In the first post about a structured stakeholder engagement approach, I outlined the first three practical steps when starting out with stakeholder engagement. All of these steps are based on my experience working in the CSR / Sustainability field over the past 10 years.
In this post I would like continue my stakeholder engagement series and outline the next three steps. I call them the ”testing phase” of a structured stakeholder engagement approach.
Recap of the first three steps
In the previous three steps, you as the initiator, 1) identified key stakeholder groups and 2) networked in your organisation to get to know who is talking to which stakeholder and which stakeholder group is not being talked and engaged by these people. Your last step was to create an internal stakeholder champions group of these employees/colleagues you identified, in order to get everyone to the table and share information about the external stakeholder groups and individual stakeholders.
Here are the next steps based on my experience when looking to follow a structured stakeholder engagement approach. I call it the “stakeholder engagement testing phase”.
Step 4: Your priority here should be to intensify the work within the new stakeholder experts group as outlined in the first post of this series. In order to get the most out of this unique group you need to make sure that it works properly. This is the most interesting and rewarding aspect of group work in my experience. Once you assembled such a group of experts your goal should be to make the most of it.
This is a quick 2 point check-list of what to keep in mind when looking at stakeholder engagement know-how within this group:
- Who is the most senior person in the group? Will there be any issue with company-wide seniority systems or any kind of leadership expectation by the most senior person in the group? Make sure you address this if you feel that there could be a problem.
- Try to keep everyone as creative as possible. Do not encourage “sticking-to-the -old-way”. Use this opportunity to really create something new. This will also the best motivation for all group members.
Step 5: Choose one external stakeholder from three key stakeholder groups and reach out to them with the help of your stakeholder experts in the group. You might think that this is a very obvious and too cautious move, but be aware of the fact that you are using a new group of stakeholder experts communicating in a unfamiliar and new way.
Also keep in mind that you usually only get one impression with the individual stakeholder representatives using your new engagement approach. This is your chance for a clean start. Use it.
Once you have made a good impression, the future work with these people and the organisations will be a lot easier.
Step 6: Gather the first feedback from these engagements and analyse it in your internal stakeholder expert group. This “trial engagement” needs to show you whether the direction your group has chosen is the proving to be a better way of engaging stakeholders.
The way you chose to analyse the outcome of this engagement is really depending on the goals you have set within your group and organsation in general. Only keep this in mind: Any kind of engagement needs to involve both sides being engaged. If you feel in any way that this is not the case, within your stakeholder group or as a result of feedback from your stakeholder, you need to go back and make changes,as tough as it might seem.