How to engage stakeholders (with tips and benefits)
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Stakeholder engagement is crucial to the success of an organisation. It helps solicit the investment of relevant stakeholders in an organisation's activities and decisions. Learning how to engage stakeholders can help organisations meet strategic and tactical needs, ranging from gathering information, identifying trends that can impact their activities, building trust and improving transparency with individuals whose support is vital to an organisation's success. In this article, we discuss the steps you can use to engage stakeholders, highlight tips to improve stakeholder management and explore the benefits of engaging stakeholders.
How to engage stakeholders
Consider using the following steps to engage stakeholders in your organisation:
1. Identify your stakeholders
The first step to engaging with stakeholders is to understand who they are and what your organisation may gain from engaging with them. Consider researching their interests in your organisation and think of strategies you can use to influence them to help you achieve the organisation's goals and objectives. Your stakeholders may be groups, individuals or organisations.
It's important to note that stakeholders can either be internal or external. Internal stakeholders may include shareholders, board members, owners and staff. External stakeholders include individuals or groups that may not be part of your organisation but may still experience the impact of its activities. This may comprise partners, government, customers and the local community.
2. Analyse your stakeholders
Consider analysing each of your stakeholders further to understand their needs and priorities. Find out who can be available to support you in the engagement process and the skills and approaches they can bring to the organisation. That way, you can prioritise the most important stakeholders based on their interest, impact and level of influence.
3. Develop a campaign plan
Consider drawing up a campaign plan for communicating and engaging with your stakeholders. This may involve a determination of the approaches to take, who handles a particular assignment and the strategies you can use to gauge and manage the feedback you get. Consider providing accurate information to improve relationships with stakeholders and reduce potential conflicts.
4. Implement the plan
You can now engage your stakeholders to influence their attitudes and harness their insight in this step. If you encounter resistance, handle it positively to avoid challenges. Consider being transparent with your information as much as possible and view each stakeholder as a strategic partner that can help you achieve your goals.
5. Review the plan
The final step is to review the success of your stakeholder engagement plan. Monitor the effectiveness of your communication with stakeholders and reassess the goals where necessary. If the organisation inducts new stakeholders, repeat the process so you can engage with them successfully.
Tips to improve stakeholder management
Engaging stakeholders can help an organisation achieve its objectives and build collaborative partnerships that generate value. Here are tips you can use to improve stakeholder management:
Provide clear communication
Most organisations have numerous teams working together, which means communication is vital to success. Consider being transparent with information to allow every stakeholder to understand the needs and goals of the organisation. Maintaining honest and open communication channels can lead to better relationships with stakeholders. It's also important to listen to stakeholders' views, so you can understand their interests and expectations. Stakeholders are more likely to sponsor or support a project if they feel that an organisation considers their views.
Outline the stakeholder engagement plan
Consider informing every stakeholder of what you require and when the organisation may need them. You can schedule dates to have interactive engagements, debates or discussions with all the stakeholders. This allows you to give feedback continuously on the progress of the projects, which helps everyone understand and internalise each project's steps and milestones.
Set measurable goals
It might be easier to keep stakeholders engaged if you set clear and measurable goals. You can set a series of achievable goals throughout a project. Meeting these smaller goals or milestones can help the team and stakeholders get a sense of accomplishment, keeping them focused on the organisation's ultimate goals. Consider reporting these small milestones to various stakeholders to keep them updated on the project's progress.
Related: How to develop SMART goals
Maintain a functional schedule
Most stakeholders prefer that an organisation stay on schedule in carrying out a specific project to minimise risk in their investment. Project managers can work with stakeholders to create a functional schedule to understand the work involved. Having an operational plan can help everyone stay on task and meet expectations.
Build relationships and trust
Trust can help motivate stakeholders to buy into and remain engaged with an organisation. Consider spending time with your stakeholders, speaking to them and learning what they expect and need. This can help you build stronger working relationships, allowing your organisation to grow and succeed. Further, leading with integrity may also help promote trust between you and the stakeholders. Consider letting them know what you hope to do and how you plan to do it. Be sure that your goals are realistic, for the stakeholders may expect you to deliver on exactly what you say.
Handle problems and setbacks effectively
To improve stakeholder management, handle any setbacks effectively to avoid delays. Consider explaining why a setback has occurred and the plans you have developed to solve it. That way, stakeholders can trust that their investment is safe, influencing them to continue supporting your organisation. You may also consult them when problems occur to ensure they feel valued.
Involve stakeholders in creating estimates
When you're relying on stakeholders to sponsor a project in your organisation, consider involving them in creating estimates. Let the stakeholders understand that they may base the estimates on assumptions and that they can change along the way. You can commit to providing accurate estimates once you have additional facts. That way, you eliminate any conflicts that may arise when creating budgets or when asking for resources.
What are the benefits of engaging stakeholders?
Here are some of the benefits of engaging stakeholders:
Provides learning opportunities
Engaging with various stakeholders can help you learn their perspectives and provide new insights on an issue or product, helping your organisation gain a competitive advantage. Consider fostering relationships with stakeholders with varying expertise to help you gain access to diverse perspectives that can guide you in developing better programmes and policies. Stakeholder engagement can also provide insight into people's unique experiences.
Understanding the interests and views of your stakeholders can help you make effective decisions. Different viewpoints can help you understand various approaches to solving problems and achieving goals. Engaging stakeholders can also give you insight into what may work and what may not, leading to more effective decision-making.
It saves time and cost
Engaging stakeholders may help reduce resistance, allowing an organisation to stay on schedule and achieve its objectives. When you understand the needs and interests of each stakeholder, they may more actively support all the projects' goals and plans. Ultimately, stakeholder engagement saves time and cost because there are no surprises or roadblocks that can cause an organisation to halt a project halfway through.
Improves risk management
Engaging with different stakeholders can improve risk management for the stakeholders and might highlight issues you probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise. These stakeholders may help you identify potential risks, allowing you to find solutions before they present challenges to your organisation. Mitigating risks can help an organisation save on time and money that they may have spent solving problems that arose.
Working alongside stakeholders can give an impression that you value their views. This collaborative approach can help build trust and strong relationships. This can be very useful in influencing your stakeholders to sponsor a project or commit to a project, ultimately leading to organisational sustainability.
Effective stakeholder engagement can help an organisation identify groups that may not support its operations. Having information on who does and doesn't exercise support can allow an organisation to better understand the influences, behaviours and motivations of those in opposition. Organisations can then use this knowledge to avoid issues or conflicts that can create a bad reputation for their work. They may also develop strategies to win support.
Engaging with stakeholders may require your organisation to provide clear information about the outcomes you hope to achieve and the steps you plan to take on the way. This can keep you and your team accountable, challenging each team member to work harder to achieve the set goals and deliverables. Employees may likely work harder if they know they are responsible for in terms of the success or failure of a project.
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