Recruiting, communicating with and involving members is easier than you think
It is crucial to maintain constant communication with members and potential members throughout a campaign. This builds trust in the union and momentum in the campaign and in the union as a member focused organisation.
These communications should include newsletter, email and social media. However, it is vital that they also include methods which engage and facilitate direct in-person contact.
It is critical to hold workplace meetings to share and communicate progress on your campaign. Meetings should be short, informative and focussed solely on the issue in hand.
Members must be involved as well as informed. Members meetings play a key role in helping people understand and contribute to our campaigns and provide members with a local focus of activity.
Meetings provide a vital space for members to raise their questions, concerns and ideas directly with each other. You can raise awareness of the need to do things to support the campaign.
Meetings are a good way to involve members more directly in union work and to exchange information at a branch and workplace level. You may find members contribute useful ideas for local campaigns and may get volunteers to help with branch activity such as leafleting or petitioning.
What is the meeting about? We want members to understand the issues and to get active in the campaign. The meeting is needed to explain the issues and what members can do to help. It is vital we focus attention on the need to fully support the campaign. Consider the following:
- Timing – is the planned time a time that the majority of people are going to be able to make?
- Venue – is it big enough without being too big if not so many turn up? Would the meeting be better held off site if management are hostile and people will feel intimidated about attending?
- Who to invite – is it going to be open to members and non-members, or only members? This may depend on how “unionised” the workplace is. Open meetings can be a great place to recruit non-members as long as they are given a form and asked to join.
- What is the agenda and purpose of the meeting? – Those running the meeting should have a clear idea of what you want to achieve from the meeting and have developed an agenda so that people know what they are coming to discuss or hear about. You may also want to think about doing something interesting like inviting a guest speaker on the issue or asking a member of the organising team to attend and assist in planning your local campaign.
- Advertising the meeting - you need to think about how you are going to advertise the meeting in a way that invitees know about it and are encouraged to come. This would include things like getting more active members to encourage their co-workers to attend, sending emails around with a reminder closer to the time and putting up posters in the workplace. If it is about a contentious issue which the employer opposes, or is a strike meeting, you will need to arrange for leafleting the workplace outside entrances.
Getting members involved
Talking to someone on a one to one basis is one of the most successful ways of getting people to become more involved in the union. It can assist you with the following:
- Learning more about them
- Finding out their opinion on particular issues
- Identifying issues and concerns
- Building a relationship
- Getting them to join the union
- Asking them to get involved in union activity e.g. sign a petition, attend a meeting or talk to co-workers
- Identifying new workplace reps or contacts/advocates
This usually follows the following number of steps:
- Introduction (if necessary), develop a rapport
- Find out basic information about the worker – name, job, are they in PCS?
- Establish issues of concern by active listening (80% listening and just 20% talking is a good guide)
- Based on the points they raise, give positive examples of how the union can help
- Ask them to join the union, or if already a member ask for their commitment to a campaign aim, eg, come to the next meeting, sign a petition or e-action, or become a union advocate for their floor
- Wrap up – if they felt unable to agree (to join or make a commitment for the campaign) give assurance that of a time and date where you can speak to them again once they’ve had time to consider. Ensure you have a notepad or clipboard to make a note of names to go back to
The idea is not to get yourself in an argument or debate about the union but to develop a positive relationship with people so they see the advantage in joining the union or getting more involved.
Listening to people’s concerns is the most effective way of building trust in the union, rather than ‘preaching’. Don’t feel you have to have solutions to everything. If you’re asked something you’re unsure of it is better to make a note of the question and go back to them once you’ve found the answer.
Remember that the reason most people give for why they aren’t a member or more active in the union is that they have never been asked.
‘Like recruits like’
When you are planning activities to try and recruit fellow workers to the union you want to think about who is best placed to approach someone. If people are approached by a friend or a colleague, who they know and trust they are more likely to agree to join or get active, then they might be if a total stranger approaches them and asks.
The same goes for producing materials you need. Think about the people in your workplace. If they are predominately young maybe you could ask a younger member to write a leaflet that may appeal to young members.
Using people skills where appropriate
When allocating tasks in a campaign it could be useful to think about the kind of skills that your campaign team has and how they can be utilised as part of the campaign.
For example if someone has experience in writing a community campaign newsletter then they might be a good person to co-ordinate a local branch or workplace newsletter.
If someone has better access to the movements of people in the department then could give the group information to assist in mapping.
This is something also to remember as part of succession planning. If a rep who has been very active is leaving the workplace you need to think about how you can replace them and getting them to mentor people into their new role.