“Are you listening, I mean, are you really listening”.
Being listened to and feeling that you are being heard is of huge importance to all of us. Why then should it be any different for our stakeholders when our organisations deliver a project?
When we consider the deluge of information hitting fixed and mobile screens on a daily basis when do stakeholders get the chance to be heard? People want to know if anyone or you in particular, are actually listening. Only then can you harness of the power of engagement to make a positive difference to the development of stakeholder relationships.
Highways England aims to create a dependable, durable and safe network, one which is free-flowing, serviceable, accessible and integrated. This network will support economic growth and result in sustainable benefits for the environment. Anyone planning, designing or building a highway would find this difficult to argue with. Integral to achieving these aims are communities, interest groups and organisations that have an interest in what we are delivering. Therefore engagement and listening to our stakeholders should also be integral to what we do.
Increasingly there is both a statutory obligation and an expectation that projects will carry out engagement and, critically, be able to demonstrate that engagement has been carried out thoroughly and effectively. Successful engagement leads to:
· Greater stakeholder buy-in: improving trust and productive interactions in the project, our organisations and the highways industry.
· Enhanced design and delivery: delivering a project which takes into account stakeholder needs, interests and requirements; reducing the need for change further down the line.
· Smoother approvals: incorporating stakeholder input can result in fewer objections, less opposition and more efficient approvals, saving time and money.
· Managing issues: by engaging early and well, your project can identify and address issues before they arise.
· Supporting change: by guiding stakeholders through change, listening to their concerns and helping them to understand the reasons and outcomes that you are aiming to achieve.
· Demonstrating corporate responsibility: demonstrating that your organisation cares for and understands the impact of your projects, offering the opportunity to deliver a positive legacy to areas and communities.
· Reputation: engaging effectively can provide an excellent way to enhance, manage and protect your organisation’s reputation.
Our stakeholders are an asset. They are affected by the work that we do and, long after the project is over will live with the outcomes of what we deliver. They are a primary source of knowledge and information, their ‘lived experience’ can provide us with a more thorough understanding of the context for our projects as well as potentially giving greater life to the findings from our studies and surveys. They can give us perspectives and information on our projects that we cannot find elsewhere. By listening we can deliver stronger outcomes that work both for us and for our stakeholders.
When engaging think about:
· Listening without interruption.
· Silence as a tool to prove that you are paying attention.
· Acknowledgement by repeating back what you have heard.
Listening is free and offers the power to turn a good project into a great one. At Jacobs we have a dedicated engagement team, giving our clients the benefit of excellence in engagement. Join us at the CIHT Briefing ‘Strategic collaboration in transport’ to hear more about how transport schemes and projects can be delivered more effectively through the use of engagement and successful partnership working.
Lisa Levy is speaking in the CIHT’s collaboration session taking place within Highways UK on 16 November
Lisa Levy – Director of Operations – Stakeholder Engagement, Jacobs