Stakeholders can differ depending on the business or organisation but are alike in that they hold a specific interest or concern in the mission being undertaken. They include employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers, boards of directors and regulatory or government agencies. Each of these parties will offer a unique perspective on how best to succeed and grow the organisation. Internal stakeholders like employees will be very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation and have first-hand knowledge of what it takes to deliver the service, whereas external stakeholders will offer a different but equally valuable perspective on how the organisation’s operations affect them.
Effective engagement helps translate stakeholders’ needs into organisational goals and lays the ground work for effective strategy development. By exploring the needs of interested parties and discovering a point of consensus enables a group of stakeholders to arrive at a meaningful outcome. It is this internal alignment that helps form an effective strategy to drive change. Indeed effectively engaging with stakeholders is crucial to the success of any organisation. To succeed in any realm, a clear vision is required and that can only be derived from a robust strategic planning process which can only come from stakeholder engagement.
A shared understanding is essential to build a clear strategic vision for the future which can be derived from an active consultation and engagement process where open discussion and debate is encouraged.
There are three key elements to consider when developing and encouraging ongoing engagement with stakeholders.
- Provide clear, consistent communication
In order to achieve success, information needs to be shared in a focussed and consistent way. Both internal and external stakeholders must understand the vision and the role they plan in achieving the organisation’s goals.
- Be specific about the engagement required from stakeholders
An organisation needs to map out the process with key milestones where stakeholder engagement is required, and the value that this will add. A series of interactive engagements will be needed where discussion can be heard and debated and all perspectives considered. The voicing of common goals and ideas along with feedback will lead to greater ownership.
- Build the project around the engagement
Projects often fail or fall short of their potential if stakeholder engagement is not built in as an integral part of the process. Engagement from the outset nurtures a sense of involvement and contribution to future goals. Allow time and planning to include all relevant parties to engage in discussion throughout each step in the process. A lack of understanding among stakeholders will lead to difficulty later when moving in the desired direction.
The benefits of stakeholder engagement are numerous. By giving a voice to those with an interest in the organisation’s journey, opinions can be heard, a clear vision can be determined and strong relationships can be forged. The building of collaborative partnerships generates value and pools knowledge with ultimately improves governance, reduces risk and moreover identifies strategies to strive forward to achieve goals.