According to employee recognition provider Achievers, up to a third of all British workers have felt disconnected from their respective workplaces during the course of the year. As a programme delivery professional, the sudden absence of 'chance encounters' with my stakeholders in the office earlier this year meant that I didn't have the opportunity to have conversations with them and gain informal insights on wider issues or topics. However, the availability and proliferation of virtual collaboration tools had helped a majority of us to navigate around this landscape of the 'new normal'. So, how far have we come with mastering the etiquette of virtual working, and are we regaining this sense of connectivity as we adapted over the course of the year?
To answer these questions, we need to adopt a combination of principles as listed below.
- Continue to make stakeholder engagement a priority.
During times of uncertainty, it's more important than ever to maintain and build relationships. Having those who could champion your cause can be invaluable in change initiatives. For stakeholders who are new within your circle, look for opportunities to check in again following initial meetings in order to build trust and identify additional areas of shared interest.
- Inclusivity doesn't always make everyone feel connected.
Keeping the wrong stakeholders hostage in a long meeting is more likely to make them feel more disconnected from the project than included, if they are unfamiliar with the topic being discussed. By conducting stakeholder identification, we need to be mindful of our participants' role and their vested interests in a specific discussion topic, which can be addressed through stakeholder identification and analysis
- Do not be afraid of reaching out.
Are you comfortable just picking up the virtual phone when someone had indicated themselves as available? I found that, even during uncertain times, stakeholders - including many individuals who didn't already have a working relationship with me previously - were open to talking. To my surprise, a majority of my stakeholders had even expressed an interest in providing further assistance.
Ultimately, keeping stakeholders connected helps to deliver better outcomes, gain their support for future collaboration and boost sustainability practices. The significance of reaching out to others stretches beyond work collaboration. Do you potentially know someone who might be mentally succumbing to the pressures of work and/or life? Reaching out to individuals on a periodic basis helps to keep you close to their unique situations. Even if the other party indicates that they do not have the availability to speak, reaching out still lets them know that you care, and that the door remains open if they would like a listening ear. It is good to let your stakeholder know that, beyond the realms of work, we are all human, and that it's important to look out for one another (albeit virtually) during these uncertain times.