Who Are Your Stakeholders? Identify, Prioritize, and Engage

Have you ever tried to make a list of everyone that affects or is affected by your company? It can be quite a daunting task; but, one that can greatly impact your success. Identifying stakeholders in a company or a specific project will allow you to holistically analyze your goals, needs, and challenges and make sure you put your limited resources to the right initiatives.

Broadly, stakeholders can be thought of in two groups: Internal and external, individuals or organizations that impact or are impacted by your organization. While the exact list will be specific to each business, generally this can include:

Internal stakeholders: Shareholders and other Funders, Business leaders, and Employees.

External stakeholders: Vendors, Community, Consumers, Governments, Environment.

Each stakeholder will have specific needs that you will need to identify. Identifying these needs or interests that these individuals care about most, will allow your organization to develop a plan to meet those needs either now or in the future. For example, perhaps your employees have voiced their desire to have a family leave policy. Taking the time to listen to them and understand what will improve their relationship with their employer will enable you to develop a program or offer something similar.

Unfortunately, from time to time these stakeholders might have competing agendas. For instance, maybe your shareholders push back against a family leave policy, arguing that it is not financially viable for the business at this time. It is then up to you to find a middle ground between both groups.

Develop a core list of Stakeholders

Organizations need to spend time to figure out where they need to invest their limited time and resources to cultivate the most effective group of stakeholders. In a 2014 article in The Harvard Business Review, Graham Kenny uses his years of consulting experience to advise businesses undergoing a stakeholder analysis on key questions to help widdle down their list of possible stakeholders:

  1. Does the stakeholder have a fundamental and direct impact on your organization’s performance?
  2. Can you clearly identify what you want from the stakeholder?
  3. Do you want this relationship to grow in the future?
  4. Is this stakeholder easily replaceable? Hint: this answer should be no.
  5. Has the stakeholder already been identified through another relationship, for example, with a broader group?

By clarifying your key stakeholders into those that have a direct impact, provide a needed value, have potential to grow, and are neither easily replaceable nor represented by another group, your company can strategically invest its limited resources into engaging these key stakeholders.

Stakeholder Engagement

The Network for Business Sustainability has created a helpful guide for businesses that are looking to engage their community stakeholders. A key point that they emphasize, which can be applied to each type of stakeholder, is to identify a strategy for engagement:

Investment– One-way communication from the organization to the group or individual. Typically, this can be providing information on a project or the company, charitable donations, or volunteering.

Involvement – Two-way communication, building bridges between the stakeholder and the organization. The organization and stakeholder may engage in regular dialogues to shape a project or initiative.

Integration– Two-way communication and co-creating with the stakeholder group. Stakeholders and organizations share responsibility and management over a project or initiative, which requires frequent conversation and consultation.

Identifying stakeholders, analyzing their needs, and finding an appropriate way to engage them is an important task for any organization. To learn more and meet others that have successfully met this challenge, come to one of SMSBF’s upcoming events.

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