HomeBlogBusiness ProcessFive Simple Steps to Engage Stakeholders in Change Initiatives

Five Simple Steps to Engage Stakeholders in Change Initiatives

It’s not uncommon for an individual or a group of likeminded people to come up with ideas for a change initiative within the organisation that will look to shape or reshape a concept of a set of actions. Often, they form a company that encourages people with the shared interest to put forward their ideas leading to the development of a proposal, which, once clarified, forms the basis of a detailed plan of action. This – as a route to testing – is nothing new. But the challenge often arises when not all agree, and during the stage of implementation the same level of enthusiasm is not matched by those involved in the company. Timescales are also a factor at the beginning, where we can often find differences in allocation of work and the speed at which each task on the list is completed. This can leave those with more complex or process driven tasks demotivated – and this might lead to tension. We see this in every change initiative, whether in business or even politics.

If we take the kinds of changes that occur in organisations, we can see they often cut across multiple business boundaries, functions and across different silos, and therefore styles of working. For successful change, both internal and external parties with links to the business need to be on board, because even those less involved are subjectable to the impact of the change. The impacts of change can be so large that whole cultural shifts in organisations can occur, and the outcomes of these might lead to damage. That damage may be deemed necessary, but it’s damage all the same.

Quite often the owner(s) of a business have the most influence on the decision making, however there are often wider stakeholders within an organisation’s structure that will also have influence on the objectives of the business and the outcome – oftentimes the generation of revenue. In some cases stakeholders do not work inside the business and remain an external group, however the potential adverse effects related to the change initiative are also impacted by the outcome, and this will be something that might force even the owners to rethink their strategy, particularly in the cases where a stakeholder is a shareholder.


Understanding stakeholders

  • Stakeholders have a general interest in the business and have the ability to affect and be affected by the business. In a typical corporation, the primary stakeholders can be of the following:
  • Investors, the people who are willing to fund the plan and help with the establishment of the organisational structure and development of the customer offer.
  • Employees, the people who are engaged under contract to deliver the operational delivery of the organisation, for example those who will manufacture the products or be qualified in delivering a particular service.

  • Customers, those who have identified their need and are coming to the organisation to have that particular need met by purchasing the product or service.

  • Suppliers, the organisations who supply the raw products or materials that ensure the product or service can be made ready for sale – at a price that allows competitiveness to continue.

It is a fact that as corporate social responsibility has developed over the years and further inclusion of stakeholder definitions are:

  • Communities, groups of individuals who benefit from donations or other schemes that allow like-minded individuals to have a direct involvement with the business.
  • Governments, who could be buying commissioned services from the organisation, or who are engaged due to the licensing or wider regulation to ensure products and services are delivered correctly.

  • Trade associations, organisations whose members are the suppliers of the particular product or service.

With this understanding of stakeholders, in what ways can organisations engage these people in change initiatives? Here are five simple steps in which this can be actioned.


Step one: Building stronger relationships

Building relations with stakeholders is crucial when it comes to leading change. Choosing to ignore it can impact the organisation negatively and encourage an unsatisfactory outcome and dissatisfy the workforce. There are many things you can do to better the relations with stakeholders, including clear and consistent communication – and often this means more listening than talking, evidential reasoning, and finding out what their triggers are in terms of establishing intrigue. Stakeholders are looking for a mix of elements, but ultimately they expect purpose, meaning, and clear understanding of the future picture following the change initiative.

In the outcome of change, success will depend entirely on those involved. Stakeholders should be able to express their views, talk about their desires and fears, and be able to question decisions or ideas relating to the outcome of change – as it can ultimately impact them too. Only by building successful relationships with stakeholders and engaging them through reinforcing confidence in their abilities will the organisation see a positive shift in achieving and sustaining a breakthrough that leads to the change initiative in question.


Step two: Communication is key

To ensure the communication is clear throughout the change process is crucial. Success comes from the planning, implementation and testing to see if the communication vessel engages even the widest audience of stakeholders. Coming up with a robust communication plan can be crucial to the effectiveness of the engagement that is essential to making the key points for the change that is required.

When leading the change, clear reasoning for it must be communicated. There must be a route from the leader – which may start with the reasons for change bringing higher efficiencies but also as a result – offers great benefits with the clear message impacting in such a way so as to bring everyone involved with ease. This strategy will help the operations of change run smoother and improve based on the outcome bringing further sustainability, and – for shareholders – higher dividends. If the change initiative has a direct impact on stakeholders – but not totally in a positive way – then the wider purpose and impact on the wider organisation may be harder to communicate to gain buy-in, however if the case for change to happen is robust – the defence for it must be communicated in a strong way, so as to allow people clarity and that to lead to acceptance overall.


Step three: Honesty is the best policy

Often stakeholders aren’t always treated in a consistent way, and some may be treated with perceived deceit and duplicity. In order for trust to be restored, the messaging is important. Even if there has been a mistake, own the mistake and go back to the original purpose of the change, and make that the centre of the conversation. Honesty leads, even when errors occur, to a more swift rebuilding of trust, and the outcome could be partial (or even full) buy-in. With regards to change, different stakeholders may respond in a different way, so those impacted need to be communicated to in an honest way.

The worst case scenario is to try and block key stakeholders out based on their viewpoint, or on their objection to the change initiative. You must embrace all stakeholders consistently and honestly, so that at the end of the process you can prove due process and avoid negative challenges.


Step four: Creating a stakeholder support network

Creating a stakeholder support network is a great idea when engaging in change. This can be done in many ways, and links to step two on communication. A platform needs to be made available for the stakeholders to be heard. You can put together a support committee or forum; this group presents a connection to the organisation’s change project team, and others included in the organisation. Here, an exchange of information can be put forward and – through discussion – brought to a consensus, and success. It also allows arms length ‘safe’ conversations to occur that can influence leadership without impunity. If someone needs to share their view they need to be safe to do so, and you never know, the objection might lead to a better route to the change initiative outcome.


Step five: Understanding who’s on board

When all is said and done, if you are ringing in a significant change initiative for your organisation – you will be measured regardless of the amount of control you might have in the business. If you lose a large proportion of your stakeholders through poor messaging or routes of communication, then you can expect fear to be a key potential outcome. Employees who are your key deliverers operationally could look for alternative employment, and this will have the biggest potential impact on revenue generation. If there’s no one left to make your product or deliver your service, then that is a change in itself – a negative one. The successful change initiative will be one that deals clinically but transparently with the issue and takes everyone on the journey, allows stakeholders to shape the impacts of the change, and has a whole host of testing along the way so as to ensure that, whether you are at the top of the organisation or a smaller shareholder, you are clear on the options, clear on the ambition, and believe in the goals of the change initiative.

Contact Us

We would love to hear from you

We’re all about working closely with our clients from day one and matching them to our best consultants. If you would like to find out how we can help you, or if you just want to find out a bit more about our approach or our current projects and clients, please contact us for a no obligations discussion. 

Get in Touch

Give us a Call or drop us an Email, we endeavour to answer all enquiries within 24 hours.