Before I joined Staffing Industry Analysts, I spoke at its Contingent Workforce Strategies Summit in Amsterdam on the topic of stakeholder engagement. I put forward the idea that the letters “CWS” should stand not just for the Summit and this newsletter, but also as a constant reminder on the need to Consult With Stakeholders.

This notion may appear obvious. However, that is not how it usually plays out. My colleagues and I have discussed the topic frequently with clients as well as in this publication, but we still see evidence of stakeholder groups assembled as part of program development efforts that do not include all the right people. Time again, I have also seen failures in the methods used to capture their voices and assess their needs, and eventually feeding their needs into the ultimate program design.

So indeed, whether you are considering rolling out a new program or simply looking to expand an existing, finely tuned and proven program into new areas or territories, you must first determine whether the new area or region is ready to adopt that change. Because without eventual adoption, even the finest systems, processes, people and intentions will at best, guarantee a rough and awkward journey, only to arrive at a destination far away from your initial dreams — or at worst, be doomed to failure.

So how do you gauge a group’s readiness for change? Here are some considerations:

  • Do you know all your internal and stakeholders?
  • Have you fully consulted, independently considered and acted upon on the voice of the region that will be affected?
  • Do you fully understand the culture and behavioral differences across the affected region and have you included this in the program design?
  • Is your desired operational model even possible/legal within the region?
  • Are you able to align your program design to both the strategic needs of the organization as well as the tactical needs of the business?
  • Is your program design both bullet-proof and yet adaptable should the need arise?
  • Are the required resources in place and available for implementation and steady state delivery? If not, is there budget available for this?
  • Have you documented and committed to delivering against your ongoing communications plan?

And a couple more points to ponder:

Prepare for failure. Do not follow in the footsteps of the coach whose team is down at half-time and has no plan-B to fall back on. Rather, plan for failures. Once your stakeholder group is established, encourage them to challenge your ideas and even attempt to break them with numerous “what-if” scenarios. Run though simulations with things not going according to plan, and assume people will say “no” where you think they really will say “yes.” In other words, do not assume the great plan you have prepared will get you to your destination. Try to identify root causes of any potential challenges you might face and proactively seek to address these as part of your overall planning strategy. Do not leave it until a challenge rears its unexpected head as you will only have time to gloss over the issues and your program will be in danger of becoming derailed.

Beware the silent assassin. Be on the lookout for the person who stays quiet in your meetings or simply goes along with the crowd but secretly speaks out (or even worse “plots”) against you. You can have all the best processes and tools at your disposal, but having a player actively working to undermine your efforts can be disastrous.

So, make certain you seek out and listen to the true voice of the silent assassin. Their voice must be heard for you to avoid allowing the herd mentality to flourish. Refer to my previous article on that topic to learn about Solomon Asch’s 1950s experiment that is still very relevant to driving contingent workforce program adoption today.