3 tips to engage your stakeholders during a pandemic
It’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic washed up on Singapore’s shores, and the term “new normal” has taken on a sombre tone in light of the recent resurgence of infections across many countries. Some might be relishing working remotely, while others might be feeling restless in these extended stifling conditions. Some might be seeing this as a good chance to take a break, while others might be worried about how their livelihoods and businesses will be affected once again, especially for those who work closely with external communities (i.e. stakeholder engagement).
During this period where relationships are confined to the virtual world, whether it’s an advertising agency working on selling a brand to their customers or a multinational company trying to get feedback from their employees on their wellbeing, we must still find ways to engage various stakeholders.
So then, how can we continue to engage stakeholders in this extended pandemic? The answer lies in taking a step back. Here are three tips to help you engage with your stakeholders effectively.
Tip 1: Conduct regular surveys
Instead of clamouring to be heard and noticed by your stakeholders, initiate a session and take the time to listen to what they have to say instead. Send out timely virtual surveys to find out what your stakeholders are most concerned about, and tweak your approach or service accordingly. This small step of sending out a survey might not seem like much, but it shows your stakeholders that you’re listening in a time where attention spans are dwindling. And by providing a customised approach or service based on their feedback, you’re showing your stakeholders that their voice matters, and they will be more likely to pay attention to any future progress or engagement sessions lined up.
The best part is that there are many great survey tools in the market that can help you to simplify this process even more. One such example would be OPPi — the only platform that adopts a circular design where user inputs can be fed back immediately into the analytics system. This system is also able to identify areas of commonality and division among a given community, making it a great tool for gathering collective thoughts and opinions. What this means is that you’ll be able to quickly identify areas of concern that your stakeholders have collectively shared, as well as opinions that might be divisive. The system updates these results in real-time so you don’t have to worry about analysing the results on your own. It’s also fully anonymous, so your stakeholders can be as open and honest as they’d like to be. It also offers both free-to-use and subscription-based packages so that you can try OPPi out before committing to a paid subscription.
Tip 2: Have virtual check-ins and get-togethers
The risk of burning out while working from home is very real, so we can all afford to have elements of the human touch during our virtual engagements with both stakeholders and co-workers alike. A simple text or email checking in on our stakeholders won’t take up too much time, but it allows us to connect with them on a more personal level. Simple questions like asking them how they’re coping, how their family is doing, or what they’ve been up to outside of work at home can all help to strengthen the bond between you and your stakeholders. (Of course, engagement is a two-way street, so this should be more of a conversation and less of a formality).
With our co-workers, we might often forget the importance of checking in with each other, especially when many of us are now working from home alone. To combat this, it would be helpful to conduct regular virtual get-togethers just to allow for some form of casual human interaction amidst the work week. As with all virtual meetings, it’s always useful to have an agenda lined up to minimise screen time and Zoom fatigue. One way in which these sessions could pan out would be to have a pre-engagement session via a third-party platform like OPPi. For instance, a different theme could be explored each week, such as mental health struggles or productivity issues, and co-workers can share their thoughts and feelings anonymously through an OPPi poll in advance. After which, the general outline of the get-together can be drawn out to discuss any problems or points-of-view that might surface.
Tip 3: Have fun with virtual icebreakers
Unlike in-person meetings, virtual meetings can get rather awkward because it’s tough to read body language through a grainy webcam, so it can be difficult to know when to jump into the conversation. To lighten the mood, try out some pandemic-friendly icebreakers, such as ‘draw your neighbour’, where participants sketch the person next to them on the Zoom grid. It’s a quick and easy way to get everyone laughing and loosened up, so that sharing can take place more organically later on during the call.
Make an effort to engage
At the end of the day, being able to connect virtually with stakeholders and co-workers to retain their interest is arguably the most crucial part of working through a pandemic. But as daunting as this task sounds, the solutions are in fact very simple. We just need to remember to breathe and take a step back — listen instead of just talking, have a little more empathy, and try not to take yourself so seriously, because we’re all struggling through this pandemic together. So go forth, make those connections, and remember to stay safe and sane along the way.