You will already know that we live in a stakeholder-driven world, where just satisfying the needs of shareholders, customers, and other groups is no longer enough.
Employees, regulatory and funding bodies, supply chain components, lobby groups, and communities all have a significant ‘stake’ in the operations and success of an organisation, and expect their needs to be considered and their voices to be heard.
Here are the ten steps you need to take to manage stakeholders effectively:
1. Who are your stakeholders
A stakeholder is anyone with an interest in the activities, team development or performance of your organisation. This can cover a huge variety of groups and individuals, from customers to regulatory bodies. Before you can properly manage your stakeholders, you need to conduct a stakeholder analysis that clearly defines each group of stakeholders, which you can do using our guide to stakeholder analysis.
2. Prioritise your stakeholders
Considering you may have hundreds of different types of stakeholder needs, prioritisation is key. You need to determine the potential influence of each stakeholder, in line with the amount of interest they have in the activities of your organisation. This gives you an idea of the importance of each stakeholder and the potential impact of meeting or ignoring their expectations. This process can be streamlined by identifying stakeholders using stakeholder analysis models, some of which are covered in the guide mentioned above.
3. Understand your stakeholder
Once you know who your most important stakeholders are, you need a clear picture of what they expect from you, and what you could benefit from offering them. Define what they need, what they want, and whether you should also satisfy the needs or wants of those who influence your stakeholders, particularly their supply chain. Don’t forget, speaking to stakeholders can often be the best way to gain this information.
4. Establish objectives for your stakeholders
Every organisation should have a strategic vision, with clearly defined objectives. When you have a comprehensive understanding your stakeholders, from who they are to what drives their influencers, it’s time to start planning. This is when you should be asking questions like, “Is the stakeholder happy with the current situation?”, “Is my manager training adequate” and “What can I do to improve relations?”
5. Align current strategy with your stakeholders
You need to do more than devise isolated stakeholder objectives. To really get the ball rolling, work from what you currently have in place. Take your existing strategies, for instance, managing internal expectations, and think about how they can be adapted to weave in the strategic objectives you’ve identified for managing your most important stakeholders. Or do your new objectives mean it’s time for a new strategy?
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6. Managing internal strategies
Planning is perhaps the easy bit; now it’s time to put your strategy into action. Don’t just write the perfect strategy, and file it away to be forgotten about. Ensure that stakeholder objectives are at the forefront of thinking in your organisation, by sharing your strategy with heads of each department, and seeing that it’s used to inform day-to-day activities.
7. Establish effective communications
As well as sharing your strategic thinking internally, you should communicate by managing your team by contacting important stakeholders, both to establish trust and to help your strategies play out smoothly. Ensure they know what your plans are, and discuss what can be done on both sides to make things more effective.
8. Share data to maintain trust with your stakeholders
Once your new strategy is in place, you should collect data so you can manage internal customers, and share this with important stakeholders. Not only does this create transparency and encourage trust, but it makes it easier for you to work with stakeholders to iron out issues and plan responses.
9. Challenge your decisions, and seek feedback
Monitoring the outcomes of stakeholder strategy is not enough. For effective stakeholder management, you should delve into your data, collect feedback both internally and externally, and pick out anything that isn’t working the way you need it to. Question the decisions underlying ineffective activities, and revise your strategy if need be.
10. Go back to 1 and do it again…
Organisations are always gaining and losing important stakeholders. Even if yours stay the same, the needs and desires of those stakeholders are constantly evolving, and you need to ensure your strategies evolve with them. Considering how often these changes might occur, and how big they are likely to be, decide on a set time period after which you will restart the process of stakeholder analysis, planning and management.
These ten steps outline a huge process that could take years to perfect. To put them into practice effectively, what is really needed is an effective leader, one who can both think strategically, and motivate others to turn strategy into reality.