joining online. Photo: Nick David / Getty Images

Online joining in unions – current and best practice

New Digital Lab report

In 2021, people expect good quality digital interactions with all companies and organisations. Unions are no exceptions – prospective members will expect to be able to easily and immediately join online.

Expectations have also increased around the user experience online, driven by the increasing number of digital subscription services the average person now interacts with – from Netflix and Spotify to Uber. This has been taken up by commercial services like online banking and even by government with major programmes focused on streamlining interactions with government services.

Website forms have become easier to use, with better guidance, cleaner layouts and a step by-step approach that walks the user through the process, with less important information gathered only after the user has subscribed, and at a time that feels appropriate to them.

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, many potential union members will also be applying online using small, touch screen devices. Again, the expectations are that this is something online joining should easily facilitate.

This also offers us opportunities. Increased ease of joining can also help to increase a new member’s level of engagement with the union, offering them further interactions like activism, campaigning or professional development, at a time when their attention is at its highest immediately after joining.

Simon Parry of has worked with us to repeat a 2012 audit he did of union online joining systems. We’ve seen a lot of progress between the two surveys, but we’ve also identified some of the next areas where unions could focus in order to move from establishing joining systems towards best practice in joining.

Download the full report by registering here.