Understanding our digital-only union members

Over the last 20 months, many unions have seen a spike in new members joining. But with a reduced physical presence in workplaces, and with fewer opportunities to network, we’ve been unable to offer them a “normal” experience of membership. 

Indeed, a great many members, suddenly told to work from home yet fearful of the impact of the pandemic on their jobs, joined up looking for support, despite being unsure of what they were going to find.

Last week, we hosted the final TUC Digital Lab session of the year, on the topic of “digital-only Members”. We want to better understand these recent joiners’ experiences and needs, to make our unions as relevant to their lives as we are to those of our traditional members.

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How can unions choose which tech tools will work for them?

Over the course of the pandemic, every organisation has had to come up with new ways of getting things done. For unions, that’s meant a lot of hard thinking and experimentation about ways to organise workers without them being able to meet face-to-face.

While this isn’t a completely new trend (as William Gibson famously said: “the future’s here, it’s just not very evenly distributed”), these moments of great acceleration can leave organisations looking back at their former selves, wondering how they were ever the way they were.

Suddenly, everyone working for a union has had to use new tools and behave differently to do their work. And bringing a much wider range of new tech tools into the organisation so quickly has had lots of wider implications for unions.

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Getting started with Service Design for unions: TUC Digital Lab workshop report

Service Design is a broad and diverse discipline which seeks to optimise an organisation’s services by focusing on aligning the experience people have of using them. It’s a way of working that’s become increasingly common across government, business and voluntary sector alike.

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Data and unions: TUC Digital Lab workshop report

To date, making decisions based on data to improve union experience has mostly been an aspiration, rather than the reality for most trade unions. There are some good examples of testing and optimisation taking place (see earlier sessions on ‘joining’ in particular for this), but it’s not as widespread as it could be. 

In October 2019, the TUC Digital Lab ran a session on how we could better use data to manage our unions. We wanted to discover the challenges we as unions face in developing a culture where data is regularly gathered, interrogated and acted upon.

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Getting more out of your union’s content: TUC Digital Lab workshop report

Just what do we mean by ‘content’?

Content is the lifeblood of websites, emails, social media posts, text messages, apps and more. If unions don’t have good content, where will our members find the help and advice they need? (The answer is, of course, somewhere else on the internet).

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