Step 2: Engaging tenants, residents, staff and other relevant stakeholders

Are you hesitant to consider a smoke-free policy because it could be divisive? Stakeholder engagement is about talking with and listening to the people who would be affected by a smoke-free policy in your building. Going smoke-free is easier when everyone is meaningfully engaged. This site has a wealth of information and resources to overcome communication barriers and plan exactly how you will engage all important stakeholders throughout the process.

Ask, involve and engage

Stakeholder engagement is the process by which an organization involves people who may be affected by the decisions it makes or who can influence the implementation of its decisions. Involving your stakeholders is extremely important to achieving a smoke-free policy in your building.

When people are informed and give suggestions about a smoke-free policy, they are more likely to understand, accept, support and comply with it.

Your stakeholders are any individuals who are affected by the smoke-free policy or who can affect it.

During a stakeholder analysis, identify and be prepared to address common misunderstandings. A smoke-free policy is not a no-smoker policy. A smoke-free policy doesn’t disqualify people who smoke from owning or residing in a smoke-free condo building; it simply states where smoking is and is not allowed. If this is not well understood, include clear messaging when communicating.

Identify stakeholders

Know who your stakeholders are. Think about anyone who may be affected by, or may influence or make decisions about, a smoke-free policy. Develop a list and divide it into primary and secondary stakeholders.

  • Some of your stakeholders will be more directly affected by a smoke-free policy, and therefore you need to identify and engage with them.
  • Primary stakeholders are the people living in the building (residents), the people with responsibility and/or legal authority to care for the residents (family members, caregivers, staff) and the people responsible for property, service, and financial decisions about the building (owners, board members, property managers).
  • Secondary stakeholders, such as service personnel and visitors, are not directly affected by a smoke-free policy except when visiting the building. They do not need to be directly consulted as they will be informed about the smoke-free policy by the primary stakeholders.

Communicate with stakeholders

Keeping stakeholders informed throughout the smoke-free policy-development process is one of the most important aspects of proper engagement.

At the beginning of the smoke-free policy-development process, tell your stakeholders what you are going to do, and how and when you are going to do it. During the engagement stages, regularly communicate information and indicate ways for stakeholders to participate. When you make a decision about a smoke-free policy, clearly communicate it and explain why you made it. During implementation of the smoke-free policy, continue to communicate progress, successes and concerns, as well as how they are being addressed.

Engage stakeholders

Many ways exist to engage your stakeholders. The Continuum of Stakeholder Engagement will help you decide upon and carry out an engagement plan of action.

When using the Continuum to guide stakeholder engagement, know that:

  • the stages you use depend on your situation, particularly your stakeholders’ knowledge about and willingness to adopt a smoke-free policy.
  • Inform is a necessary stage for each situation. Share information to start the engagement process and continue to do so throughout.
  • communicate with stakeholders throughout the entire process and at all stages.

Download a comprehensive description of the Continuum of Stakeholder Engagement, including:

  • purpose of each stage
  • promise to the stakeholders in each stage
  • examples of techniques for each stage

Download additional tools and resources to support stakeholder engagement, including:

Engaging seniors, persons with disabilities and low-income households

Effective engagement is very important when dealing with seniors, low-income households and persons with disabilities. Reach out early and seek input from those who typically don’t engage. This may require knocking on doors to talk individually with residents or setting up special resident meetings and coffee times. Try to remove any barriers to engagement by reaching out at various times of day and by providing flexible options for providing feedback. When engaging, make your intentions clear and reassure current residents that smokers are not going to be evicted, rather that they will be involved in developing a policy that will work for them. In seniors’ housing and assisted-living facilities, you may also benefit from engaging residents’ families and caregivers.

  1. Empower your tenants through the process of policy development

    Seniors, persons with disabilities and low-income households may have less power and less ability to define their lifestyle compared to other populations. When considering any new rules or restrictions, try to involve residents in the decision-making process as much as possible.

  2. Be solution focused

    When dealing with seniors, persons with disabilities and low-income households, finding a solution that works for all stakeholders is very important. Since it may be challenging for your tenants (smokers and non-smokers alike) to find alternative housing, the goal should be to build support for a policy that all tenants can embrace. This might mean taking a phased-in approach, exempting existing tenants, taking an extra step to develop a comfortable and accessible designated smoking area outside, or agreeing to supply smoking-cessation tools and support to current tenants.

  3. Engage, train and support your staff

    In seniors' and assisted-living housing, support staff and caregivers are often charged with the daily enforcement of your smoke-free policy. Engage them early to learn their concerns regarding enforcement and address those concerns through employee training. Ensure all your staff are aware of and fully understand your policy and how it will be enforced so that they are able to enforce the policy consistently.

All these measures will help manage policy support and compliance.

For more detailed information, download our comprehensive guidebook on smoke-free policies for public, non-profit and seniors' housing or contact us to order a print copy.

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