Joining Jambo for this Q&A blog is Dayna Morgan and Dione McGuinness from Britt Land & Engagement (for Dayna and Dione’s complete bios, visit their team page). Britt Land & Engagement specializes in land access and stakeholder engagement and has been operating since 1986.
“We assist companies in gaining access and community support for their projects by navigating the complexities of Land, Indigenous Relations & Stakeholder Engagement.” – Britt Land & Engagement
Between Dayna and Dione, they have decades of industry experience, which gives their organization a powerful perspective in understanding the complexities surrounding stakeholder engagement.
We were lucky to ask them some questions about how best to handle stakeholder issues that arise during stakeholder engagement efforts and why it’s crucial to take these issues seriously.
Q: Why is Stakeholder Engagement so Important When it Comes to Issues Management?
When it comes to stakeholder engagement, you need to start with the end in mind. Early understanding of potential risks is key to your project’s success!
To start, you need a good strategic engagement framework to identify your stakeholders, to understand what’s important to them, and to understand what issues could arise.
That strategic plan is necessary to effectively plan for the resources required to support your project development. If you don’t do this assessment early enough and an issue arises, you could find yourself without the properly allocated funds or without enough people in place to deal with it effectively.
“Disruption is the new normal. In an era of political, social and economic evolution, industries are re-evaluating how they do business. Access to land is becoming more challenging as stakeholders are more empowered and aware, expecting more from the companies they interact with.” – Britt Land & Engagement
Q: Are Stakeholder Issues Common?
Issues are definitely common, and they range from very minor issues to very extreme issues.
To better understand potential issues, it’s essential to consider your stakeholder’s perspectives. For example, technical teams tend to worry more about technical risks (e.g. safety risks), and they often forget to think about the stakeholder’s perspective. They end up assuming that things are a non-issue when they’re actually significant to their stakeholders. You have to meet your stakeholders where they’re at—how they’re feeling.
Issues are complex, and so stakeholder engagement must also be about showing that you’re listening, considering different perspectives, and making sure people feel understood.
Q: What Can Happen When a Stakeholder Issue Isn't Managed?
When issues aren’t managed, you’re at risk of having the issue escalate.
People can escalate issues in different ways. When people feel like an organization is ignoring them, they’ll find someone who will listen, and suddenly something that could have been dealt with will grow and grow if not managed. For example, someone might take an issue to social media, and suddenly that issue is growing into a movement with a large following.
Even small issues can escalate if the company fails to address it, and this happens when stakeholders feel like their concerns are ignored, and this can lead to a lot of frustration. Then this frustration magnifies the issue.
On the opposite side, dealing with issues early on can actually build advocates.
Q: Why is it Important to Understand Your Stakeholders When it Comes to Issues Management?
When you understand your stakeholder’s values and interests and you work to align your project with them, you can understand stakeholders concerns much better. You also understand which topics to be careful around and can work with your team and your stakeholders to consider possible alternatives.
This fuller understanding allows you to build-in the appropriate resources. For example, if you’ve done your early assessment in an area and you know it’s going to add a year or two onto your project schedule to fully listen and mitigate concerns about your project, you can plan accordingly.
There’s a real financial benefit to engaging early. Being prepared allows you to avoid surprises, which is crucial because surprises lead to extra time, money, and can strain relationships.
Q: What's the Importance of Dealing With Issues to Help Maintain Stakeholder Relationships?
Thorough engagement supports the development of relationships, and that’s a significant form of currency. By having the right key messaging and the right positioning before you enter a community, that helps to build those relationships early on and ensures people are on the same page.
Established relationships help you to navigate issues, too. If you have established relationships, stakeholders are more likely to pick up the phone and contact you if they have an issue, but without a relationship, you’ve missed that opportunity, and they’ll take that issue elsewhere (like the social media example above).
It’s also important to remember that trust can go a long way—building relationships is really building trust. When you have that relationship established early on, and you’ve earned that trust, if things don’t go according to plan, you won’t get as adverse of a reaction as you would without that trust and relationship.
Q: Any "Best Practices" Advice?
- Always begin with the end in mind.
- Have an established framework for understanding with the proper tools and processes in place.
- Document EVERYTHING, not just formal conversations—this is where using stakeholder relationship management software like Jambo is such a great idea as it helps you manage a whole bunch of data and ensures you and your team have a dedicated process in place to ensure a timely response to issues.
- Take the time to understand community values thoroughly.
- Always be respectful, especially when disagreeing.
- Listen to understand, not to respond. Make sure you’re not trying to correct people or educate them when they don’t want to be educated; instead, take a timeout and listen to recognize where they’re coming from.
- Develop relationships early on, so that when issues arise, you have that currency.
Q: How Can Britt Land & Engagement Help Organizations With Their Stakeholder Engagement?
“We can be the boots on the ground or the tactical mind in the background. Rely on us to manage your engagement activities or incorporate our leaders to train and develop capacity within your own team.” – Britt Land & Engagement
We can help in a lot of ways! We have a diverse team with an extensive skill set, and our goal is to support teams and to help them with whatever burden they’re experiencing. Whether it’s with:
- Stakeholder engagement
- Public forums and open houses
- Participant involvement programs
- Indigenous engagement
- C3 management (consultation, commitments and compliance)
- Strategic communications
We can help organizations with their upfront strategy—we have a lot of experience in pre-engagement and pre-planning. We can also help with advisory services, and documentation to ensure compliance and that commitments are seen through to fulfillment.
When you work with us, we become an extension of your team. A lot of organizations don’t have the required resources to engage how they’d like because, for example, a single stakeholder engagement practitioner might have 100-1000s of square kilometres of communities to manage relationships with and that’s daunting. We help them prioritize and identify key communities and support those relationships while also developing other ways to keep all the communities informed in a less labour-intensive way so that everyone feels informed with an avenue to voice opinions.
We also do a lot of open houses, and we help train our clients on how to speak effectively to reach their stakeholders in a way they’ll best understand. We’re well-trained to teach our clients how to respond to difficult questions and how to navigate situations when strong emotions arise.
When it comes to escalated interactions with stakeholders, it’s valuable to have a trained third-party present who can manage the situation and help to remove some of that negativity from the interaction in a way that won’t impact the relationship.
We really work to be on everybody’s team. We’re dedicated to creating a win/win situation for our clients and the communities!
Jambo and Britt Land & Engagement
It’s huge to have a reliable and easy-to-use stakeholder relationship management tool like Jambo to manage all the data that goes into stakeholder engagement. In our line of work, we appreciate when there is software like this that’s responsive, user-friendly, and effective.
Jambo ensures a more consistent approach internally—there’s nothing worse than recording something that requires follow-up, and it doesn’t happen. So, having a tool like Jambo with the mechanisms to ensure follow-up is great and helps to increase the chances of success.
The Jambo team has similar ideals and values as the Britt Land & Engagement team. We see how willing they are to work with stakeholders in the same way we work with ours and that willingness to listen, modify, and adapt to try and get ahead of those concerns and opportunities sets them apart. It’s the same drive as our team, and it makes for a great partnership!
A big thank you to Dayna and Dione and the whole Britt Land & Engagement team for taking the time to speak with us for this blog post!