Reps share their top tips for recruitment

31 August 2021

Some Prospect reps who have enjoyed consistent success in asking their workplace colleagues to sign-up share some of their top tips for recruitment.

Recruitment is the lifeblood of our union. After all, recruitment doesn’t just benefit the new member, but it strengthens their local branch and existing members across Prospect ultimately benefit from a growing membership too.

Yet, even the most seasoned rep can find it difficult to ask a colleague if they’d like to join.

It’s a sentiment that is shared right at the top.

Eleanor Wade is the president of Prospect, as well as the chair of the Intellectual Property Office branch and a workplace rep.

“I handle personal cases, which can get really serious for the member. I handle pay negotiations. I do pretty much everything that reps do. But I find talking to people about why they should join intimidating; more difficult than I feel it should be.

“All I’m doing is talking to them about something that is a positive benefit in my life and that would be a positive benefit for them in their life…”

This is why, at a recent webinar, Prospect brought together some of our star recruiters (or at least those we have been able to identify through our Member Recruit Member scheme) and asked them to share some of their top tips for recruiting.

This is what they told us.

Be visible and make a difference

A senior health and Safety rep for UKRI, Steve Crothers has an advantage because he helps to shape the safety policy for the whole organisation. As a result, he meets a lot of staff on his ‘safety tours.’

“People see me doing that and I don’t have to recruit them. They come to me and ask how do I join Prospect?”

He adds that he once worked on a personal case where he helped a member save a lot of money.

“When you do things like that, people start talking about you and members come running. Be visible, do something to make a difference and people will join.”

Persistence and the follow-up

“The thing that works for me is having a one-to-one conversation and being persistent. Sometimes I think people are running away from me because they know I’m going to ask them why they haven’t joined yet, when they said they would,” says Gavin Powell, Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.

At the start of Union Week, non-members are approached about joining, and if there are some positive noises, I make sure to follow-up by the end of the week.

“A lot of it is about stressing the difference that Prospect makes both within the workplace and nationally. We’re a government-funded body, so we have civil service terms and conditions. We can say we have a direct contact at the highest levels of government and we’re politically independent.

“Only a trade union like Prospect has the ability to influence and shape Scottish Government pay policy or the integrity of the Civil Service Pension. I find that a really big selling point.”

Seize the moment in difficult times

One workplace has increased its membership from a small handful to a few dozen in recent months.

The organisation is going through its second restructure in two years, and the first restructure had resulted in redundancies where people didn’t get the chance to negotiate good terms, says one of the local reps.

“Members who have been affected by this second restructure have given good anecdotal evidence of how Prospect has supported them and helped negotiate better terms.”

The rep added that while it’s never nice to be made redundant, everyone has been able to see the stark difference that the union has been able to make for members in difficult times.

You can email first to break the ice… And free gifts

If you find it difficult to approach people to start a conversation, you can always email them to say hello first, and ask if they have a moment to chat, is the advice of Julie Carr, British Museum.

When the conversation starts, you also have to be a good listener.

“I make sure that I’ve got good examples of what the union has done in the workplace, particularly in the department they’re working in.”

Since the pandemic, there has been a big increase in membership numbers at the organisation.

She adds: “People like a little free gift and Union Week is a great opportunity for me to restart any conversations with people who still haven’t joined.”

Confront misconceptions about unions

It must be acknowledged that a lot of people are put off by unions because, for example, they think it’s all about going on strike.

So, a tactic employed by Nicola Wellard, Health & Safety Executive, is to tackle those misconceptions head-on.

“I’ll speak about what it was like growing up in the ‘70s and that militant perception. I emphasise that Prospect does everything it can to sort things out informally because that’s the best way.”

Pass on expert knowledge

A powerful reason to join Prospect is the expertise and knowledge of the union’s specialist full-time officers. But perhaps even more powerful is the role of local reps who can pass on what they’ve learnt through the union.

This is a point made by Eamonn Guilfoyle, Office for Nuclear Regulation, who says, “Thanks to Prospect I went away and learned how the pension scheme works.”

“Now, when any new starter joins and they ask, ‘how does my pension work?’ I can sit them down and explain it. Then I explain that this is one of those benefits of being in the union.”

Be patient!

Finally, Kay Heather, Imperial War Museum, stressed that it can pay off to play the long game.

“Sometimes people I’ve spoken to will join but it’ll be a year or two after I had the conversation with them. It can just slip people’s minds.”

Do you have any useful tips for recruiting new members? Get in touch and let us know.