Stakeholder Engagement: We Need More in 2024
In 2024, the need for engaged supporters is real. As business leaders, we must work harder than ever for a healthy, engaged stakeholder community. In particular, this rings true when it comes to the design and development of new products and services. For example, the massive investment in high speed rail in the UK (HS2) was recently shelved citing economic woes. It also suffered from a critical lack of public support for the high speed rail solution. Even in less spectacular cases, many businesses face stakeholders who have more reach through social media today than ever before. It is scary to think that one angry customer could sink a new product launch before it even reaches the market.
However, this is not a tale of powerlessness. Rather, it is the opposite. It is a quest for new and better tools to help us manage and engage our customers, consumers, users, partners, and internal teams. As you know, we live in a networked world of partnerships, data sharing, integrated technologies, and shared innovation. Great stakeholder management is not a destination, but a journey that simply continues. And, there are no single answers that help us solve for unhappy or for happy stakeholders. We must seek to balance priorities and communicate our rationale clearly.
The purpose of healthy stakeholder engagement in an innovation program is to build mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with those who are affected by, or who can affect, the big ideas. And, the more effectively our stakeholders engage, the more able and likely they are to address issues important to customers. Ultimately, this leads us to realizing higher levels of trust and acceptance.
Leadership Competencies for Healthy Stakeholder Engagement
There are three key competencies that we look for in leaders engaging stakeholders:
First, we look for a discovery mindset. This involves the ability for our leaders to create, recognize, elaborate, and articulate the problems that need to be solved and the opportunities that can be explored.
Second, we must have an incubation capability. This is also known as the ability for our business leaders to evolve the opportunity into hypotheses and experiments that can be reliably tested for desirability, feasibility, and viability.
And lastly, we look for an acceleration orientation, or the ability to scale. Here, we look to leaders who will seek to ramp up the new solution to stand on its own, so it can successfully compete and deliver on its promises.
Consider the graphic below, which demonstrates which leadership focus will be required in order for you to effectively communicate with and encourage your stakeholders.
Five Tenets of Healthy Stakeholder Engagements
So, now that you know what leaders need when engaging stakeholders, how do you empower stakeholders to take action? All stakeholders, regardless of their power and influence over the initiative, should be encouraged to act in their appropriate role. Furthermore, good stakeholder-ship takes practice, and a seasoned innovation leader must help to foster the right level of engagement. We call this activating.
Activating will be successful, meaningful, and impactful only when it comes as a result of healthy stakeholder engagement. And how do you do that? I’m glad you asked! Here are five key tenets of healthy stakeholder engagement you can keep at the forefront:
- It is strategic. We keep our engagement outcomes-based, answering the “why?.” Questions of impact, risk, and long-term objectives should inform engagement priorities and be informed by stakeholder perspectives.
- It is dialogue-based. Additionally, stakeholder engagement should create opportunities for a two-way discussion and for stakeholders to input into decisions that affect their lives.
- It is proactive. We maintain the key tenet that anticipatory and regular communication is critical, allowing space for stakeholders to express any concerns and for the team to pivot accordingly.
- It is clear and direct. In addition, we ensure that engagement is underpinned by openness and honesty about any potential adverse impacts and include explanations of who may be affected, when, and how.
- And, it is inclusive. Lastly, we engage with all affected stakeholders, including vulnerable groups, by using tailored engagement approaches.
In conclusion, a new year brings a new chance to reset and regroup. As you seek to push forward on new resolutions and new products, ensure you closely examine the general health and wellbeing of your business’ internal and external stakeholders. They are arguably your most critical corporate assets. By fostering transparent communication and active involvement in decision-making, addressing stakeholder needs and concerns, and adopting a long-term perspective, you can build and maintain robust relationships with stakeholders that are healthy and thriving. And that will help keep your business healthy and thriving too.
A Call to Action
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