Including Rank and File Workers in the Research Process

While much of this web site focuses on gathering corporate information electronically, we strongly believe that a great deal can be learned from rank and file workers at the company you are researching. Involving rank and file workers not only improves our research, but also involves workers from the very beginning, and engages them in the process. This helps to overcome any privileging of researchers, and sets the stage for worker involvement in the later campaign.

We suggest that you assemble a group of rank and file workers early on in the research process. Here are some things to keep in mind when assembling this group:

  • The group should include workers from different departments and shifts.
  • Choose a convenient location and time.
  • Serve food and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Adopt a brainstorming model. All ideas are important.
  • Record and keep track of input on flip charts.
  • Do not let a minority of people dominate. Draw others out.
  • Post and distribute the 24 question model, and use it as a basis for discussion. A large, flip-chart-sized version of the research chart is located in the Resources section of this website.
  • Start with the operational level—the areas where rank and file workers may have the most to offer.
  • Do not linger in one area if there is no input.
  • Allocate time for a sub-committee to summarize what you found and identify areas to follow up on.
  • Share this report with participants, and thank them for participating.

Additionally, work with local leadership to identify members who have computer skills and interest in conducting research. Invite them to a similar gathering where you introduce the basics of online strategic research. Build a mentoring program where you are meeting regularly with this research team of rank-and-file workers to both provide skills training and for them to report back research findings. This is an untapped resource can really help to exponentially increase your research capacity. Remember to evaluate and adjust accordingly.