In this article, I shall be discussing a pertinent issue that affects every facet of society in Zimbabwe. Any undertaking involving people has various types of stakeholders involved. For instance, a business has customers and staff – these are two examples of stakeholders. You have the government – which means citizens are stakeholders in issues of governance. Zimbabweans are familiar with the general conduct of businesses here. One of the recurrent problems is that most businesses do not consult stakeholders on any changes in their businesses.
Stakeholders – Who Or What Are They?
A stakeholder is any individual, or entity upon which actions of a particular entity have a bearing or vice versa. This means that the actions of the individual or the other entity can also have a bearing on the stakeholders. With that definition, you can see how broad and diverse stakeholders of a business can be. For instance, stakeholders can be external or internal to the business – these are big sets. Some of the most common stakeholders are business owners, business staff, customers, suppliers, investors, the general public, media, and government entities.
Why Stakeholder Consultation Important?
The hallmark of stakeholder consultation is the establishment, nurturing and sustenance of working relationships. I am talking about symbiotic relationships that promote shared benefits of everyone involved. When you look at most local businesses, stakeholder consultation is seriously lacking. Businesses here normally put in place decisions without consulting ALL the stakeholders – mostly it is just a few of them they consult. Oft times it is the consumers that are left out yet they are the focal point for the existence of any business.
It is no wonder why some consumers end up migrating to other businesses because of that. There are fundamental questions that stakeholder consultations seek to answer. What are the needs of the stakeholder? This essentially deals with what they expect from you. What do your stakeholders think and or feel? Such questions help you, as a business, to gather important details that will inform aspects that I am about to get into a moment.
Stakeholder consultations create a platform for you to inform your stakeholders on any things that you plan to do in the near or distant future. They also serve as a platform to assess progress and or review things you would have set in motion. These consultations also help your business to propagate information that creates the kind of public image you want to be seen.
Overall, stakeholder consultation culminates ineffective, empirical decision making. Decision making premised on facts (not assumptions or oblivion) results in a shared understanding and satisfaction amongst all parties involved.
How To Conduct Stakeholder Consultations
If you somehow dislike research methods then you have to bear with it. Stakeholder consultations entail researching so it is important to bear that in mind.
Quantitative Research Methods
Surveys are usually done through two main options namely, questionnaires and structured interviews. In doing stakeholder consultations you can do surveys in the following domains, market dynamics, customers, and employees. In those domains, you could be exploring things like satisfaction levels and evaluation processes.
The data collected through such methods can be statistically analysed to come up with summaries and insights. Things like graphs and tables are some of what I am referring to here.
Qualitative Research Methods
Focus Group Discussions
These are common in qualitative research particularly in social sciences (which is at the core of stakeholder consultations). Such discussions are about small groups of selected individuals from similar settings being brought together to discuss a topical issue or topical issues. They are characterised by someone anchoring them and with open discussions being encouraged. It is apparent why this cannot be left out in doing stakeholder consultations.
Such interviews are characterised by interviewees being asked successive open-ended questions. They make use of an interview guide (i.e. the set of questions) but how the interview goes is up to how the interviewer steers it. In-depth interviews are for purposes of exploring what someone thinks about a particular subject matter in extensive detail.
This is simply about someone immersing themselves into a natural environment or setting to learn about an individual or group of individuals. There are 4 possible ways in which observations can be done. These are being solely an observer, being a participant-observer, being an observing participant or being solely a participant.
Data collected from these methods tend to be text-based and voluminous. Thus it has to be analysed differently, there are 4 main ways of analysing qualitative data. They are content analysis, narrative analysis, discourse analysis and grounded theory. Content analysis entails working on making sense of responses from people interviewed. The narrative analysis involves content from several sources (at times even including quantitative ones) being analysed. Discourse analysis deals with the dynamics of how the respondents interact with the person or people conducting the research. Grounded theory is all about endeavouring to rationalise why certain things happen or happened. A heuristic approach can be used where related information from the past is taken into consideration to make sense of newfound occurrences.
There is so much more to talk about this important subject but this must suffice in inspiring you to take action. As a business, it is high time you engage all you stakeholders all the time so that you make all-encompassing and inclusive decisions. Do not forget that you have online platforms to help you roll out your consultative processes.