How can trade unions step up their game
Many approaches could be used to attract younger members. These include organizing youth conferences, reaching out to young people to attend leadership trainings and encouraging them to run for leadership positions. All these efforts need to go hand in hand with embracing new technologies for communication and with the willingness to meet youngsters in their “habitat”. Recruitment of younger members needs to take place in their workplaces, colleges, and universities, as well as favorite bars and other hangouts.
An efficient recruitment strategy should take into account the following aspects:
1. Make the link between union(s) and career(s) evident: Unions should draw more clearly the link between a young worker’s interests and passions, and thus their future career, with the union. This link is very obvious for “traditional” professional jobs, such as teachers and nurses, but it could be applied to other careers as well, such as journalists or accountants.
2. Talk to prospective young members as equals: Two very risky pitfalls arise during inter-generational communication. The first is that of considering both generations as identical, whereas the second is that of considering the younger generation as immature. Neither of the two statements is true. The bottom line here is that unions need to talk to young workers as equals and approach their struggles with empathy, rather than patronization. A rule of thumb: effective communications are often informal and personal, with engaging imagery.
3. Use multiple channels of communication: Young people consume media through multiple channels. They do so on their mobile, their tablet, their computer, and the television. It’s no longer enough to have your message just in print, or just online, or just on TV or radio (depending on your budget). Unions should communicate with young workers in places they are likely to be. Finally, communication must be a two-way process.
4. Be creative: Use design and language that resonates with contemporary culture – unions should be aware of communication trends.
5. Sticking with the past is not efficient: It can be difficult for unions to adapt. Aside from legal limitations, changes in trade union can only happen if approved by their constituencies (through voting in union’s assemblies and/or congresses). Nevertheless, it is crucial for unions to retain a fresh and relevant core message. To this purpose, focus and clarity are essential. If simple things can’t be clearly expressed in a contemporary manner, then communicating to young workers will be troublesome.
Finally, more than just messaging and communications, unions will need to start creatively thinking about membership options and plans. Not just looking at price, but considering also what kind of services unions can tailor for their younger members.