Stakeholder capitalism has witnessed a marked rise recently. This has been largely driven by a growing awareness of environmental issues, growing global inequality, and a sense of collective vulnerability triggered by COVID—a simple virus that singlehandedly wreaked havoc on global business activities for several financial quarters.
In light of this growing awareness, businesses are now much less inclined to view stakeholder engagement as an “optional” investment. Gone are the days of downplaying stakeholder influence on the success—or failure—of projects and business activities. If anything, stakeholder influence is on the rise.
Organizations that implement a stakeholder management system face a major challenge, however: How can they measure the intensity and quality of this engagement?
Why is it important to measure stakeholder engagement?
To improve engagement strategies
The data collected on stakeholders provides valuable insights that can guide the company toward the best engagement strategies to put in place, based on the unique characteristics of specific stakeholders or stakeholder groups.
To comply with regulations
Large-scale projects such as those in oil & gas and renewables are subject to innumerable laws and regulations. Being able to measure stakeholder engagement is therefore a must. Energy companies are required to report to the government bodies that monitor them, particularly on issues like social acceptance.
To optimize the allocation of resources
Having meaningful data on shifts in stakeholder sentiment lets you measure the success of initiatives and ensure your investments are being directed in the right places.
How to measure stakeholder engagement?
A number of factors can make it challenging to measure stakeholder engagement:
- The intangible nature of some of the information gathered (favourable or hostile feelings toward the project)
- The number and variety of points of contact between the organization and its stakeholders
- The fact that information is often kept in silos
Or so it might seem. With the right tools and knowledge, you can easily measure stakeholder engagement and gain incredibly valuable insights.
The first step is to put in place a rigorous evaluation system that involves the regular measurement and accurate recording of results, such as in a dashboard, for example. This information will let you identify trends and adjust course if needed.
You also need to ensure that data of all types is easily accessible to everyone concerned. This is the only way to ensure that everyone who needs to be informed remains fully up to date on a dossier’s progress—regardless of who was in the discussion or meeting (or who carried out a given activity) with one or more stakeholders.
Next, you have to determine your performance indicators (KPIs). To do that, you need to ask the right questions:
- What is the purpose of these indicators? Who or what are they intended for? What decisions should they inform?
- What is the nature of the desired information? Is it to evaluate processes or outcomes? To highlight the positive or the negative?
- What resources are available to measure these indicators? Do we have sufficient time, money, expertise, tools, etc.?
Your answers to these questions must lead to clear and precise objectives which will serve as your reference points, and to the definition of observable and quantifiable indicators.
Another aspect to keep in mind is the fact that a Community Relations Manager and a VP of Public Affairs do not face the same challenges. How they measure stakeholder engagement efforts, the types of indicators they need and how they will implement them will differ based on the targeted stakeholder groups.
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Here are some examples of questions that are likely to arise, along with potentially relevant indicators, depending on whether you’re dealing with community relations, public and governmental affairs, or land management.
How to measure stakeholder engagement activities with communities
The first thing organizations will want to measure is the actual engagement of stakeholders in their project. This can be done calculating the number of communications (face-to-face conversations, emails, phone calls, meetings, etc.) that took place with each stakeholder group over a given period.
But beyond this basic data, other questions can shed light on the engagement of community stakeholders.
How is stakeholder position changing?
Stakeholder sentiments or positions are other important factors to monitor. By systematically categorizing interactions with stakeholders based on clear and precise criteria—such as Positive, Neutral, Negative—you can take your stakeholder pulse at any given moment. It also lets you assess changes in stakeholder sentiment over time so that you can measure the level of success of your strategic activities.
Are grievance management processes working optimally?
It is of paramount importance to examine stakeholder grievances and claims to mitigate their associated risks. You need to regularly measure things like:
- Where exactly grievances are coming from?
- Are grievances on the rise?
- Are our grievance resolution mechanisms working well?
- Do they need to be improved to reduce the time between when we receive a grievance and when we resolve it?
Grievances should never escalate into conflicts. Download our white paper on how to handle grievances.
What is the real importance of a given issue?
Holding a public consultation can be an easy to know if a certain issue really stands out for a given stakeholder group. But what about when you want to consider all of your engagement strategies and determine the priority issue for an entire community or region?
To gather this type of information, you need to have a consistent method for identifying and naming issues, regardless of who raises them or through what channel of communication.
Are all stakeholder groups being properly targeted?
This indicator can sometimes be necessary for obtaining a permit. But it can also tell the community relations team if there are any “blind spots” that need to be addressed before moving forward with the next stage of a project.
A good practice is to establish an objective along the lines of: “Minimum number of individuals belonging to a First Nation to contact.” That said, you also need to be able to quickly check if this target number has been hit.
Setting measurement indicators for public affairs and government relation
Public policies have the power to significantly influence a project on many levels: financial, logistical, marketing, etc. If organizations want to help shape government decisions, they need to achieve a sufficient level of influence.
A growing number of organizations strive to quantify the financial impacts of public sector policies and regulations. Fortunately, the tools for quantifying these impacts are becoming more refined.
But even if you’re not yet at the quantitative point, there are a number of questions you can ask to measure the qualitative impacts of your relations with public sector actors—or to analyze your lobbying expenditures.
How many people did we meet at a major event?
Comparing the number of important people met at various events (conferences, economic summits, business trips, etc.) lets you evaluate the relevance of participating in such events. It also helps you determine the effectiveness of your strategy for each one. Link the number of participants to the issues discussed, and you get an even more useful portrait for assessing the relevance of an event.
How many elected officials were contacted for a particular topic or issue?
The number of elected officials or influential people approached to discuss an issue can indicate whether sufficient efforts are being made to resolve it. The value of lobbying is not simply to make your voice heard; it can also nurture relationships with valuable representatives—allies whose proximity can pay off in more ways than one. For example, by allowing you to quickly resolve emerging problems before they become more widespread and costly.
How many lobbying activities have been carried out?
Being able to track the number of lobbying activities carried out and their cost is essential. This can be done in various ways, such as by drafting quarterly activity reports. This is key, whether you want to ensure the adequate allocation of resources or demonstrate the value of the work being done by the public relations team.
What impact did a given press conference have on the press and on the public?
What impact did a given press conference have on the press and on the public?
- How many journalists were invited to the conference?
- How many actually showed up?
- How many times was the topic subsequently mentioned in the media?
- What is the public saying about it on social media? Anything?
- How much chatter is the topic creating?
All these impacts need to be measured.
How to measure stakeholder management efforts in infrastructure projects
Projects that involve land use planning or infrastructure construction need to consider a wide range of stakeholders. These include the people who will be directly affected by the work, but also local government agencies, natural resource developers, environmental groups, tourist organizations, and farmers, just to name a few.
Close and regular monitoring of stakeholder engagement data can significantly impact when you break ground or whether you can easily carry out preventive maintenance work on assets so that more serious repairs can be avoided down the road.
Upstream of a project, you’ll want to know how many people with access conditions to their land you need to contact. This will be one of your key objectives for properly managing this group of stakeholders. With regular measurement, you can track the progress of this mandate by answering the question: “How many people with access conditions to their land have we contacted so far?”
What will be the total dollar value in compensation for a hypothetical route?
As you hold discussions with the affected owners, you need to track the budget that has been set aside for acquiring real estate.
How many grievances were there for a given period?
Having access to this information is essential for linking grievances to activities. If, for example, the number of grievances or issues jumps up every time a certain contractor carries out work, it would make sense to sit down with him to discuss what measures need to be taken to reduce inconvenience to stakeholders.
What is the dollar value of commitments made to landowners for a given stretch of linear infrastructure?
This indicator lets you monitor the amount of funding to anticipate for maintenance activities. It can also be used to compare various scenarios.
Using the right tools to facilitate measuring stakeholder engagement
Borealis software for stakeholder management is more than just a powerful tool for organizing data stemming from your engagement activities. Its user-friendly reporting features also make it easy to take comparative measurements.
Borealis helps you determine the right engagement strategies for various stakeholder groups. It also flags emerging problems and helps you reduce response times. It facilitates accountability and makes it much easier to monitor the myriad of factors involved in the sound and controlled management of stakeholders.
4 key takeaways
- All stakeholder engagement plans should include a rigorous evaluation process.
- This evaluation exercise can be difficult, but it’s essential.
- Quantifiable indicators must be linked to specific objectives.
- The reporting functions in Borealis software simplify all aspects of stakeholder engagement, including measuring the success of these effort