By Danielle Rocheleau
As you may know by now, Laridae is in the process of developing a new strategic plan. This plan will re-envision the direction of the company, its services, and ultimately the desired future.
Since we spend much of our time partnering with clients on strategic planning, we thought this was a great opportunity to follow-through with our own process, to move through our phased approach, and experience what our clients experience. This meant engaging our stakeholders and bringing in a third-party to facilitate, really hearing what they had to say – the good, honest truth. We believe this is integral for making informed strategic decisions, ensuring we remain responsive and true to our values.
In this article, I’ve included a summary of the results of our own stakeholder engagement process, including the themes that came through and some highlights from the survey. This is a “light” version of the typical “Stakeholder Engagement Report” that we would prepare during a strategic planning process with a client. Our full reports include comprehensive notes on all the key person interviews and focus groups, as well as the complete results from the survey.
But before we get to the summary, we’re going to provide some context about the role of stakeholder engagement in the strategic planning process and why it’s important.
We also want to express our sincere gratitude to everyone who participated in the process! Your voice has greatly enhanced our planning and will strengthen our final strategy.
Finally, if your non-profit organization is looking to develop a new strategic plan and you would like to conduct an authentic, honest, stakeholder engagement process, get in touch. We can set up a call to learn more about your goals and determine if we are a good fit for you and your organization.
Why is it important to engage your stakeholders?
Effective leadership through genuine engagement
We believe that for strategic plans to provide meaningful direction, they must rely on an authentic engagement process that genuinely seeks input and allows those invested in the success of an organization to provide ideas, input, and feedback.
Properly conducted, stakeholder engagement is in no way an abdication or devolution of leadership.
It’s the opposite.
Leaders who reach out to and seek the input of the people delivering or receiving services are far more likely to craft future strategies that will resonate with those they affect and those who must implement them.
Successful engagement serves multiple purposes
- Listen: Hear stakeholders’ perspectives to gather input, ideas, and suggestions.
- Connect: Incorporate stakeholders directly into the planning process, helping to deepen relationships and generate buy-in.
- Educate: Help stakeholders learn more about the great work you do.
How can you integrate stakeholder input into the strategic planning process?
Listen to your stakeholders, but develop your own strategy
A well-executed stakeholder engagement process will provide you with a clear understanding of your stakeholders’ perspectives. When deciding how much weight to give to these perspectives, it’s important to strike the right balance.
- On the one hand, remember that your organization’s leadership is in control of determining its own strategy, and it is rarely a good idea for your strategy to be exclusively determined by the priorities and perceptions of your stakeholders.
- On the other hand, your stakeholders – your clients, your partners, your team, your audience – are the reason your organization exists, and it is important that you understand, respond to, and integrate their feedback and priorities.
Stakeholder input is one of several areas of consideration
As noted above, the results of stakeholder engagement are important, but not the “be all end all” of your strategic planning process. There may be areas that are overemphasized by stakeholders, or oversights in their perspectives.
To give organizations a comprehensive foundation on which to base their strategy, our strategic planning process integrates additional components for consideration, which can include:
- An organizational snapshot: We support leaders in developing a snapshot of the current state of their organization, a review of the past five years, and thinking through priorities and areas for improvement or opportunity over the next 3-5 years.
- Environmental scan: A review of the current state of your sector, as well as a review of the approaches taken by similar organizations.
- Document review: A review of the organizations’ key documents – budgets, previous strategies, organizational structure, etc. – that helps provide an understanding of the current state and trajectory of the organization.
How did we conduct our own stakeholder engagement process?
When we began to develop our own strategic plan, we knew engagement was a critical component. Our engagement process – developed by Laridae and externally facilitated by Laurie Smith from Inflectiv – was conducted in April and May 2022.
We focused our engagement on four primary groups of stakeholders:
- Professional Service Partners
- Advisory Board Members
We engaged these audiences using a variety of formats, including:
- An online survey
- Focus groups
- Key person interviews
We also drew on the feedback we have received from the 400+ clients who have taken one of our quality assurance surveys over the last several years.
Questions to ask while reading a stakeholder engagement report
When we present a stakeholder engagement report to a client, we ask them to review it with some questions in mind. This helps provoke reflection before their strategic planning retreat.
With our own stakeholder engagement report, we asked our team the following questions:
- What, if anything, did you read in the report that was unexpected?
- With the feedback in mind, to what degree do you believe Laridae needs change?
- What size do you think Laridae should be in five years and why?
- Does Laridae face any risks in the next 3—5 years? If so, what are they?
- Does Laridae face any opportunities in the next 3—5 years? If so, what are they?
- In your opinion, what are the top three priorities for Laridae’s strategic plan?
Themes: What we heard from our stakeholders
The following is a summary of the themes that emerged from our engagement process. These themes represent the common and recurring perspectives that were shared.
Perceived areas of strength
- Consistently delivering value: Participants shared that they felt they received strong value from Laridae, no matter who they have worked with on the team.
- Safe and comfortable spaces: Laridae was commended for creating a safe space for people to be vulnerable and share their experiences and concerns. Laridae consultants and trainers have done a good job setting intentions and expectations, as well as facilitating transformative conversations.
- Providing a unique blend of perspectives: Our training participants enjoyed having a mix of leaders together in the training cohorts, providing a wide range of perspectives and ideas during discussions. One particular benefit is that these programs raised awareness that people in similar roles have similar struggles. Clients who had received consulting services appreciated the perspectives we offered as a knowledgeable and experienced third-party that has worked with many similar organizations in the non-profit sector.
- Fostering cohesion: Training participants noted that Laridae fosters cohesion, which helps develop organizational culture, and that there was great value in taking the training together with their team, which built a shared foundation of knowledge. Likewise, clients who have received consulting services told us that our board-led strategic planning process was able to bring them together and find common ground in a set of strategic directions that they could all get behind.
- Imparting practical tools: The models and tools provided by Laridae – during our training programs or our consulting services – are relevant and empowering. The use of simulations and case studies during training modules allow direct application back into clients’ working environments. The operational planning tools we use with our consulting clients helped them implement their strategic plans.
Non-profit sector challenges
- The rise of remote and hybrid workplaces: Non-profit organizations are facing challenges as they adapt to remote and hybrid workplaces. Effective collaboration and synchronous teamwork have been a challenge, and participants noted a negative impact on their teams’ social and mental health, with many struggling with a loss of motivation and commitment.
- Human resources resilience, retention, and recruitment: Recruiting and retaining staff were identified as concerns, as the shortage of staff in the non-profit sector continues. Additionally, increased expectations around compensation and the competitiveness of some sectors has diminished candidate pools as people turn to other professions.
- Values alignment in the care sectors: Some individuals commented on the issues of values alignment and workplace culture. The additional demands on healthcare and social service workers are causing burnout that organizations are struggling to address.
- Change management: The additional challenge of motivating employees to buy-in to new initiatives and processes was noted. Changes could be perceived as management highlighting faults rather than trying to support staff by taking necessary steps to adapt to evolving circumstances.
- Financial stability: Several participants identified a common challenge experienced by many non-profits: although they experienced a temporary influx of funding to help navigate the pandemic, a more long-term and sustainable model of funding is needed. Participants felt unsure of how best to deal with government funding inconsistencies.
Suggested areas for strategic focus
- Expanding geographic reach through remote services: The pandemic has allowed teams and organizations to become more comfortable working together virtually. Although some participants expressed concern that Laridae is moving away from its local roots, many participants suggested that this shift offers Laridae the opportunity to expand beyond the geographical limitations of in-person services, and potentially support non-profit organizations on a national scale.
- Increasing support for equity, diversity, and inclusion: Acknowledging Laridae’s strength in supporting organizations with group dynamics and workplace culture, many participants wished to see more training, consulting, and mediation services related to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
- Expanding human resource support services: The need for support in human resources was also highlighted. It was suggested that Laridae could provide additional support here, especially in the areas of organizational culture and leadership values, which are often woven into organizational policies.
The following charts represent a selection of key results from our online survey.
What is your primary relationship with Laridae?
Takeaway: Our survey was completed by a variety of stakeholders, primarily clients.
Which of Laridae’s services have you engaged with?
Takeaway: Of those who have been our clients, there is a good balance between consulting and training clients.
When thinking about our programs and services, to what degree do you agree with the following statements?
Takeaway: Overall, our stakeholders have a very positive impression of our company and our services. When asked about the value of our services we see a negative outlier who strongly disagrees – this participant’s opinion should not be overweighted, as 96% of respondents agree or strongly agree that we provide great value.
How well are we living up to our mission as an organization?
Takeaways: On the whole, we are doing a good job of living up to our mission. We received the lowest assessment when it comes to “solving the non-profit and public sector’s toughest challenges.” It has been discussed that this is the part of our mission where we have the least control. In response, we may want to reflect on our mission and update it to focus on the areas where we can have the greatest impact.
In your experience, how frequently are we working towards fulfilling our vision?
Takeaways: Participants feel that we are doing an excellent job at fulfilling our vision.
In your opinion, which of the following words best describe the most positive aspects of Laridae’s work, staff, and the impact? (Choose up to three options)
Takeaways: The top words reinforce that our stakeholders’ perception of us aligns with some of our top values: knowledgeable and trustworthy; community-focused and relevant; and collaborative and respectful.
In your opinion, what should be the top priorities for Laridae over the next 5 years? (Choose up to three options)
Takeaways: Our stakeholders want us to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion. This is a theme that was consistent throughout the stakeholder engagement process. Although we are already prioritizing growth in this area, we know there is still a lot more work to do. We can also see that our stakeholders suggest we prioritize the refinement of existing services over the development of new ones.
Next steps for Laridae
The full results of our stakeholder engagement have been presented to the team, and we have had the opportunity to reflect and discuss them during our team retreat.
We are now in the process of developing our new strategic plan, which we will be releasing publicly in Fall 2022, once it has been finalized.
Next steps for you
Are you about to develop a new strategic plan for your non-profit organization? Do you want to conduct an authentic, honest, stakeholder engagement process? Get in touch to learn more about how we can help, and to see if we are a good fit for you and your organization.