by Rob Marchalonis

Stakeholders are all the people who benefit from your organization.   Customers or employees might quickly come to mind, but your organization likely has many stakeholders.  One way to think about all of your stakeholders is to consider them as groups.  An example of stakeholder groups would include:  owners, shareholders, employees, volunteers, re-sellers, distributors, end-use customers, suppliers, vendors, community, and government.  Few organizations have all of these stakeholder groups, but most organizations have several.  Each stakeholder group is uniquely different.

Starting with stakeholders is powerful because it puts an emphasis on people.  Many organizations are busy or cluttered with strategies, processes, policies, regulations, technology, equipment, facilities, and more that can divert focus away from stakeholders.  It’s easy to get immersed in the doing, and overlook the do-ers and other people who collectively share in the outcomes of our organizations.  The term stakeholder is ideal for describing all the people surrounding our organizations because it implies the ownership and benefit, or “stake,” that everyone shares.  What leader, employee, or organization can go wrong by starting with a strong people (stakeholder) focus?

Consider the unique needs, wants, and expectations of each stakeholder group.  It would be extremely naïve, and even risky, to lump the wants and needs of all stakeholders together when they each have unique expectations.  A revealing exercise, to appreciate the complexity and challenge of meeting stakeholder expectations, is to list each of your primary stakeholder groups and identify five to ten of their specific needs or wants.  How many groups would you list, and what’s important for each?  Business owners, for example, obviously have financial needs, but also want to manage risk, enhance their lifestyle, enjoy schedule flexibility, create wealth, reduce debt, and more.  By identifying and compiling the dozens of needs, wants, and expectations among all your stakeholder groups, your organization will gain a much better appreciation for both the challenge and opportunity to fulfill them.

Some stakeholder groups want the same general things.  The desires of some groups are more universal than others.  Most employees, for example, share similar needs and desires.  Regardless of the job, or title, or organization, most employees genuinely want to be respected and appreciated!  Examine the list below that shows some other wants and needs of employees.  How many of these does your organization currently provide, and to what extent?  What opportunity is there to embrace and enhance some of these?  How might your recruiting, hiring, motivation, and employee retention improve by fulfilling these?

What Most Employees Want and Need:

  • Respect and Appreciation
  • Connection and Belonging
  • Clear Expectations
  • Safety and Security
  • Stability
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Training and Development
  • Opportunities for Advancement
  • Flexibility and Freedom
  • Purposeful Work

Customers typically have the most unique stakeholder expectations.  Although employee desires are often similar and universal, customer desires can be the most unique.  As organizations and businesses differ, so do the products and services they offer, which correspond to the desires of their customers.  It’s virtually impossible to generalize about the specific wants and needs of customers, except for the highest desires for SQP – Service, Quality, and Price.  Beyond SQP, specific customer expectations vary widely.  As a result, it’s critical that organizations do all that they can to truly understand their customers.  How can you deliver value in ways that are most relevant to your customer’s market or workplace?  Are you asking your prospects and customers the best questions to understand what’s most important to them?  Because customers “vote with their eyes, feet, and their dollars”, indicators like your web visitors, foot traffic and ultimately sales are one way to measure how well you are meeting their expectations.  How else can you identify and meet their unique needs?  Surveying customers after the sale is another indicator of satisfaction and customer value received.  Do you ask your clients, “how can we serve you better”?  Repeat sales are another and possibly even better indicator.  Do you have any way to measure sales not made?  How can you learn from prospects where you may have fallen short in meeting expectations or delivering value?  Customers can be the most difficult to understand and satisfy, so it’s critical to develop a strategy to understand and learn from the people who represent your customer, client, and prospect stakeholders.

What other stakeholder groups are linked to your organization?  Do you rely on suppliers, re-sellers, donors, volunteers, community organizations, or others?  Which have the most impact?  Do you understand and appreciate their contribution and the special role they play?  Are their wants and needs universal, or unique?  Consider listing and prioritizing what is important to them, and then invest in communication and/or training to help your team understand the importance of meeting the expectations of these stakeholder groups.

It’s about people.  Whatever your business or organization, you will serve it well by starting with a focus on all the people who have a stake in your success.  Take time to understand them, make an effort to connect with them, and then think strategically about how you can best meet their needs, wants, and expectations.  If you do, the products and services you provide will bring you not only financial success, but also the more significant reward of having very satisfied stakeholders.

Rob Marchalonis is the founder of IncentShare and author of IncentShare: Motivate, Recruit, and Get Results with Incentives, now available at Amazon. Connect with him at