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New research reveals the most important stakeholder group

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

Recent research has found that the most important stakeholders of large organisations are employees – who  come ahead of customers, suppliers, community groups, and especially far ahead of shareholders,

For his PhD research, Nigel de Bussy from Curtin University in Western Australia, conducted a national study to identify the stakeholders who have the most impact on corporate financial performance.

De Bussy reported that employees are the most vital stakeholder group by a long way. He found that organisations positively engaging in stakeholder orientation activities achieved greater stakeholder satisfaction, which in turn led to stronger financial performance. In other words, organisations who adopted the stakeholder concept made more money.

De Bussy measured how strongly orientation towards different stakeholder groups influences financial performance. The coefficient for employee orientation was 0.84 compared with much lower but still substantial values for customers (0.36), suppliers (0.35) and communities (0.32). The coefficient for shareholder orientation was minimal at 0.08.

He surveyed 626 Australian organisations with around 100 or more employees. The participating organisations comprised companies (85%) and not-for-profit organisations (15%). The questionnaire specially developed for the research (‘STAKOR’) can be used as a diagnostic tool by organisations wishing to assess their stakeholder orientation practices.

A stakeholder is a group or individual who can legitimately affect or is affected by the achievement of an organisation’s objectives. Stakeholder orientation is about creating social as well as economic value for stakeholders, listening and responding to stakeholder concerns, with a spirit of goodwill between the two parties.

Respondents contacted for the research were chief financial officers because they were considered to be best positioned to comment on their organisation’s financial performance.

Further information is available from Dr Nigel de Bussy, School of Marketing, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, WA. Email:


About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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