Making the most of mobile for union digital

One of the biggest shifts in digital over the last decade has been the move to mobile. The overwhelming majority of working age Britons now own a smartphone, and it’s given them a new and much more natural relationship with digital channels.

The ability to complete an ever wider range of tasks over the internet, from wherever you happen to be, has raised users’ expectations. And that can be hard for unions to keep up with.

Our latest report, “Making the most of mobile for trade union digital”, takes a closer look at what mobile means for users and their unions. It’s been written with regular Digital Lab contributor Simon Parry of

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User research with union reps

Over the last few months, the TUC Digital Lab has been collaborating with Accord to research how the union’s reps feel about technology, and to get pointers on where the union could best invest its resources in providing tech tools for this key group of users.

We worked on this with Joe Friel and Beth Scott of digital design and development agency Yalla Cooperative. They facilitated a series of workshops to help the union run a discovery process, and conducted a series of user interviews with reps.

In the process, we documented different personas and needs for types of rep and insights from the interviews. We used these to refine our understanding of key user journeys that reps and members go through, and to identify potentially helpful interventions that the union could make along each journey.

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Search engine optimisation (SEO) for trade unions

We’re getting a bit techy with our latest report. It’s an introduction to Search engine optimisation (SEO to its friends). This covers a range of concepts around content strategy and editorial or technical optimisation, designed to make your content rank higher in the results returned by search engines.

So, why is search engine optimisation important for unions?

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Looking ahead to 2022 in trade union tech

Unions have seen a lot of changes in tech since our Digital Lab programme started in 2019. In particular, the pandemic gave immediate impetus to many new tech projects over 2020 and 2021.

We’ve seen some great work happening in unions over the last year, and I think it could help us focus the crystal ball for 2022. In particular I’ve got five areas where I think the union tech environment may be set for interesting things. 

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The pandemic and the drive for #digitalunions

In the first week of 2020’s lockdown, I took part in Simon Sapper’s great UnionDues podcast, sitting on my bed with my laptop to record a conversation about digital change in unions. During the call, Simon asked if I thought the pandemic could become a turning point for unions in digitising.

I wasn’t sure. We were in for what looked like being a really difficult couple of months for unions in supporting members to stay safe at work, without access to much of our infrastructure.

My worry was that was as likely to eat into our limited capacity for new digital work, as it could be a spur to new digitisation.

As it turned out though, Simon was onto more than I had thought.

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Adapting to the new normal for trade unions

The last 18 months have been a time of drastic change. Along with the rest of society, unions have had to adapt to the pandemic and the effects of the response to it. We had to work quickly to get operations functioning again with closed offices, safety concerns and huge disruption in our members’ workplaces.

Digital played a large part in this adaptation. Denied physical meetings and conferences, and with travel options severely limited, there was no choice but to move as much activity online as possible.

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7 things for unions to think about when updating member contact data

We’ve been working with RCM recently on how unions might work with members to keep contact data up to date. An automated SMS campaign succeeded in getting some great levels of engagement (read the full report here), but making the process as simple as possible for the member to complete.

We talked about the project at our last Digital Lab office hours session, and had a really useful discussion between practitioners from across our affiliates.

I wanted to share some of the points made by our colleagues, as there was a lot in there for unions to consider if they’re planning their own data check projects.

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Digital approaches to case management for unions.

Our latest Digital Lab seminar looked at what digital could mean for case management in UK unions. I’ve been spending a lot of time of late talking to digital leads at our affiliate unions. I’ve been hoping to get a sense of the big issues for digital as we move into a new normal. And case management has been cropping up quite often as a priority.

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Unions and the cloud

I’ve been talking to digital leads in a lot of our affiliated unions over the last few months about our different experiences during lockdown. There have been a number of factors that shaped how quickly unions were able to respond to losing access to offices, but one of those that stands out for me was the extent to which they had moved infrastructure and software to the cloud prior to the pandemic.

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