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Stakeholder Engagement: The Foundation of a Successful Workplace Health and Performance Strategy

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

By Victoria Grainger, MBA, BPE, HWL, PTS, Founder, Wellness Works Canada

According to a need’s assessment completed by Wellness Works Canada in 2020, the number one barrier to the development and implementation of a workplace health and performance strategy was lack of stakeholder engagement and buy-in. And let’s be honest, if you want an effective sustainable strategy, stakeholder engagement is a must. But what exactly is it, who should you engage, and how? Let’s dive in.

What is Stakeholder Engagement

Simply put, it is about identifying and inspiring anyone influenced by, or that can influence, strategies to support a culture of health and performance. Examples include employees, management, executive, clients, and partners.

Who to Engage?

The stakeholders will differ depending on the size of the organization. Determining who has the most influence, poses risk, and is most influenced by it, can help you determine who to involve and how. Check out this stakeholder assessment to get started.

Remember to always be thinking about the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for all stakeholders before approaching them. This mindset will take their perspective into account before you’ve even engaged them.

  • Micro (5-19): Owner, management, all employees, community partners (existing and prospective)

  • Small (20-99): Owner, management, HR representatives, all employees, community partners (existing and prospective)

  • Medium (100-499): ED/CEO/President, all executive leadership, all management, HR representatives (OHS, OD, employee engagement, all employees (and make sure to identify volunteer ambassadors representing all major business units), facilities (built env.), community partners (existing and prospective)

  • Large (500+): ED/CEO/President, all executive, all management, HR representatives (OHS, OD, employee engagement, all employees (make sure to identify volunteer ambassadors representing all major business units), facilities (built env.), productivity/performance lead, community partners (existing and prospective)

How to Inspire Stakeholders

Once you know the key influencers you need to engage are, you will need to develop a plan, with them rather than for them, on the development, implementation, and evaluation of all strategies. You may want to draft up a logic model or balanced scorecard after consultation on their identified issues, goals and business objectives and finalize it together.

Again, clearly outline the WIIFM for their portfolio or business department. It may be about addressing pain points like high rates of turnover, poor customer experience ratings, high levels of stress or burnout. You can draw information from an employee survey or simply ask them directly what they could use more help with to create a higher performing team or department. You also need to identify values, a code of conduct, mantra, or policy, that resonates with them and business objectives. There are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Governance

Once you’ve identified your stakeholders and engaged them, in medium-large sized organizations you may need a governance plan. For example, you may have a workplace health and performance committee with executives from each line of business/department that meet quarterly. They set high levels outcomes and objectives. Then you might have a joint worksite health and safety committee that includes workplace health and performance (psychological safety and well-being) as a standing agenda item. Or, you may have a stand-alone committee of health and performance ambassadors (AKA wellness champions) that meet monthly and other working groups that work more regularly when there are big initiative, policies, or events that are happening. The key is to map this out and make sure everyone knows their role and there is a plan for accountability. More on that later.

2. Terminology Matters

Getting the terminology right may seem like it’s just semantics, but it is so important to speak to the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) when engaging stakeholders. That is why, at Wellness Works Canada, we like the term Workplace Health and Performance vs workplace wellness or well-being or even a psychologically healthy and safe workplace. The term speaks to something more than mental health, or well-being. It speaks to a systems approach that is necessary to achieve the desired outcomes for all stakeholders. It speaks to broader approach that goes way beyond programs. It is about supporting and influencing employee engagement, employee well-being, psychological health and safety, productivity, organizational performance, innovation, agility and many other people and business strategies. I can't emphasize this enough - use terminology that resonates with your stakeholders and make sure to clearly speak to the WIIFM for their role. You may want to conduct a survey, conduct interviews, or have focus groups to find this out. This process will be iterative. It's okay if it shifts over time. You want to get it right, and that can take time.

3. Garner Accountability

In a small organization, you may have everyone sign a code of conduct that was co-developed with employees. This can create greater accountability if taken seriously.

In a medium sized organization with more processes and procedures in place, consider including leadership competency around well-being. Also consider including criteria in your performance development process to hold everyone accountable. After all, what gets measured gets done.

Having a robust ambassador network (AKA wellness champion network) can also be great to help support, develop, and promote initiatives and standards specific departments or teams. Ensuring these folks are volunteers vs voluntold can make all the difference to keep them inspired. You will also need to make sure that their supervisor gives them permission to spend 5-10% of their time on all thing’s health and performance.

In a large organization (or even in a medium sized organization) with multiple stakeholders and departments/lines of business and multiple initiatives running at the same time, you will want to have the same things small and medium sized organizations have and more. You may need tailored code of conducts at the department or team level.

You will also want to ensure there is a proper project management methodology in place. For example, and Gantt chart to measure progress on identified plans with roles, responsibilities and timelines clearly articulated.

Phew, that was a lot. It may seem like a lot of work to get the right stakeholders inspired, and on board doing the right things, but it is the only way to ensure sustainable, integrated success. If your organization needs support, consider our employer memberships that will assess, consult and recognize you for your work to build a healthy, high performing work culture. If you want to learn more as a leader, check out the only accreditation available in Canada for Workplace Health and Performance Ambassadors, Practitioners and Experts.

How do YOU engage and inspire stakeholders? We’d love to hear success stories, challenges, and questions. Share them in our forum here.



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