Member insights crucial for union growth

Before you start your union growth program, it is essential to have reliable, high quality insights about your members and potential members.

Within various industries like data and manufacturing, there is a management truism called the “1-10-100 Rule“.

The 1-10-100 Rule, states that it costs exponentially more money to identify and correct errors the longer it takes to find those errors.

This rule proposes that (for example, in the data and analytics) it costs $1 to verify data as it’s being entered (prevention), $10 to clean the data after the fact (remediation), and $100 if you do nothing and have to deal with the errors (fixing failures).

Diagram showing the 1-10-100 rule
1 10 100 Rule was allegedly developed by George Labovitz and Yu Sang Chang and also attributed to Forrester a global insights agency

The rule itself is a non-falsifiable truism — that is, there is no actual science behind for the ratios or the rule.

Rather, it is a management “rule of thumb” or heuristic that reinforces the importance of doing the preparatory work before starting a major project or initiating a new strategy.

Why is this “rule” relevant for unions?

For unions developing or implementing a growth plan, the 1-10-100 Rule is a useful guide because it reinforces the importance of doing adequate research and collecting high quality insights about members and potential members before determining a strategy and before implementing that strategy.

The 1-10-100 Rule represents the financial impact of making decisions without data or with poor insights and research.

It is cheaper — and easier — to fix problems before you start your organising program or growth campaign. Once you’ve started your recruitment and growth campaign, it becomes much more difficult and expensive to change course.

By way of example, using the ACTU’s own growth journey. Starting at the end of 2019, the ACTU initiated its growth agenda. Before major marketing or advertising programs commenced, the ACTU undertook the deepest, most extensive research program into drivers, barriers and attitudes to joining.

That deep, detailed research allowed the ACTU to identify core audiences for growth, as well as the main barriers for recruitment and the main drivers for joining. Since then, the ACTU Insights Team has substantially increased the depth and quality of the research into workers’ attitudes to joining unions.

This research and the expertise of the Insights Team is of course available affiliates. Send an email to for more info — or get in touch with me.

If we had instead invested in a large national recruitment program without first doing the research, we would have been relying on a lot of assumptions and guesswork. This could have resulted in significant resources focused on the wrong messages or targeting the wrong audiences. In addition to all of the wasted time and money, it would have been much harder to then “fix” the problem when we finally did do the research.

Most unions know that we need to do the mapping work before starting an organising effort.

Unions now have access to far greater and more affordable scientific research insights about prospective members — via the ACTU Insights Team. It’s critical to remember that a major growth strategy without adequate research and insights can result in a cascading series misleading paths that can worsen over time.

The immediate result can be something as simple as potential members being turned off by messaging that misses the mark, or having your union’s staff working on activities that will turn out to be ineffective. In the long term, it can lead to detrimental member experiences, lower retention and wasted member resources.

%d bloggers like this: