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How to Keep Stakeholders Engaged During Organizational Change

June 29, 2022


Stakeholder engagement in change management is critically important for the success of any initiative. Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox and one of U.S. News “America’s Best Leaders,” is noted for stating that an organization’s “greatest asset” is its employees. Therefore, it’s paramount that, prior to implementing any change, you understand who your stakeholders are, how you can best engage them, and how to keep them engaged throughout the entire process.

Who Are Your Stakeholders of Change?

How do you identify your stakeholders? The short answer is anyone affected by the change initiative. But it’s important to take a closer, more analytical look because your stakeholders will influence your outcomes as well as the entire change journey.

First and foremost, your stakeholders are the individuals or groups who will be the ultimate end-users as well as your executive management. They’re closely followed by your project teams, partners, funding or budget oversight, as well as any regulatory agencies.

End-users and executives are critical for successful organizational change because their input, influence, engagement, and acceptance will drive the metrics of your project. Therefore, they should be involved from beginning to end.

When you analyze your stakeholders, determine the level of impact for each identified group. What might they gain? What might they lose? Determine their level of influence, so you can either leverage it for good or plan how you will overcome any objections. You should also discover:

  • What are their abilities?
  • What are their expectations?
  • What motivates them?
  • What de-motivates them?
  • What concerns do they have?
  • What are their preferred methods of communication?

When Should You Engage?

End users, the employees who will be working with the new system or process the most, should be involved with change management as early as possible. Their insights about what is and isn’t working before the change and then throughout the implementation will be instrumental in your progress.

In addition, involving your end-users early on will solidify their engagement and build their commitment to your initiative’s success. They will more likely see the change as their responsibility, something they are partners in, rather than just something that is happening whether they like it or not.

Your executive stakeholders, on the other hand, should not simply be overseers of the project, but advocates for it. They should be committed to best practices as well as best outcomes for the organization, its people, and its customers.

You can ask for your stakeholders’ input about:
  • necessary or preferred requirements for the new system
  • how it should be designed
  • how it should be rolled out and integrated 
  • training methods and plans
  • customer and employee feedback 
  • potential obstacles or risks

How Should You Engage Stakeholders in Change Management?

1. Clearly Communicate

Communication, of course, is key. Assess the best way to involve your stakeholders in organizational change:

  • Should you communicate face-to-face, one-on-one, in groups, by email, or through online chat platforms? 
  • Who is the best communicator for the intended audience – a senior executive, a fellow employee, an HR manager, a direct supervisor?
  • When will you communicate: What days and times work best for everyone? For instance, calling an impromptu meeting at the end of the day on Friday might not facilitate the most engagement from your key stakeholders.

All these considerations demonstrate why using initial surveys or interviews at the beginning of your change initiative is helpful for your cause. Showing respect for your stakeholders’ needs, wants, and opinions will go a long way toward keeping them engaged throughout.

In your communications, make sure you create awareness of the change, its benefits, and the risks of not changing, as well as future training needs, and ways they can ask questions.

2. Delegate

In addition, beyond simply asking stakeholders for their opinions and expertise, you can employ them as change agents. It may help to create stakeholder groups and appoint champions of your cause for each. Make them facilitators of your new initiative and give them an even bigger stake in its successful outcome. 

3. Celebrate

Change can be difficult. Make sure you recognize individual or group efforts and set milestones that can be celebrated by everyone. Stakeholders want to be appreciated for their hard work. Whether it’s a simple thank you email, an award ceremony, or an office party – make sure no good effort is overlooked. 

What to Do When Stakeholders Are Not Engaged?

The stakeholders of change management hold value. They may become disengaged when they do not understand their value or feel that it is not respected. If this happens, don’t brush it off or ignore it. Assess the problem and find a solution.

One option is asking another stakeholder to help. Find someone that has pull or whom the disengaged employee respects, and ask them for their insight and support in drawing the stakeholder back in.

Reassess your messaging and how you’re communicating. Make sure the value and benefits of your change initiative are clearly communicated and understood. In addition, make sure your stakeholders understand the risks or losses that will be faced if the organizational change is not successfully implemented.

Listening to your stakeholders is vital. It’s not enough to simply give them a voice. Show them that you are listening and that their opinions or insights hold value. Sit down with them and brainstorm ways that their ideas can be implemented or their issues resolved.

Make sure that you don’t confront reluctant or resistant stakeholders in front of other employees. Addressing issues in public will likely result in a defensive posture and make them less likely to realign with your mission.

Finally, we mentioned celebrating wins in the previous section. Make sure you’ve implemented a good system of rewards and recognition so that stakeholders’ value and hard work are acknowledged.

Tools for Stakeholder Engagement in Change Management

Engaging your stakeholders and keeping them engaged is just as important as the organizational change you’re implementing.

GovStrive provides services, processes, and tools that help federal agencies facilitate stakeholder engagement throughout the entire change management process. Our employee-focused approach can inspire a spirit of partnership and collaboration, open lines of communication, and lay the groundwork for sustainable change.

Learn more about the power of GovStrive: https://govstrive.com/our-focus/management-consulting/change-management/.

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