Let's define a stakeholder. A stakeholder is an individual, group, or organization who is impacted by the outcome of a project. They typically have skin in the game. These are people you want on your side; you may even say as friends. Please get to know them!
If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there, but this is not the route to go when it comes to launching employer brand initiatives.
As you're working on refining and defining your strategy, identify key stakeholders. If you don't, they could feel excluded, ignored, or even worse, not support your efforts.
What does engaging your stakeholders do for you? They feel empowered when they are part of the decision-making process. They help create sustainable change, create mutually beneficial relationships, build a better organization, increase your success, and are a valuable source for educating and sharing information as an advocate.
Projects have many elements, just like good landscaping. If you only have flowers in your yard and no trees, it's going to be disconnected. The same holds true for stakeholders. If your strategy (flowers) doesn't have the right people (trees), it will be disconnected too. Internal and external stakeholders play a part in your landscape.
A Stakeholder Map provides a framework for managing stakeholders based on ability/interest and influence. A matrix works well for this purpose.
Here's a Top 10 list to effectively manage your stakeholders:
1) Pique their interest with a concise summary before your meeting
An agenda is always a good idea, but a summary of what's on it is even better. Plus, it gives stakeholders a take-away and allows them to come prepared with questions. Keeping stakeholders focused on the objective can be challenging, but it's critical for project success.
2) Tell them the part they play and what you need from them
Your stakeholders might understand the high-level view of the project, but you might need to fill in the details of what you need from them.
3) Give them the baby, not the baby and the bathwater
Give your stakeholders the situation in straightforward terms. Don't overwhelm them with information. Cut to the chase. However, be prepared for a deeper dive if they start asking questions. Keep stakeholder communication focused on progress and value. Be concise and brief. Spending a lot of time buried in the details with stakeholders will not only be frustrating for them—it doesn't do you any good either.
4) Use visuals and numbers to illustrate your points
PowerPoint is an excellent tool for presenting graphics and numbers to stakeholders. It's how they show information to each other. And, yes, they need to be a prominent part of your stakeholder management plan.
5) Use if-then logic if you don't have data to back up your initiative
Accept the fact that there might not always be data to support a particular situation. Not having numbers to back up your position could make a successful argument problematic, so you may have to turn to if - then logic to shed light on a situation. However, don't expect the same results or response from stakeholders—numbers rule with them.
6) Bring problems to light, so they don't turn into bigger ones
Part of good stakeholder management is anticipating and dealing with issues before they become a big deal. Don't wait until a problem is obvious—it's often more challenging to solve the issue at that point.
7) Be solution-oriented
If you are going to bring up a problem without offering a potential solution, you might as well tell the stakeholders.
8) Ready, set, act by telling them what you need
If stakeholders need to act, don't assume it will be evident to them. Restate—in list form—what actions need to be taken and when.
9) Always say yes*
* But make sure they understand how much "yes" costs. Sponsors and stakeholders don't like to be told "no," so don't do it. Ensure they know the cost of their request, so they can judge for themselves whether "yes" is worth it.
10) Keep them engaged and interested with regular updates
In most organizations, a stakeholder's attention span is short. Long projects that require a lot of stakeholder patience tend to falter and ultimately fail. Short (3-4 week) intervals provide value and continue to keep stakeholders engaged and interested.
Now that we've talked about tips for effectively managing stakeholders, we need to discuss why it's critical.
So that’s basically it. While it’s great to have employer branding initiatives, you need your stakeholders to be successful. With proper management, the sky is the limit on what you can do.
Interested in learning more about specific internal stakeholder management situations? Join the Talent Brand Alliance! By clicking here you can connect with thousands of other practitioners who are navigating the same situations as yourself.
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