The past couple of years has seen a significant increase in the understanding of the value and importance of authentic stakeholder engagement. From increased productivity through effective employee engagement to improved infrastructure delivery through quality public engagement, stakeholder engagement is quickly becoming a core function of successful leaders and organisations.
So, when do we need to be engaging?
The short answer – whenever there is a decision or action by your organisation which will affect your stakeholders.
The not-so-short answer – be assured, your stakeholders have an opinion, questions, ideas and often solutions, so taking the time to build a relationship with them is a worthwhile investment.
For genuine and authentic engagement having an ongoing conversation with your stakeholders will give them a greater understanding of the context of the decision or action, you are seeking their thoughts about.
When consulting your stakeholders, it is important to consider the timing. Depending on the type of consultation and who your stakeholders are, the timing is critical. For example, the end of the financial year is not a great time to seek participation from a group of accountants or the Christmas holidays is not a great time to engage with parents and families.
Time is your friend when it comes to stakeholder engagement:
- Allow yourself time to research and plan your engagement strategy
- Allow plenty of time to seek the necessary internal approvals
- Allow time to execute, review and adjust (if needed) the strategy throughout the execution
Its ok, we live in the real world too and understand that time is not always on your side. So here are a couple of tips to help you get on the front foot:
- Review your organisations strategic and operational planning documents in advance. Look for strategies and deliverables which may prompt the need for stakeholder engagement. Keep your eye out for key decision points, operational or personnel changes, the release of new products or services and capital investment/project as you will likely need to engage your stakeholders on these matters.
- Have a strategy template and use it – the simpler the better. As long as your strategy clearly answers the key questions (like who, what, when, where, why?), it doesn’t need to be complicated or wordy.
- Have quality tools at the ready. From a branded pull-up banner or marquee to software like Engagement Hub! Having the right tools will streamline your preparation and reduce your administration time.