All of these stakeholder groups still exist. Their expectations in terms of the depth of relationship, types of communication and level of interaction have become more demanding. On top of this, there is growth in the types of individuals and groups who must be viewed as valid stakeholders.
There is the increasing regulatory burden in many industries. Regulators and legislators have moved from being occasional stakeholders to representing multifaceted fulltime relationships to manage.
Organizations are expected to make commitments on sustainability, reducing discrimination and other forms of corporate social responsibility. Social expectations of businesses are evolving and becoming more onerous. Journalism has become more sophisticated and intrusive.
These trends result in broader stakeholder universes. The groups an organization must monitor, listen to and satisfy with complex information and reporting needs continue to expand.
This leads to the needs for ever more sophisticated stakeholder analysis, based on a full mapping of the stakeholder universe. The risks from poor stakeholder management, whether reputational risk or other negative consequences, have grown and will continue to grow. Stakeholder management cannot be an ad-hoc exercise, but needs to be a robust and effective discipline.
Mapping the stakeholder universe starts with a detailed analysis of the organization, the relationships it has and needs to have, and the groups with an interest in the success, failure and impact of the organization’s activities. This can lead to a hugely complex set of stakeholders each with individual needs.
In the end, no organization has the resources to satisfy every demand of every unique stakeholder. Therefore having mapped the stakeholder universe the next step must be to prioritise. There are several dimensions to stakeholder prioritisation. Firstly, there is the simple activity of deciding which stakeholders to work with. But stakeholder prioritisation must be more sophisticated than this. Which stakeholders get individual attention? Which are handled as part of a group? Who gets the personal attention of the CEO? Which stakeholders are delegated to others with more time to deal with them – or in some cases, the specialist skills and knowledge to handle the interactions?
Even this is not enough. Stakeholder management must be dynamic – monitoring, adapting to feedback and changes in the business environment. But however stakeholder management is performed, at its heart lies that clear map of the stakeholder universe.
If you enjoyed this - try my longer article "Learning to love those very, very irritating stakeholders", in the article section of this site.
This article first appeared in The Star newspaper in Malaysia.