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Trade Unions are Broken
Too focused on their own agenda. Not enough focus on customer success.
A Trade Union is a business just like any other. They are a subscription business. They rely on their subscribers (members) for income.
Their very survival depends on them ‘preying’ on the needs and fears of these members and prospective new subscribers.
Needs = appropriate change or protection.
Fears = inappropriate change or protection.
I use ‘preying on’ appropriately but carefully. All businesses hunt; client / customer acquisition. They also farm; client / customer retention.
A modern and successful business focuses on “what is success for the client / customer?” Known as customer success. And then delivers beautiful service or product that fulfils that success criteria.
Businesses fail, or are broken, when they drive the agenda or dictate what success should look like for their customer or client.
This post is about the union side of the equation. We will look at the organisations side in another post.
So, what is a union members success criteria?
In our experience (@kahvay) we hear;
* empowerment and;
* job satisfaction are criteria for success.
There have been many studies on what defines these success criteria in the workplace and any internet search can provide you with many expert opinions and papers, but, and here is the kicker, money is very rarely a major contributor.
Working conditions, positive management, equipment, training, enjoyable co-workers, levels of autonomy, trust, pride, a voice, accomplishment and positive feedback are far more prevalent.
And this is why Trade Unions in the UK are broken.
Happy, empowered and satisfied employees can be unionised or non-unionised.
The business of a Trade Union is a service to be ‘the voice’ of happiness, empowerment and satisfaction in the workplace. So why do so many focus on just money?!!
Because it’s easier? It’s more easily measured? It is far less complex and requires less time and effort to plan and execute. But it’s also the most conflict orientated issue requiring the most extreme of behaviours and tactics, it’s competitive and lacks trust.
A Trade Union’s business, it’s service, is to voice and negotiate on behalf of its members their needs and fears. But negotiating more complex issues like working conditions, positive management, training, equipment, enjoyable co-workers, levels of autonomy, trust, pride, a voice, accomplishment and positive feedback.. takes more time, more energy, more trust and open cooperation.
To increase its bargaining power (its chances of success) it is in the Trade Unions interest to bloat or make more extreme needs and/or fears to increase its power and achieve more success. Recently we hear the words; ‘be more militant’.
But again, recently success = more money.
This is counter to its members success criteria.
Non unionised organisations can also succeed because they can learn to empower their managers and workforce to solve work place issues in an open, collaborative environment where they have trust in the relationship. Here, needs and fears, are addressed cooperatively. The workers success criteria can be met.
Happy, empowered and satisfied workforce = successful business.
UK Trades Unions are broken because the relationship between them and the organisations they need to negotiate with lacks trust! The Unions ‘voice’ is considered and perceived militant, cold, hard and arrogant. Inappropriate tactics have been and are being used and organisations feel manipulated and after attempting collaboration an organisation is left feeling dissatisfied and exploited meaning they push back harder, tougher, more arrogantly the next time to protect themselves.
This circle destroys trust and fails to achieve the Unions customers success criteria. All they are left with is a little more money.
The most successful organisations are the ones who foster empowered employees and managers, where open, trusting and cooperative relationships can deliver on needs and fears without bloated, extreme, militant positions.
To fix the UK Trade Unions they need to stop driving the agenda. Start focussing on the right success criteria, not theirs but their customers. Then they would become more successful themselves. They would grow their membership and therefore become more successful businesses.
Unions willing to adapt to this business model would need to change their organisational management, success measurements and retrain those who act as the voice in the art and science of more complex negotiations where more time, effort and planning is required to meet their members success criteria. Then it would take time to build the trust and foster more open and cooperative relationships with their members and the organisations they are their members voices at without the need for bloated, extreme, militant positions.