The Opinion - The Scotland Excel Thought Leadership Series
Stakeholder Engagement: A Covid-19 Perspective by Laura Weir
Stakeholder Engagement – essentially communicating with your stakeholders - sounds like the simplest thing in the world, right? In reality, engagement without careful planning and clear objectives can lead you down the rabbit hole and make it difficult to achieve a successful outcome.
“Without a properly planned framework in place, engagements can quickly become disorganised or appear tokenistic, and that’s if conversations even get going in the first place.” (Four Principles for better stakeholder engagement – Mark Rutter – April 2017 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/four-principles-effective-stakeholder-engagement-mark-rutter)
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us all into a different working environment where the majority of us are now working from home (say hello to unexpected meeting attendees in the form of 3 year old gate-crashers and the family dog!) and are heavily reliant on technology to continue our daily working tasks.
It has also forced us to adapt how we engage with our stakeholders in order to ensure that critical tasks are completed and business as usual (BAU) activity continues as much as possible, despite the circumstances.
Whilst there are many factors out with our control currently, one of the key aspects we can control is stakeholder engagement – “Imprecise, inconsistent and delayed communications and engagement creates additional uncertainty and kills trust quickly.” (Addressing the impact of Covid-19 Crisis communications and stakeholder management – Deloitte – 2020)
Although the current situation is not without its own unique challenges, it has been positive to see the effort that has been made to ensure that we engage with each other as productively as possible. In light of this, I have collated some hints & tips that are worth considering both during Covid-19 and in the post Covid-19 working world.
Hints & Tips
- Communicate with your stakeholders – it is crucial for you to understand the impact of Covid-19 for them (especially your key stakeholders) and whether their priorities have changed as a result. This will allow you to evaluate any impact on your tasks and priorities and to plan accordingly
- Take the time to review or create a stakeholder map – A stakeholder map is the visual process of identifying and setting out all the relevant stakeholders to a project (or team, business, piece of work etc) on one map. The key benefit of doing so is to give you a visual representation of who has an interest in the project outcome. If you already have a stakeholder map, are there any stakeholders you need that are now unavailable due to other priorities? Is there anyone else that could assist with the task at hand?
- The importance of an up to date Power/Interest Analysis – Once you have a stakeholder map, you should undertake a power/interest analysis to categorise the stakeholders based on their power or influence and interest in the project. This should be reviewed and updated regularly as the situation evolves. The power/interest of your stakeholders may have shifted as a result of Covid-19 which mean your key stakeholders may very well have changed too.
- Plan, Plan, Plan – once you have considered the above, create stakeholder plans based on the results to ensure you actively plan how to best communicate with your stakeholders. This means you stand the best chance of staying on track. Always ask yourself - what are your objectives and how can you engage effectively with your stakeholder to meet those objectives? We understand that everyone is extremely busy now more than ever and therefore, the importance of meaningful engagement has never been more valuable.
- Use technology to its full potential – in the absence of being able to meet people face to face, instead consider the different technology available to you and the best option to utilise depending on the individual stakeholder and the message you are conveying.
Finally, remember these are unprecedented times that we are living and working through so let’s all do our best to communicate with each other and support each other as much as possible.