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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Using SMS to verify and correct member data: RCM case study

Data accuracy is vitally important for unions that want to improve the member experience. This has been doubly so over the last year, where many workplace reps have been unable to regularly check in with members face to face, and most communication has moved online. 

But when a member changes their online contact details and forgets to update them with the union, it sends the union’s campaigns into a black hole. The member gets cut off from opportunities to get involved, and worse still, the union might not even realise it.

For this project, the Digital Lab worked with colleagues at RCM to test ways to check and improve contact data accuracy. With a strong focus on offering specialised professional training to members, accuracy of the union’s personal data on members is very important in helping them get the most out of their membership. 

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Using online advice content to help unions find and engage with non-members

The effects of the pandemic have cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, with many more still at risk. Redundancies have especially been a problem in parts of the private sector where unionisation rates are very low. As a result, most workers facing uncertainty at work won’t have a union to turn to. And unions don’t have channels to reach them.

There may be an opportunity for unions to reach out to non-union workers and provide valuable advice content to them. In doing this we could give these workers an initial experience and understanding of unions, learn about their needs, and find other useful ways to engage with them.

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Designing online forms to engage with workers about their work

In the TUC Digital Lab we’ve been doing some research into using different formats of work advice to find and engage with non-member workers. We’ve got more info about this here, but I wanted to start with some interesting lessons we’re drawing from the numbers on how our forms worked, which could be useful to unions seeking to engage non-members for organising projects.

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Testing your union’s new digital services by prototyping

Prototyping is a very important tool when it comes to designing new digital systems. As non-profits, reliant on members’ contributions, unions have to be careful to get the best returns out of any digital spend. Yet the costs for new digital development can run into thousands of pounds.

Building a prototype – the most basic version of your solution that you can test with real users – lets you check if you’re on the right track, and reduces the risk of costly project failures.

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Unions and digital disruptors

TUC Digital Lab report

In recent years, new digital start-ups have changed the faces of whole industries. New entrants have risen to dominance in their sectors and previously major players have collapsed. The pace of change has only intensified with the digital-first response to Covid-19.

Unions aren’t commercial businesses but as organisations we don’t exist in a vacuum. We too can find our position eroded by disruptive innovation if we fail to understand how it works or adapt to it.

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