Six principles for managing stakeholders in times of financial challenge
29 November 2017
In the third of our series of blogs looking at financial recovery in the NHS, we consider how best to manage and utilise your stakeholders to best effect. In times of financial challenge or crisis, it’s vital to ensure your key stakeholders are involved and up to date on what is happening. This is as important in health as anywhere, where you will have multiple groups of stakeholders, each with the potential to influence your progress. Patients, regulators, clinicians and staff, board members, health system partners and many others all have in interest in your success or failure. The needs of stakeholders increase during financial challenge or crisis and so stakeholder management can become enormously demanding and a project in itself. But, as we’ve found in our work with a number of trusts and commissioners in this situation, the benefits are certainly worth the effort as many stakeholders can help, hinder or even stop aspects of an organisation’s financial improvement. In our recent publication, The road to recovery, we share some key lessons from NHS organisations who have successfully navigated stakeholder management. Based on our work with trusts and commissioners we have developed these six key principles for managing stakeholders:
- Be transparent
You need to be honest about the financial challenge you have and the consequences. Nobody likes surprises, so be on the front foot sharing your own or an independent view of the financial status of your organisation or system.
- Do what you say you’ll do
Enhancing credibility in times of crisis is key, so do what you say you’ll do and develop a track record of delivery. This will increase stakeholder trust and confidence to give more pace to your financial improvement.
- Simple communications plan
Invest the time in a clear stakeholder communications plan; who are your stakeholders, both internal and external, and what do you want them to think, feel and do to support your recovery?
- Be consistent between stakeholders but recognise they're all different
Make sure that communication is consistent between different groups of stakeholders so your messages are reinforced when stakeholders interact with each other. Also, recognise that each stakeholder is different, so how you communicate and which messages you emphasise should change across different stakeholders.
- Don't substitute regulator assurance for your own
Many organisations experience a change in regulatory requirements during a time of financial crisis. This often impacts the depth, breadth, regularity and notice to provide information to your regulator. However, some organisations either don't adapt their own governance to obtain assurance before information is sent to a regulator or robustly assure it subsequently.
Make sure you have one person in the organisation who manages and signs out information and data relating to your financial position, especially to regulators. Acting swiftly, consistently and efficiently for information when you’re in a period of recovery is essential to a constructive dialogue.
Achieving these 6 principles is critical to getting stakeholder relations right to enhance the effectiveness and pace of your financial improvement. It’s more than just keeping stakeholders happy - it’s about engaging with them, their expertise and their influence to help you get to where you need to be. For more detail on best practice for managing stakeholders see The road to recovery where we have identified useful themes that can help organisations either looking to successfully journey through financial recovery or seeking to ensure they are ahead of the curve and stay there.