Building the union one phone call at a time.
“Hi, John. It’s Beka from the Public Service Association here. I’m so glad I caught you. How are you doing today? The reason I wanted to catch up with you is….”
Over the past six months hundreds of workers across the country have been picking up the phone to find a friendly voice inviting them to join the union.
It’s something the PSA has rarely done in the past. But last year the union reviewed its recruitment process using its own productivity tool Sustainable Work Systems. The tool involves staff and management working together to identify more effective ways of working. One outcome was to trial telephone recruiting.
Would it work, though? Cold calling is difficult to get right and even experienced callers will often only manage a success rate of less than 10%. Many people regard cold calling as verbal spam and can’t wait to get off the phone.
The PSA recruitment figures are now in, and show a phenomenal 78% of prospective PSA members approached by phone in district health boards and the community public services sector joined the union. Most signed up on the spot.
Studies show that one of the main reasons why eligible non-members don’t join the union in their workplace is that they have simply never been asked. And in the case of the PSA, many of the eligible members contacted had immediate financial benefit if they signed up.
Nevertheless, a lot of the credit has to go to the PSA’s skilled and enthusiastic telephone recruiters Rebecca Davey and Gene Saunders.
“Sometimes it’s a no-brainer for people,” says Rebecca. “There may be an extra incentive that was negotiated in bargaining like a lump sum payment or other benefit that is time relevant.”
Gene says: “the job requires people with a certain attitude and sensibility, who can illustrate the value in what PSA membership provides.”
Opportunities for recruiting members often arise during bargaining or when members are voting on settlement.
“You have to do your homework,” says Rebecca. “You have to know exactly what’s going on in that worksite and what we can provide for prospective members.”
“You need to find out what resonates with people, and be able to create a good relationship and rapport,” says Gene. “People are then more likely to stay with the union if they’ve had that initial good experience. That’s something we put a lot of value on.”
So what does resonate with prospective members?
“It’s different things for different people,” says Gene. “For some people, it’s all about member benefits and holiday homes.”
“Often it’s job insurance,” Rebecca says, “being able to get support from the Organising Centre or the delegates and organisers or legal representation that would otherwise cost thousands so we focus on that.
It’s more than just recruiting another member, it’s about building solidarity and improving people’s working lives through union participation.”
“It’s also about the message,” says Gene, “you provide a positive experience during the sign-up process and the new member will share that experience with their colleagues. Becoming a member should be quick and hassle free and we enjoy making that a reality.”
If you know of a non-member who might be receptive to a phone call ring the PSA organising Centre 0508 367 772 to get them in contact with Rebecca or Gene.