How to win the support of senior leaders

Having stakeholders on your side is key to enabling a great EX - we know it's a what can we do?
Lee Smith

16 October 2023
Employee Experience
Employee Engagement
Business case
One of the big themes from our recently published inaugural EX Report is that EX practitioners are struggling with their ‘license to operate’ and are often held back by restrictive budgets and/or remits.   

While we’re making great progress in some areas (we were delighted to see how many organisations now have a dedicated EX team) there are a number of significant barriers to success, including a lack of understanding amongst senior leaders of what EX is and how it can add value, lack of a clear overarching strategy that aligns to the purpose and goals of the organisation, and limited evidence to either make the case for change or demonstrate progress.  

These are all areas we need to tackle if we want to move forward and be appreciated and respected as professionals.  

There’s clearly work to do to win over senior leaders and secure their support and buy-in, but how do we make this happen and where do we begin? This blog, the first in a series designed to address these specific challenges, provides some pointers.
Stakeholder mapping is an approach that helps organisations identify, analyse and manage the key individuals or groups that have an interest in their activities and outcomes. 

Commonly used in external stakeholder and reputation management, the process of stakeholder mapping is equally important for employee experience or engagement practitioners to understand and use. Whilst our main day-to-day focus is on employees and shaping their experiences, we can only make a difference if we first recognise the myriad of stakeholders who influence and are influenced by what we do.

Stakeholders can be internal or external to the organization and may include leaders, managers, customers, suppliers, shareholders, regulatory bodies, employees themselves and more. At a really simple level, they are all those people or groups who have a ‘stake’ in the success or failure of your activity. By visually mapping these stakeholders, you can create a comprehensive overview of your engagement ecosystem. This understanding is the foundation for making informed decisions about where to allocate resources, where to focus your engagement efforts, and where to build bridges.

Knowing your stakeholders

The first step is to be really clear about who your ‘stakeholders’ are.  
Put simply, a stakeholder can be any individual or group with a vested interest (or ‘stake’) in your success or failure.  

Senior leaders are undoubtedly key stakeholders for employee experience practitioners, as they provide (or block) access to the resources you’ll need to succeed. But they are not the only ones... 

For a discipline that’s focused on the holistic employee experience, the impact extends far and wide and, with it, the number of individuals and groups we need to work with – and win over - expands exponentially. Just think about one part of the employee lifecycle, like onboarding, and you’ll see that there are potentially numerous stakeholders at play – the IT director, facilities leader, recruitment people, external agencies, reception staff, legal and compliance, payroll, the employee themselves, their immediate family and so many more. It starts to feel quite daunting when you think about this, but the key is to know which ones are a priority and which require less effort, which can make the difference between success and failure and which, whilst interested or involved in what you are doing, have less power.  

This process is known as stakeholder mapping and analysis and we’ve just added a great EX Space planning tool to help you with this – the Power/Interest Grid. By visually mapping your stakeholders, you can create a comprehensive overview of your engagement ecosystem. This understanding is the foundation for making informed decisions about where to allocate resources, where to focus your engagement efforts, and where to build bridges.

Building bridges

With clarity about who your most important stakeholders are, you can then begin the lengthy process of engaging them and building the foundation of trust that is at the heart of every good professional relationship. 
A great place to start is with our seven-part Bitesize module, ‘Becoming a trusted advisor’, which explores the nature of trust and how to behave like an advisor rather than an expert (trust us, there’s a big difference!)  

This short course unpacks the concept of trust and shows how it is built through a combination of credibility, reliability, and integrity. It explores the nature of advice and what senior leaders are looking for from their internal or external specialists. It also showcases a powerful framework for building great stakeholder relationships – the consulting cycle – which you can apply to any project or initiative you’re working on.  

These two popular EX Space resources will help you build a strong foundation for success and start to tackle two of the big blockers we face in our roles.
There are some additional resources which will help you address the other big challenges we uncovered – clearly defining what EX means for your organisation, building an aligned strategy and making the case for investment. Check out the links below...

1. Defining Employee Engagement 
(so you can talk about it to stakeholders with confidence)

Access here

2. Does engagement really matter
(to demonstrate the value of EX/EE to stakeholders) 

Access here

3. Setting objectives
(to ensure you align your activity to the wider business strategy)

Access here

4. Defining Employee Experience 
(to help build stakeholder understanding of what EX is)
Access here