It’s no secret that employees are the backbone of every organization and in today’s rapidly changing and very demanding workplace, HR’s role is bigger and more important than ever. In fact, organizations are more likely to achieve their goals when HR is a partner in the planning and execution of strategy; the good news is that HR’s involvement in organizational strategy is on the rise (McLean & Company, 2018 HR Trends Report). Yet there is still work for HR to do both in organizational strategy and with stakeholders in order to enable organizational success and enhance its position as a strategic partner.
Stakeholder management is building and maintaining relationships with stakeholders to ensure needs are understood and addressed and that HR’s people strategy is integrated with organizational strategy. It also includes the identification and prioritization of influential stakeholders as well as those most impacted by HR projects, products, and services. Understanding and addressing the needs of HR’s stakeholders is the first and most crucial step in developing talent strategy that supports organizational strategy and impacts employee engagement and well-being.
"Great HR functions have a strong relationship with their internal [stakeholders] and thus understand the organization’s most urgent needs and priorities. This connection allows them to address the day-to-day realities of business units and to meet long-term considerations, such as the supply and quality of employees."
– BCG Creating People Advantage, 2014–2015.
(McLean & Company, Build an Effective Stakeholder Management Strategy)
When HR understands stakeholder needs, HR acts a strategic partner. Failure to understand stakeholder perceptions puts HR at the risk of focusing on initiatives that do not drive organizations goals, which reduces HR effectiveness. Building stronger relationships with your key executive stakeholders begins with open communication. Ask them for feedback. While it can be intimidating to ask for their perceptions of HR and hear critical feedback, having this data has tremendous benefits. A structured survey can help you gather stakeholder feedback in order to glean insights to prioritize key HR programs and planning efforts, assess stakeholders’ expectations of HR, and optimize HR and business alignment.
Sample of HR Stakeholder Management Survey Report
As with any feedback and data, it is what you do with it that matters. David Godwaldt, General Manager, Human Resources from the City of Guelph, shares his experience on this topic after deploying McLean & Company’s HR Stakeholder and Management diagnostic.
"About 12 months after our transition into a new service delivery model for Human Resources it was key to understand our stakeholder needs. The assessment enabled us to make slight adjustments to the HR structure and stakeholder portfolios to better serve our clients. We intend to reassess our stakeholder needs every 18 months."
The bottom line is when key executive stakeholders are informed about what HR is doing, their trust and view of HR improves. Communication is important but it is more about understanding the stakeholders’ needs and aligning HR/talent strategy with those to improve partnership and trust. Stop guessing about stakeholders' perceptions; invite feedback to build strong relationships and identify where to focus improvements going forward. This will set a proactive, open tone for communication with stakeholders across the organization.
If you haven’t built your HR stakeholder strategy, check out McLean & Company’s do-it-yourself blueprint Build an Effective Stakeholder Management Strategy.
By George Saites