Stakeholder engagement.

What do you think of when you read those words?

I’m willing to place a small wager (on a nice bottle of champers if you ‘re wondering) that the first thing that sprung to mind when you saw those words was your external stakeholders such as your clients, suppliers, contractors, referral sources.

Do you realise ‘stakeholders’ also includes your employees? And that you absolutely need to dedicate time and resources to engaging with them in the same way that you no doubt do with external stakeholders?

Benefits of engaged employees

For employees, the benefits of engaged workforces are well known these days. In case you need a reminder, here is a quick reminder:

If this wasn’t enough to convince you of anything other than the power of my Canva/info graphic game, then here are some other reasons why you need to engage with your employees.

  • Employees now, more than possibly any other time in recent history, want to feel that you care for them. They want to be seen, heard, recognised, and appreciated.
  • If you want employees to come on the journey with you, to buy-in to the Purpose, Mission, or vision of your business, then you need to engage with them. You can’t just demand their buy-in.
  • Remember the infamous words from Sir Richard Branson about the importance of looking after your employees. Can’t remember? Here is our recent blog that will help you with that.

Don’t forget that your employees are the ones on the front line. They are the ones delivering service to your customers. They will usually be the ones on the end of a Karen-in-Bunnings type of customer tirade, not you. Which means they have unique insights into how to improve on service delivery including opportunities for innovation.

When should we focus on employee stakeholder engagement?

ALL THE BLOOMIN TIME!

Seriously, I think you probably get the message from the infographic and bullet points above, that employee engagement should be an ongoing priority.

Occasions when targeted engagement initiatives are necessary.

There are particular occasions however when a more targeted engagement approach might be called for.

One example is very topical; the issues for employers caused by employees unwilling to return to work in the office after nearly a year of working from home.

Recently I was chatting with a client who has an SME in the IT field with approximately 80 employees.

He was expressing frustration in part because he feels his employee’s performance has deteriorated noticeably whilst they have all been working remotely due to the pandemic.

What concerns him the most however is that he knows the team works best when they come together and collaborate. As he says, that is when the magic happens.

You know those occasions when you just want to ‘run something past’ a colleague. It doesn’t seem like a big enough deal to book in a zoom chat for, but if you are sitting in the office or cubicle next to your colleague, it is infinitely easier to stand outside their space and see if they have a minute to chat.

Which they no doubt will when they see you there.

Similarly, the old water cooler didn’t become famous for nothing. Sure, working remotely has given us a glimpse into the lives of our co-workers that we have probably never experienced before; but there is a particular brand of closeness that develops, a sense of camaraderie if you will, from those informal chats that happen around the proverbial watercooler.

Back to my client’s dilemma.

He wants and needs his employees to return to the office, at least for a few days of the working week. His employees want to work full time from home.

How does he resolve this issue? He could of course lawfully direct them to return full time to the office, and if they refuse, there is the possibility* of termination of employment for failing to obey a lawful and willful direction.

But is that really the best option for my client? Such a hardline approach isn’t exactly going to foster trust and confidence in his team.

A far better approach for everyone concerned would be if Dave (not his real name) engaged with his team about this issue.

Explain to them why he feels the magic happens when they come together. Tell stories of times when it did happen.

Invite his team to comment, both individually and as a group. Ask them to explain why they want to remain working from home; and ask them to offer alternatives such as 2 days WFH/ 3 days in the office scenario.

In other words – engage and seek employee buy-in to resolving the problem.

Equally as important: when / if Dave decides it is a hard NO for full time working from home, is that Dave makes sure he not only tells all employees of his decisions, but his reasons for his decision.

But wait, there’s more (and no, it’s not steak knives)

Other opportunities for specialised engagement with your employees will include potential changes to programs or services and restructures. Workology Co recently finished a massive project along these lines, as referred to here.

Stakeholder engagement is also an excellent tool for uncovering underlying issues that may have led to increased numbers of staff grievances being lodged, workers compensation claims made or high staff turnover.

Stakeholder engagement is one of Workology Co’s favourite ways of working with our clients.

employee focus groups

It also happens to be one of my personal superpowers – making people feel comfortable enough to open up to me and share how they really feel about issues in the workplace.

Whilst I am all about you as a leader showing you care for your employees, there are undoubted benefits to having an external, unbiased consultant facilitate your employee stakeholder engagement during times like those mentioned above.

Employees often feel much freer to be open and entirely honest with a stranger than they do with their boss, particularly if the feedback they want to give is tricky or might be viewed as negative.

If you would like to chat more about how Workology Co can work with you on your next stakeholder engagement project, then book a time here and let’s chat.

 

*Caution: Termination of an employee is rarely straight forward. Here is an article from The Age that highlights some of the issues to be aware of if you are considering termination for failing to follow a direction to return to office-based work. This blog is not intended to be legal or individual advice. For that, consult a lawyer. If you need a referral, reach out, I know a few…