Influencing stakeholders should be a vital part of your learning manager’s toolkit. Better stakeholder relationships will always lead to the increased impact and value of your digital learning. But it doesn’t stop there. Your stakeholders become influencers too. These relationships will help your L&D team gain credibility and create a more positive, joined-up learning culture throughout your whole organization.
“It all begins with being a true business partner. Once you have that relationship, a lot of things start to fall into place.” Dave Barone, Consultant, Josh Bersin Academy
4 Strategies For Successful Stakeholder Influencing
So how do you build strategic partnerships? Our research highlighted 4 key strategies that can be used to create better stakeholder relationships. We asked top L&D managers and industry experts for practical advice on how to put these strategies in place so you can become a better influencer in your organization.
1. Facilitate Conversations That Build Trust And Understanding
You can invite the right people into the conversation, but without great facilitation, it won’t be effective. Facilitation isn’t about running efficient meetings. It’s about helping your (often diverse) group of stakeholders understand their common objectives and plan how to achieve these together. By asking the right questions, uncovering the real learning needs, and summarising what you hear, you’ll build understanding and trust.
Effective facilitation allows everyone to input. This gets you the buy-in you need for your learning team, and your stakeholders, to deliver on their full potential.
“Don’t underestimate the power of good facilitation…how you move people around within that time period can really drive you toward your solution,” says Dave Barone, consultant at Josh Bersin Academy.
2. Maintain Buy-In With Proactive Communication
Once you’ve got your stakeholder buy-in, you need to maintain it.
“It’s super important not just to give them the keys to the house and off they go. You need to have regular check-ins,” says Jason Edwards, Global Digital Learning Partner at Kingfisher plc.
Whether it’s recurring meetings or update emails, your communications will drive stakeholder engagement. But remember, your stakeholders also have day jobs to focus on. All it takes is one long, ineffective email to lose someone’s interest. So, keep your communications short, sharp, and focussed on what people need to know. Don’t stop when the project is finished. Everyone wants to see the result of their efforts, and your business partners are no different. Be proactive. From completion rates to learner feedback, share your key metrics so you can build on your successes.
3. Show Them What’s Possible With Collaboration
It’s all too easy for eLearning production to veer into the transactional space. Business leaders request eLearning, eLearning managers try to meet the demand. Short-term needs get prioritized over thinking about what’s best long term. These demands only intensify as production scales up. But it shouldn’t be a one-way street. This transactional space isn’t conducive to impactful eLearning creation. Help your business partners play an integral part in your learning strategy. Show them what kinds of results you can achieve if you combine your expertise.
“It’s about showing them the art of possible, how easy it is to collaborate and not work in silos,” says Jason Edwards, Global Digital Learning Partner at Kingfisher plc.
4. Speak To Motivations And Connect With Values
Whether you’re looking for the buy-in of a leader or want to harness the expertise of a Subject Matter Expert (SME), put yourself in your stakeholder’s shoes. Each stakeholder will have their own values and priorities. You need to understand what drives them and speak to those motivations.
“You have to understand the business as well as your peers. You’ve got to be able to walk in their shoes…And what’s a better way to know the business than working with the frontline? That carries a lot of clout with your business partners.” says Dave Barone, consultant at Josh Bersin Academy.
Adapting your approach to each stakeholder is essential. If you don’t, you’ll quickly lose their engagement. For example, although you may have lots of experience in L&D, this could all be new to your stakeholder. It’s up to you to guide them and make sure they feel supported by you and your L&D team.
Fostering better strategic partnerships with your internal stakeholders will provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate best practice, share expertise, and influence the way your organization learns. It also helps build up your own reputation.
If you’re interested in exploring what else Jason Edwards and Dave Barone do to foster relationships and influence change, check out their interviews on Elucidat’s Learning at Large Knowledge Hub.