Employers’ associations must try harder if they are to survive

associations were created in response to the development of formalised
industrial relations. As a result, they are often thought of as bodies from the
past, battling to make themselves relevant to employers in an age when
collective bargaining is in retreat.

associations have made considerable efforts to diversify their range of
services in recent years, and have increasingly taken on training, advisory and
consultancy roles beyond their original briefs.

Cranfield Network (Cranet) data helps to show where
they retain members. Which organisations continue to be members of employers’
associations, and how satisfied are they with the services the associations

2003 Cranet Survey asked
senior HR practitioners whether their organisation (all with 100 or more
employees) was in membership of an
association. Approximately half of the employers surveyed reported that they
were members.

under half of the organisations were members, although the public sector showed
a higher tendency towards membership. Since unions are better represented in
the public sector, this might indicate that membership itself continues to be
associated with traditional industrial relations functions.

second question asked how satisfied respondents were with the range of services
provided by their associations. The results are shown below. The majority said
membership met their needs "to a small extent".

The proportion of managers reporting that
associations met their needs to a small extent increased with the employer’s
size (measured by the number employed).

employing between 2,000 and 5,000 people appeared to find membership most
problematic. Three-quarters reported that the association met their needs
either to a small extent, or not at all.

the figures appear to give cause for concern that employers’ associations are
only meeting employers’ needs to a small extent. Only among smaller employers
(those employing 200 people or less) did they achieve a majority of positive
satisfaction ratings from employers.

short, employers’ associations do, indeed, appear to be living on borrowed
time. The fragility of their members’ attachment to them is evident. It appears
they will have to do more to meet their members’ needs by providing more and
better services.

they are unable to do this, the future looks bleak. It would appear to confirm
the view that there is insufficient scope for employers’ associations in the
modern world of work.

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