These days stakeholder engagement is an important part of almost all projects. Because when you engage with your stakeholders, and you do it well, it can have a significant positive impact on your whole project. And, of course, the reverse is true when your stakeholder engagement doesn’t go well, so it’s critical you try and engage with your stakeholders as well as possible.
Before you start, it’s important to be clear about who your stakeholders are and what you mean by engagement.
Who are our stakeholders?
- A stakeholder is any person or organisation with an interest or concern in your project.
- Your project may affect them, and they may also influence it.
- This means you can have a very diverse mix of stakeholders.
What do you mean by engagement?
Just as you can have a diverse mix of stakeholders, so you will engage with them in a variety of ways. However, whichever method you use, you will have the same aim: to establish a meaningful connection that allows your stakeholders to hear about, comment on and become involved in your project.
At the start of your project you need to find out who your stakeholders are and engage with them all. You also need to be clear about why you want or need to engage with your different stakeholders. Ask what can they bring to your project and what is your responsibility to them?
It’s likely you’ll need to engage with a broad mix of organisations and individuals who will have different interests, motivations and may approach the project from very different backgrounds. All this will affect the way in which you choose to engage with them. For example, you’re not going to report back to a local user group in the same way that you’ll send your annual report to a national body such as NHS England or the Department for Communities and Local Government.
To help you engage well with all your stakeholders, have a look at our nine top tips.
1. Be timely
Start your project with some form of engagement activity. It will help shape everything else you do and let people know from the start that you are serious about listening to and working with them.
2. Be relevant
Don’t send everything to all your stakeholders. Because of their different interests and roles, they’ll want and need different information at different times and in different formats. One of the key ways you can help people stay actively engaged is to send them the right information at the right time.
Think about what your different stakeholders need. Some will simply need to be informed through, for example, an annual report, but won’t be directly involved in the project or its activities. Others will also be your partners in delivering a project and you will need to collaborate with them throughout the lifetime of the project. Others will be somewhere in the middle and you will need to ask their views, listen to them and share information with them at regular intervals. But they won’t be involved in or need to be updated on everything.
3. Be flexible
You want to involve as many of your stakeholders as you can. This means using as many methods as possible to help different people engage with you. Some stakeholders will readily engage with technology – this is true of many more people as technology such as mobile devices and virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa become a standard part of our lives. For others, different methods of engagement will be needed.
For example, some people will be happy speaking up in a meeting while others will prefer to fill out an online questionnaire in private. Some people will need help from others so they can engage. And different groups of people will find it easier to attend meetings and events at different times of day.
It’s more important that you listen to your stakeholders than talk to them. You want them to help inform and shape your project and the only way they can meaningfully do this is if you listen to what they have to say. That doesn’t mean you act on everything everyone says, but it does mean everyone gets a fair hearing and a chance to share their point of view.
Which leads us nicely on to…
It’s vital you provide feedback to your stakeholders. The outcome of a decision or the final shape of your projects many not be what they were hoping for. But this will be easier to accept if you explain why.
6. Be honest
Different stakeholders may have different opinions about what success means for them.
So from the start you need to be clear about the limits of what your project can achieve, how quickly any change can come about and who else needs to be involved.
Change often takes longer than people hope for, but if they have realistic expectations from the start they are more likely to stay positively engaged.
7. Involve your whole team
Don’t assign your stakeholder engagement to one person and leave it all to them. Although you need someone to lead and guide the process, everyone can and should be involved and aware of the part they play. You all have a responsibility to listen to and share information with your stakeholders.
8. Keep in touch
Keep everyone updated regularly so they know you are still working on the project and can see its progress. Knowing what’s going on will help people stay positively engaged.
9. Monitor stakeholder engagement
Be proactive. Monitor who is engaging with your project, when and how. If people who were engaged become less so, get in touch with them and find out why. Ask what you can do to re-engage them.
How Verto makes it easier for you to engage with your stakeholders
Verto helps different stakeholders work together. Anyone with access to the system can see the most up-to-date project reports, update information themselves and communicate with the other partners who use Verto.
This means everyone has direct access to the latest information, can clearly see what’s going on and can use Verto’s instant messaging tool to communicate quickly and easily with each other.
Long-lasting, effective stakeholder engagement is hard work. As with all your project management, Verto makes it easier for you.