Floor walking helps you get to know your members and keep in constant contact with them
Keep it regular
Floor-walking works well when reps make a commitment to spend a dedicated amount of time on the floor with members or potential members; e.g. Once a week, every other day or monthly.
Make it strategic
Dovetail this activity with your branch action plan, so that it ties in with campaigning issues, branch meetings, recruitment and other activity. Regular face to face contact with members is the most important lesson to learn.
Keeping your finger on the pulse
When walking through your workplace look for opportunities to make positive comments and just as importantly, receive input and feedback. Floor-walking allows you to see everything going on, and it allows you to listen directly to members: your finger will be on the pulse; members will tell you directly of their concerns, problems and issues. When you walk around the workplace you witness what people are actually talking about.
Floor walking will help keep your mapping current. You will know where members, activists and non members are and will also help you build up your understanding of how and why different work areas are involved (or not) in their union.
Tips on floor walking
Do it to everyone: Try not to develop favourite corners of the office; the probability is if you go to the same people you’ll hear the same things. Develop a plan to visit everywhere you have responsibility for and talk to those people who may not want to talk to you or you may want to avoid because they can be difficult. Work in pairs if there is evidence of hostility toward the union.
Work as a team: Support each other but don’t approach non members mob handed. One-to-one encourages honest and open dialogue.
Ask questions: Be interested and inquisitive rather than intrusive. If someone is busy on an important piece of work don’t disturb them, simply make a note to return later.
Watch and listen: Take in everything; listen to the words and tone, as members speak to you and to others. The point is to find out what’s important to them, not you. New employees may not respond, but over time listening to their questions, concerns and their needs will break the ice for you.
Share your ideas with them: Ask them for their opinions by holding open discussions and being open to new ideas.
Bring good news: Walk around with information about recent union successes or positive initiatives. Give them good news, increase their confidence and brighten their outlook. PCS fights for better conditions and we should communicate our victories.
Pay tribute to members and reps for the work they’ve done in supporting the union. You can’t praise people enough.
When we win on issues we feel successful and are more prepared to take on more issues. This will encourage them to look for victories and share them.
Use questionnaires and surveys: As well as mapping the membership, floor-walking is an excellent opportunity to more formally pick up on issues facing members through a questionnaire or survey, e.g. on health and safety, performance management or willingness to take action. Try to keep it very short and simple e.g. two or three questions, so that you don’t disturb each member for more than a minute or two. Their time will be precious as well as yours.
Don’t be critical: When something goes wrong whilst floor-walking as a group don’t criticise individual colleagues; discuss it and work towards getting it right next time.
Feed off enthusiasm: When someone presents a new idea, support it; don't rush to undermine it if it’s impractical. Try to incorporate their suggestion in a more pragmatic way rather than knock the idea flat.