The importance of connecting with your stakeholders in times of crisis

Since the beginning of 2020, the world has been captivated by the coronavirus. Yesterday, a milestone has been reached with the start of the vaccination program against COVID-19 in the Netherlands. Vaccines are seen as critical tools to overcome the pandemic1. Therefore, the arrival of vaccines marks a time of transition, as the end of the pandemic becomes more certain and perhaps a little closer2.

Kremer & Company believes that in a time of constant change and disruption organizations should be actively connected to society and engaged with their internal and external stakeholders. An extreme example of a time with constant change and disruption is the current COVID-19 pandemic.

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    The pandemic underlined the interconnectedness between organizations and the broader world in which they operate3. While organizations, as well as their stakeholders, constantly face new challenges, it became more important than ever before to initiate the dialogue with each other and to truly understand each other’s changing reality.

    When connecting with your stakeholders, it is important to keep the following three things in mind:

    1. Online vs. offline

    The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work. Whereas most people were used to working at the office and attending meetings physically, the coronavirus introduced a new era in which people have to work online and remotely. Major steps have already been taken to bridge the physical distance and to replace the offline with online alternatives. And with many successes! Experts are already speculating what the next normal will look like: will people still go to the office five days a week, like they used to?

    Despite the promising alternatives, some differences remain between real-life face to face contact and virtual contact. It is important to be aware of these differences as they can be challenging when managing and connecting with your stakeholders.

    By way of illustration, it is easier to grasp the emotional color of a conversation in a face to face setting than an online setting as you can interpret someone’s mimic and body language more easily. Also, online meetings tend to be more ‘straight to the point’ and therefore require more effort in truly understanding each other’s point of view.

    2. Changing needs and preferences

    The pandemic may also have changed the needs and preferences of your stakeholders. Some needs or preferences might already be familiar to you whereas others are new and seek creative solutions. Perhaps, stakeholders who were initially very complementary to each other may now become opposed to each other, or vice versa. It is important to understand the new reality for all stakeholders to gain their trust.

    Changing preferences are evident in e.g., the mobility sector4. In the pre-viral era, people choose a mode of transportation based on the time to destination and convenience. However, as a consequence of the pandemic, people are more and more focused on their health and try to limit their risk of infections. Private cars are experienced as safer and more hygienic in comparison to public transport, which is reflected in the preferences and habits of passengers.

    As a consequence, we see new collaborations between industries and organizations that have not joined forces before or to a lesser extent. An example of joined forces could be seen in the catering industry. Rather than focusing on their own profits and revenue, restaurants started working together and joined forces. By merging the terraces, the restaurants were able to make some profits despite the ongoing measures. At the same time, the catering industry looked for financial support at the municipality as both parties strive for the same goal of making the city a nice place to live. Therefore, providing e.g., financial support to keep the heads up of restaurants will create a win-win situation for both of them.

    Another interesting example of joined forces is the collaboration between the event industry and the GGD in the organization of the vaccination program in the Netherlands. Although this might already be happening on a smaller scale, some suggest that there are even more opportunities to intensify this collaboration. The event industry has a lot of experience in crowd management, logistics, IT, etcetera which could be of great use in the vaccination program. As the workload of the event industry has decreased due to the pandemic, it would be convenient if the event industry would collaborate more intensively with the GGD.

    3. Practice what you preach

    Decisions made during a crisis will likely have a large and long-lasting influence on the identity of an organization5. Despite the challenges that come along with the crisis, this also creates opportunities for organizations to leave an indelible mark on society. However, this is only possible if organizations understand and stay close to their purpose. Therefore, it is very more important to practice what you preach!

    An example of a company that has stayed true to its purpose is Eurofiber. As the engine of the digital society, Eurofiber aims to play a vital role in unleashing the full potential of people and organizations. Eurofiber understands that their open digital infrastructure has a large value to society and plays a vital role to organizations in order to stay connected to their people and systems in a highly reliable and secure manner. Therefore, Eurofiber took all measures needed to safeguard the continuity of their services.

    How to deal with continuous change?

    One way to deal with these challenges is to constantly have a sustainable outside-in perspective, initiate the dialogue and actively listen to your stakeholders. What are your stakeholder’s needs and interests, what is the impact of COVID for them and their businesses, and what do they expect you to take care of? Try to genuinely understand their new and constantly changing reality.

    Being involved with your stakeholders does not only improves your relationship with them, it also helps you to determine your own business focus. By really understanding your context, the opinion and needs of all your stakeholders, you are better able to map your own risks, opportunities, and future strategy. For other organizations, the crisis might be an excellent opportunity to reinvent its purpose and reconsider their strategy.

    How can Kremer & Company help?

    Kremer & Company guides organizations in becoming intrinsically linked to society by focusing on the development and implementation of stakeholder strategies. The added value of stakeholder strategies is of even greater importance in times of crisis.

    To accomplish that, Kremer & Company…

    • Supports to define the strategic foundation of the organization. We counsel you to develop your purpose, unique positioning and to find your greater relevance to society in developing your societal framework with an outside-in perspective.
    • supports the organization with creating valuable and sustainable relationships by identifying, connecting and aligning with stakeholders externally and internally.
    • creates one consistent voice to all stakeholders by defining central themes on which the organization can demonstrate leadership.
    • inspires and stimulates organizations to create a constant dialogue with their stakeholders based on the purpose of their organization.

    To create a sustainable transformation, we equip organizations with easy methods and ways of working to anchor outside-in expectations into their daily business. Want to read more about our services? Click here.