There is no universal solution on how to engage stakeholders and include their issues into the organisation’s view. The following questions should to be taken into consideration when the objectives for the stakeholder engagement are set:
Is the information you provide the stakeholders with relevant to them?
Stakeholders can greatly influence your way of operating your business. Their scrutiny can place you in a difficult position, but when engaged positively, they can also be extremely valuable. Being more transparent and open to your stakeholders raises expectation and can increase their attention to you. Therefore it is important that the information you provide is relevant for your stakeholders, so that it will help them to make informed decisions.
What feedback are you looking for and what feedback do your stakeholders want to give you?
Determine in advance what information you are trying to gain from the stakeholder involvement. Be prepared to honestly consider their issues and concerns in your planning and decision making, because this involvement is not a public relations exercise and you need to be committed to consider and incorporate their feedback. This does not mean you will have to accept all stakeholder decisions, but that stakeholders need to know that their suggestions were thoughtfully heard and considered.
Did you set a realistic timeline?
Do you have a clear understanding of the objectives?
Did you establish a Communications team?
The communications team, with the PSS working group, should coordinate and lead the meetings both internally and externally. The responsibilities of the team are primarily to participate in the development and the implementation of the communication plan and share information with the staff inside the company.
Did you inform staff?
Staff is not only a corporate asset, but also a part of the community your company operates in and it is essential to inform them about the changes at hand. This way, they can act as ambassadors for the company and answer questions that may arise in the community. It will also give staff the feeling of being valued and included when they are informed about their role in the stakeholder involvement process.
Did you map your stakeholders’ concerns?
Once you have mapped the concerns that your various stakeholders may have, you can involve them in the right phase of the process. Some stakeholders (e.g. government) can have a significant influence on the design of your operations (e.g. by subsidising efforts to implement a PPS). Other stakeholders might be influenced by the change in your product – service offering (e.g. customers) and they will need to be consulted about the impact of the company’s changes in their purchasing plans. The selection of the methods that will be used is heavily dependent on the needs and wants of you and your stakeholders. In the past, companies have jumped to this phase before adequately addressing who they were trying to engage and what the purpose of the engagement was. If the purpose is to inform staff of a new computer system, a letter to their personal letterboxes might be the perfect method. One has to be careful though to not underestimate the questions that can arise from a ‘simple’ message.
Too much focus on quick fix solutions rather than programmes of sustainable benefit can quickly make people loose faith in the intentions of the company to truly engage their stakeholders. Companies have been criticised for putting huge efforts to achieve agreements for environmental or native title sign-offs and then being too busy to continue nurturing the community relationships once the deal is done. Equally, some companies have been happy to agree to short-term advantages, which may not benefit the broader community in the longer term.
Some engagement methods one could think of are:
- Community training
- Community empowerment
- Ensuring the welfare of the workers and communities
- Improving decisions through open – decision making processes
- Meeting stakeholders concerns
Be prepared to pay for your external independent facilitators. Because of the potential sensitivities that arise from the stakeholder involvement, an independent facilitator might take away the pressure that these sensitivities place on the company. The process will then be managed independently.
Do’s & Don’ts
Ten Critical Success Factors for the Private Sector , which are important to keep in mind.
1. Adopt a policy on social issues and develop capacity
2. Identify stakeholders and acknowledge the legitimacy of their perspectives
3. Identify social risks and opportunities
4. Assess social and environmental impacts thoroughly: integrate where appropriate
5. Recognise public involvement as integral to project sustainability
6. Delineate responsibilities for social provisions
7. Aim for social equity in revenue distribution, compensation and other investments
8. Develop partnerships in support of sustainable development
9. Develop mechanisms for long-term representation of stakeholders and conflict resolution
10. Evaluate the effectiveness of social investments
Table : Stakeholder involvement rules