Written by Winston Harris, Senior Consultant
Stakeholder engagement is a strategy that is discussed more than it is seen in action. Its lack of visibility can make it seem like an overwhelming and complex exercise, but in reality, it’s rather straightforward. It just takes commitment, a good ear and dedication to distil what has been heard into a clear and coherent strategy.
Why stakeholder engagement?
Despite stakeholder engagement strategies doing their best behind the scenes, it is a crucial element for business success. As business environments are increasingly competitive, companies and organisations must remain relevant in order to survive. This relevancy requires consistent interactions with the groups of people who are directly and indirectly affected by your business operations, because, as well as providing you with the valuable networks and support that help you reach your goals, these groups of people have their own needs and concerns about their relationship with you and they expect you to address them.
This is where a stakeholder strategy fits in. It is necessary to understand and address the legitimate needs and concerns of your business network, otherwise you risk a multitude of negative affects to your reputation.
Key benefits of stakeholder engagement
However, stakeholder engagement is much more than avoiding reputational damage. A robust stakeholder strategy can:
- Manage and mitigate risks
- Empower informed decision making
- Identify opportunities for a competitive edge
- Best understand the needs and capabilities of your network
- Instigate innovative collaboration
- Make the best use of available resources
- Turn stakeholders into advocates who help you reach your goals
A recent project undertaken by the SAS Group office had us develop a stakeholder plan that focused on strengthening our client’s advocacy efforts with their key stakeholders. From this project, Senior Consultant Winston has developed 6 useful takeaways we want to share to help you strengthen your stakeholder engagement strategy.
TIP 1. Clearly identify your stakeholders
To get started, we identified and assessed the key stakeholders through a simple influence and interest matrix model. We grouped them into 4 tiers:
High influence and low interest
High influence and high interest
Low influence and low interest
Low influence and high interest
Use this as a template for mapping your stakeholders on your next project.
TIP 2. Adopt a proactive approach
Being proactive allows you to control the narrative of your project and manage the expectations of the people it affects. This can be as simple as harnessing opportunities to involve your stakeholders in your projects from the get-go. Openly discuss your objectives and desired outputs to ensure everyone is aware of and understands what you want to achieve. By adopting a communications schedule, your stakeholders will also be better prepared for engagement, helping you get more out of your interactions.
TIP 3. Nurture existing relationships
Key decision makers and important and influential stakeholder relationships require special attention. With these relationships, you want to help them to help you. Adopting a flexible and authentic mindset will help you respond to changing circumstances and expectations, and open pathways for growth. Being open and adaptive also helps you understand the needs and interests of this group, which you can leverage to address problems, deliver solutions and complete projects.
TIP 4. Build new relationships
Approach new relationships with a clear intention of your objective, but also be prepared to demonstrate what you can offer in return. It is important to keep to your word, be dependable and demonstrate integrity. But before you start reaching out to and establishing relationships with your wider network, remember the quality of the relationship is more important than how many relationships you have.
TIP 5. Consolidate relationships to be two-way in nature
Stakeholder relationships are give and take. They will be more willing to champion you when you have built mutual trust. This can be done by asking your stakeholders for their preferences and perspectives, and taking the time to understand their needs and what makes them tick. Consider how you can show up for them as they show up for you. Providing a forum for your stakeholders to discuss their concerns with you will increase the relationship satisfaction, because when stakeholders feel seen and heard by you, they’re much more likely to advocate for you.
TIP 6. Host networking events
Lastly, nothing bonds people like a memorable, shared experience! Bring your stakeholders together through networking events, and use them as an opportunity to highlight the collective will and energy for your organisation to continue to grow and prosper.
In conclusion, yes, stakeholder relationships require continuous work. But your stakeholders are crucial to the growth of your business. You will face challenges throughout your journey, but with the support of your stakeholders your outcomes can be more favourable. We hope you can use these tips to increase advocacy for your upcoming projects, and if you’re seeking stronger assistance, contact us today to learn how we can develop and implement a stakeholder engagement strategy for your business.
By Winston Harris, Senior Consultant