, collected weekly, that can be a (possibly unavoidable) disruptor.
Vic and I discuss all this, and how Unions have “delivered over and above” what any of us could expect during the Covid crisis, and in doing so gives us a masterclass in membership engagement.
We also extend a welcome to new NASUWT General Secretary Patrick Roach as he takes up his post, and ruminate about further rationalisation amongst the education unions.
Our news round-up follows up the last episode’s concern for transport workers in the Co-Vid crisis, the continuing scandal of PPE provision (or non-provision more like), a landmark victory for restaurant workers whose employer has gone into administration, and how one French union has secured a stunning court judgement against Amazon in defence of their members.
The TUC portal for what all affiliates are doing on coronavirus is here.
Our book review this episode is Kate Raworth’s “Doughnut Economics” – a fulsome and satisfying analysis not of the baking or “sweet treats” sector, but a complete reworking of economic philosophy.
You can access this and all episodes here. Please download, stream, rate, share, but above all, enjoy.
Stay safe, stay well and stay home if you can.