Project Managers: 3 rules for successful stakeholder communication

By Robert Half 26th September 2018

Effective communication with stakeholders is one of the key drivers for project success. Getting buy-in from the right people can mean a well-oiled, smooth running and well-funded project. Making progress without the engagement and support of the right people can be like pulling a snow sled without the help of an enthusiastic pack of huskies.

As business transformation comes to the forefront for many business, cross-departmental projects often require skilful communications. This is fundamentally why a key skill in demand for project managers today is effective and proven communications skills.

Studies have shown that as many as 1 in 5 projects fail due to ineffective communication. For this reason, hiring managers are eager to hire professionals with proven stakeholder communication skills. A common project manager interview question is often asked to under the skin of your communication style to see if will align with the business at all levels of seniority and with the company culture.

Here are the three rules of successful communication which are important for you to highlight and will go a long way to assuring the hiring manager that your project always has the buy-in it needs.

Rule 1: Know your stakeholders

In order to make friends with and influence your project stakeholders, you absolutely must understand how your project looks from their perspective. This first step often requires some sleuth-like investigation to discover what is important to them, what their priorities are and how your project impacts them. 

Tip: Outline way that you have gained the trust of your stakeholders and how you linked your project to their strategic context. 

Rule 2: Communicate using the right format at the right time

Different departments or organisations prefer to receive communications in a way that is common to their business. Have you worked with an organisation that prefers telephone calls or emails? Have you scheduled a recurring meeting for catch ups, or received updates on a more informal, ad-hoc basis? 

This communication style that a project manager adopts at this stage can often make or break the outcome of the project. 

Tip: Offer some examples of the different communication methods you have tried which have seen success.

Rule 3: Less is often more when involving project sponsors

The more seniority your stakeholders have, the less time they’ll have to spend reading your project emails. Your senior stakeholders and project sponsors are busy people, so make your communications easy to read and only send them the information they need to come to a decision.

Always tailor your messages to senior stakeholders; don’t just send them the same message you send to the rest of the project team. If you want to grab and keep their attention, your communications to them should be crafted specifically for them; addressing the things you know they will be interested in (see Rule 1).

Tip: Highlight ways that you have worked with project sponsors successfully to keep the project milestones on track. 

Your next project management role

By 2027, employers will need 87.7 million individuals working in project management-oriented roles, according to research from Project Management Institute. Within the UK, that equates to 1.2million roles within leading sectors such as information technology finance.

Now is the right time to develop your career in project management, so contact your local Robert Half recruitment consultant who will be able to help you identify your next role.

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