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Understanding Strategic Corporate Research

Lockdown has proven challenging for industrial officers with the reduction of access to workspaces. When a large part of the workload has typically required visiting workplaces, what can you do when it isn’t necessarily feasible to do that? What can we do now that is both productive and can set us up for when many workers return to the workplace?

One area of union work that I love but doesn’t get much attention is strategic corporate research.

For those unfamiliar with SCR, it is the process of building a comprehensive picture of an employer and/or an industry. A SCR map should provide you with the right information you need to make both strategic and tactical decisions. When I first used SCR as a trainee organiser we were able to use it to identify workplaces to go into first, such as smaller companies rather than bigger ones that we weren’t really prepared for. Ever since that first experience, I’ve been a keen advocate.

Whether I’ve been in the private or public sector, undertaking SCR has always been useful. It’s enabled me to take a step back and work out all the possible problems and map a course of action. When resources are scarce, which employers do we target? Which workplace needs more support to develop reps?

Following a clear pattern of information gathering in a systematic fashion ensures you don’t go off down rabbit holes or do a light job that tells you nothing. I would recommend the Tom Juaravich models as a starter to undertaking SCR. These maps are tailor made for public/non profit and private employers (they are also US focussed so I adapt as necessary). However, I can see that, for example, in the creative sector it is difficult when employers come and go so quickly to put something like this together, which is why industry maps can help.

There are so many ways to put together the information and visualise data, from a map on a wall to spreadsheets, the world is your oyster. However, you need to ensure that the information you collect not only complies with GDPR but also is readily available to other members of staff. If at all possible, I would hold that information on your CRM so that it is easily accessible to all. And this is key. The point of the SCR is not just to hoard information for yourself but to share and collaborate with colleagues.

Like all union activities, I see SCR as an opportunity to organise. I talk often about building a union house. It’s important therefore to see it as a living, breathing document which is regularly used, shared and updated, working alongside other data gathering exercises such as casework notes (enabling trends to be identified), membership stats etc.

Using it to organise means it’s important to seek out as much help in putting it together as possible. If a union is big enough to have a research department, what can they tell you? What do local reps on the ground have to say about certain aspects of the workplace? Explore and engage as many avenues and colleagues as possible.

Remember - you don’t need all the answers straight away but use the model and process to help you think about what you need, and why. Use it to help you plan effectively and use your resources as best as you can.

If your union is making it’s SCR journey, let us know how it is going or contact us to help.

Register for our next webinar on 'effective messaging during a crisis' with Rob Yeldham from the CSP and media colleagues from the NEU here.