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Stakeholder Management in Complex Product Systems

Overview of GHD Case Study

GHD is an infrastructure and project consultancy firm that has thrived because of its unique approach towards its employees. The values of the firm include teamwork, respect and integrity and indeed it has upheld these value through their ingenious model. The model allows for the creativity of their employees to be harnessed by way of an “Innovation Zone”. By inculcating strategies that enhance the engagement of staff, they ensure that those who work with them, stay with them for the long term. The innovation zone is an exclusive online portal for the staff to share their ideas, brainstorm together, and collaborate. While this is encouraged, it is not made compulsory so as to respect all their employees’ choices not force anyone. The way it works is: the interested staff send in their ideas and everyone can discuss and collaborations can take place.

The shortlisted ideas are then voted upon and the ones with the most votes go ahead to the Innovation Advisory Group. This board finalizes the ideas to be invested in and implementation takes place. In order to not dissuade those whose ideas have been rejected, the person submitting the idea is explained why it wasn’t worked upon and how it could improve. A recent addition to the innovation zone now allows employee to share their problems and invites people to offer solutions to them. The innovative method also makes use of ‘Innovation Champions’. These are people who encourage employees to participate in the program. They guide them how best to use their creativity and also encourages them to take risks in a guided manner. This approach has allowed the company to prosper with a 600% growth since the 1990s. This ground breaking method not only lives by the company’s values of teamwork, respect and integrity but also ensures that each member of the company is seen and contributes to it in the most productive way they can.

How GHD managed their HR, Communication and Stakeholders Management

Communication: The idea behind the launch of the Innovation Zone was to promote new ideas that came from within to either help in commercialisation or to improve the internal workings of the company. This allowed staff from all areas of the company to engage with each other and to work with transparency. This method encouraged and created a safe environment for employees to communicate freely which enhanced trust between them, and further enhanced engagement between them. They got an opportunity to explore, connect and share different ideas from all sectors of the company. Communication therefore led to an increase in productivity and resulted in higher work quality and services. With greater employee job satisfaction and a boost in employee morale, the company made a win in securing their employees for the long run.

GHD adopted 3 main elements in their HR strategy:

  1. Retaining their employees for the long term – they recognised the value of their employees and how much in demand they could be. So they made sure they had enough reasons to stay for a long time. Retaining good people allows companies to have an advantage over their competitors. There is a deficit of skilled people in GHD’s field of play and so they ensured that the people they hire stay with them and do not want to leave for another company.
  2. Encouraging engagement – the entire concept of the Innovation Zone stemmed from this basic HR strategy to hold people in the company for the long term. The benefits of this resulted in people feeling seen, their ideas being heard, their recommendations being valued and overall gave the employees enough reason to continue to stay.
  3. Enhancing skills – Skill enhancement not only helps employees with skills required in specific projects but also for career and life development. Not only did they allow people to engage in brainstorming activities but they also encouraged them to do it. They set the Innovation Champions team in place for the sole purpose of honing the skillset of their employees. And directing their growth where their strength lies. GHD also makes use of a model similar to ‘business school’ model that allows for technical training, management and leadership and also personal development. This further enhances the uniformity of work standards across different units.

Stakeholder Management: This is defined as the effective management of relationships with stakeholders (Lim, Ahn and Lee, 2005: p831). Understanding the value of their primary stakeholders, i.e. their employees, GHD has several strategies in place to ensure that they are managed in an orderly and respectful manner. Yet at the same time, their strategy is such that they attempt to blur the lines between conventional management and decision making. According to Hillman and Keim (2001: p128), effective stakeholder management is positively associated to financial performance and leads to shareholder value creation. For the management of their Innovators they have an independent committee that evaluates and guides their ideas. But the committee not only gives feedback to the person suggesting the idea but just as equally engages with one whose idea has been rejected by informing them why in an honest and open manner. Further stakeholder management steps include appointing an Innovation Champion team that encourage employees to participate.

The process of managing stakeholders must include the identification of relevant stakeholders to the fields best suited for their talents. When employees engage in fields of their interests, it enhances their will to work as well. The process must also include the determination of the various needs of the stakeholders and determining their fields of interest. Measuring the stakeholder’s interest by gauging their contributions can also help stakeholders’ management. The requirements of the stakeholders must also be balanced by predicting the future behaviours of the stakeholders in satisfying their stake. And finally, an evaluation must take place of the stakeholders’ contribution to the overall team’s work. Stakeholder management allows the integration of managerial concerns that may often get treated separately such as marketing, human resource management and social responsibility.

Critically Evaluating GHD’s ‘Peer Assist Program’

To understand fully the genius behind the implementation of the Peer Assist Program adopted by the company, we need to first fully understand what peer assist is and how it can play a fundamental role in the growth of a company.

Peer assists is a concept that materialises in face-to-face or virtual meetings that allow colleagues to come together in order to share knowledge, winning practises or simply tricks and lessons learned throughout one’s experiences in their career. Peer assist can take place by an experienced individual or in a group. Such a party is approached by those in the field with problems that they face in their work, or by those with lesser knowledge and experience. They are then guided by sharing thoughts, suggestions, advices, solutions etc. by the peer assist program. This also helps in promoting participatory learning. Such peer assists are always customizable based on the field of work, the geographic location and the availability of time.

Peer assists are an extremely useful learning tool. It allows the facilitation of knowledge sharing, inclusive learning and also combined problem sharing and solving. They create an environment for transfer of knowledge and open the doors to new methods of practical and theoretical learning. This prevents individuals and processes from making the same past mistakes and facilitates learning from them. Peer assists can have maximum benefits when an individual is starting a new project or an activity and would like to consult with someone who has prior knowledge in a similar field of work. It can also be particularly beneficial when someone or some group has similar problems as another project that has already solved them had. Peer assists also benefit when individuals want to learn about new approaches that have been proven to work successfully in other project work areas.

With over 6500+ employees, over 5 continents, GHD implemented its winning strategy by introducing the Peer Assist Program. This program was introduced with the idea to keep long term employees further engaged and also to create a knowledge sharing environment within the company. Thus helping the company family to remain engaged always. They introduced it by offering it those long term employees who have reached the end or are nearing the end of their career with the company. This ensures that the senior staff feels honoured, respected and valued in the company. The program works in a way that allows the senior members to coach staff and to advise them on their problems. This respects the experience and knowledge each member has gained throughout the course of their career in the company. This also keeps steady their contribution towards the company.

The company further uses this program to encourage employees to stay on by offering them to work in part-time hours or by offering them longer leaves. So the company allows a lot more flexibility towards the end of one’s career with them. They promote the transfer of knowledge and skill sets to those who are lesser experienced than them or even to those who are new to the company. The company also offers a mentoring programme that allows staff to choose to be a mentor or a mentee. The senior staff are formally encouraged to rotate through various service fields in order to pass their knowledge down. The graduates are too rotated through small scale projects that help them gain management skills and allow them to develop their leadership qualities. The company also offers Career Development Assignments that allows staff members to work transfer into different groups or move to a new geographic location for time periods ranging from 6 to 12 months. This increases the employee’s exposure to gain new experience under several different circumstances.

All of the strategies that GHD offers are in line with their values and their objectives. The engagement of their staff with the development of the company is the key driving factor of the success of GHD. The HR strategy with the bottom-line of attracting and retaining their staff is carried out in a manner that benefits both – the employees and the success of the company. It works as a two-way street in which both benefit. The peer assist program works in a way that facilitates and builds trust. Participants should be willing to share the experiences they have learned. This also included the failures and the mistakes. On the other hand, those seeking help should be made comfortable enough to ask for it. They should create a comfortable atmosphere of welcome so knowledge exchange can take place. Meeting over company paid lunches, or organising activities can be a fun way to incorporate this idea and also facilitate the building of trust comfort.

Some practices that can allow for a successful Peer Assist Program are as follows:

  1. Plan the peer assist program in a way that clearly defines the goals and objectives of the program. Communicate clearly what must be achieved through this program.
  2. A preliminary research must be conducted before a peer assist program meet so as to ensure that problems that have already been addressed are not repeated in the new session.
  3. The participants must be allowed to socialize and get to know each other better so has to build trust and comfort.
  4. Structure the program in such a way that the problems and the solutions are balanced and get equal discussion and time.
  5. Consider having a facilitator who can record notes, document fresh ideas, take pictures of meetings etc. They could also make the content and solutions discussed available digitally and accessible more freely.
  6. Allow for unexpected routes to open up. Encourage an open mind and allow for discussions that may not always be on the decided agenda.
  7. Encourage everyone to participate by encouraging them to think of and suggest ideas and propose solutions, however absurd they might be. This is what will trigger a new line of thought and lead to innovative ideas and solutions.

References for GHD Case Study

Albats, E., Alexander, A., Mahdad, M., Miller, K., & Post, G. (2019). Stakeholder management in SME open innovation: interdependences and strategic actions. Journal of Business Research.

Lehtinen, J., Aaltonen, K., & Rajala, R. (2019). Stakeholder management in complex product systems: Practices and rationales for engagement and disengagement. Industrial marketing management, 79, 58-70.

https://www.knoco.com/peer-assist.htm

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