Should your union measure a Net Promoter Score?

Your union’s motivated and committed supporters — your activists, delegates and workplace leaders — are amongst your most important members. Most union leaders and organisers know anecdotally who these committed supporters are, but does your union have a systematic way to measure the levels of commitment and motivation amongst your members?

I’ve written previously about essential metrics that union leaders should know, and how important it is to identify and motivate your committed members. We know that the more enthusiastic, engaged and committed your members are, the more likely your union is to grow — this is especially correlated through the presence of union delegates in the workplace. (See here for research by David Peetz and Barbara Pocock.)

The Net Promoter Score is a simple and effective way to gauge how loyal your membership is, and can help your union drill down into individual workplaces and members to help identify your best, most committed and loyal members.

I’m a big advocate of the Net Promoter Score (NPS). This is because it is simple to implement, it gives a powerful voice to members, and provides crucial information that is strongly correlated to future financial growth. What’s more, because of its simplicity it can be easily understood and explained across the union, and then turned into action. Finally, the NPS is valuable for unions because it can be tracked and action taken to improve over time.

Why would you want to know this information at all?

Firstly, as I said at the start, it can help you identify your most motivated and committed supporters. NPS is a measurement of loyalty of your members. This key attitude is linked to future behaviour — not only remaining a member, but encouraging others to join or becoming an activist. Combined with other attitude insights, like satisfaction, your union — both leadership and organisers — can gain a multidimensional view of your membership.

Secondly, measuring loyalty, both as a snapshot and changes over time, can help union leaders and organisers identify trouble-spots or potentially problematic worksites.

Thirdly, combined with accurate reporting about union activity in the workplace, the NPS lets union leaders and organisers identify union behaviours that can affect member loyalty. For example, unions could look at the correlation between the NPS at a workplace and the number of site visits that workplace has receive in the previous six months, or the number of delegates in the workplace. You could also look at the connection between length of membership and NPS — are new members less likely to recommend and could you therefore look at your new member “welcome” process. Adding additional experiential information turns the abstract NPS into an actionable metric.

So, what is the NPS?

Simply, it asks your members (or supporters): “How likely is it that you’ll recommend this product to a friend or colleague?” For a union, this would be customised to “How likely is it that you’ll recommend joining the union to a friend or colleague?”

The answers are placed on a scale of 0 (Not at all likely) to 10 (Extremely likely), then grouped into three categories.

Promoters:  Responses from 9-10
Passives: Responses from 7-8
Detractors: Responses from 0 to 6

The NPS is a “net” promoter score because the final score is the percentage of promoters subtracted by the percentage of detractors.

So if you did a survey of 1000 members, and 100 ranked their likelihood to recommend at 9 or 10, 300 ranked you 0-6 and the remainder were 7-8. Your NPS would be -15%, which means you have more detractors than promoters.

The key follow up question when measuring your NPS is an open question: “why?” Without this question, it will be difficult to turn the score into action.

Implementing an NPS in your union could be a radical step. It can significantly change how your union interacts with its members, and how you organise for growth. It may be challenging for union staff, because it allows union leaders to more closely hold organisers and lead organisers accountable for the groups of members they work with, and for treating members properly.

It is also important when implementing an NPS system for your union to share your score with your staff. Wear it, own it, take responsibility for it. Celebrate a high score, work hard to fix a negative score. The organisers, industrial officers and other staff responsible for the members being scored should know what the NPS is for those members, and they should know as soon as possible.

In fact, it should be shared throughout your union — communications officers, membership and admin staff, everyone who has contact with members or whose work impacts on members. This could include finance staff or membership database staff. Sharing this score can help organisers and other staff work to promptly address problems.

For union leaders and your union’s executive, the NPS gives your members a voice at the decision-making levels. It lets the leadership know the “temperature” of the membership, and how decisions can impact on member loyalty.

Now, one of the criticisms of the NPS is that it assumes that a low “likelihood to recommend” rating from a member means that they are an active critic. In the real world, this may not be true, so despite the categorisation of these people as “detractors”, they may not actually be saying bad things about your union. Tied to this is the criticism that despite ranking on a scale of 0-10, the scores are then lumped into just three categories, so someone giving a score of zero is considered the same as a 5 or 6. Arguably this “throws away” data — not to mention the fact that your “passives” are largely ignored. Ultimately, the detractor scores are less meaningful than your promoters.

For unions, the key benefit of the NPS is identifying and therefore engaging your committed supporters — your potential delegates and workplace leaders. Because unions are membership driven organisations, recommendations from your members are essential. Word of mouth is one of channels that is most influential in choice, so empowering your loyal, committed members is crucial.

A Net Promoter Score is not a silver bullet, but it should become an essential tool in your toolbox in understanding your membership and planning for growth.

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