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Unions 21
| Blog post

A Human-Centred Approach to Strengthening Trade Unions: Integrating User Experience Design

By Antti Mäki, Senior Associate for Education and Digital Organising | 5 min

In the fast-changing landscape of the 21st century, trade unions are faced with the critical challenge of maintaining their relevance and effectiveness. Embracing a human-centred approach and integrating User Experience Design (UXD) principles presents a transformative opportunity for trade unions to reinvigorate their engagement with members and thrive in the dynamic world of today. By shifting the focus from organisational needs to the genuine concerns of individual members, conducting comprehensive research, creating personalised member personas, fostering innovation, and prioritising member feedback, trade unions can cultivate a vibrant, member-centric culture that fosters loyalty, empowerment, and impactful change.

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Debbie Levitt’s insightful Medium story, “The Differences Between Design Frameworks”, which left me greatly inspired.

As well as working with unions across Europe as an educator, I work in a SaaS (Software as a Service) company and came to this role after working with the Finnish trade union education movement. I would very much consider myself as a trade union organiser. With these two experiences in mind, it is evident to me that despite significant changes that occurred during the pandemic the world has evolved faster than the trade union movement when it comes to user experience (UX).

I attribute this partly due to power and politics hindering progress.

At my primary job, we prioritise UX to ensure our product not only meets user needs but also provides exceptional value. The more we understand and empathise with our users, the more they appreciate our product.

Why shouldn’t this human-centred approach extend to trade unions? It is paramount that we direct our efforts towards making unions more engaging and valuable for their members.

I’ve attended countless meetings where others claimed to know their members, but in reality, they were merely making assumptions. We then get rushed decision making based on those deliberations instead of proactive research based on solid evidence. The members are somewhat forgotten.

Moving to human-centred design

In today’s dynamic world, trade unions face the challenge of staying relevant and effective in the lives of their members. The concept of User Experience Design (UXD), offers a valuable tool kit that goes beyond the realm of software and can revolutionise how trade unions engage with their members and operate as organisations. There are ten elements which I think trade unions could benefit from.

1. Embrace a Human-centred Mindset:

To truly serve their members, trade unions must shift their focus from organisational needs to the needs of individual members. Prioritising empathy and understanding the experiences and challenges of members is essential. This human-centred approach ensures that every decision made is driven by member welfare.

2. Conduct Comprehensive Research:

The foundation of any successful UXD initiative is thorough research. Trade unions should invest in gathering data and insights on member preferences and pain points. Employing surveys, interviews, and focus groups will provide a holistic understanding of what members truly require from their union.

3. Create Member Personas:

By developing detailed personas representing different member segments, trade unions can personalise their engagement efforts. Understanding the diverse needs and preferences of each persona will enable tailored services and communication, making members feel seen and valued.

4. Ideate and Innovate for Member Value:

Trade unions should foster brainstorming sessions that encourage creative thinking. By generating innovative solutions for member engagement and satisfaction, unions can stay dynamic and adapt to the evolving needs of their members.

5. Test and Iterate:

Implementing small-scale pilot projects to test new ideas before full-scale implementation is a wise approach. Collecting feedback from members during this process will allow unions to refine their solutions based on real member experiences.

6. Prioritise Member Feedback:

Establishing accessible channels for members to provide feedback is crucial. Actively listening to members’ suggestions and incorporating their ideas into decision-making processes will enhance member trust and loyalty.

7. Enhance Communication Channels:

Optimising communication platforms is vital for seamless interactions with members. Utilising digital tools and social media can create a more immediate and engaging relationship between the union and its members.

8. Offer Relevant and Timely Content:

Tailoring information and resources to match the needs and interests of different member segments will keep members engaged. Providing timely updates on organisational activities, events, and initiatives will help members feel informed and involved.

9. Monitor and Analyse Metrics:

Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) related to member engagement and satisfaction will allow unions to measure the impact of their UXD initiatives. Utilising data analytics will provide valuable insights to continuously improve their strategies.

10. Cultivate a Culture of Continuous Improvement:

Trade unions should foster a mindset of ongoing learning and adaptation within the organisation. Embracing change and being open to refining strategies based on evolving member needs will ensure the union’s sustained relevance and effectiveness.

What to gain?

By integrating User Experience Design (UXD) principles into their ways of working, trade unions can transform into member-centric organisations that prioritise the welfare and engagement of their members. This human-centred approach will strengthen member satisfaction, increase retention, and ultimately result in more influential and impactful unions that can better serve both their members and society as a whole.

With his background in User Experience Design (UXD), Antti seeks to create vibrant, member-centric unions. If you share this vision for transformative change, contact us to find out more by emailing

Also, join us for his next webinar on UXD by signing up here

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