Raise your hand if someone more senior than you ever took you under their wing and advocated for you.
I can certainly name a few amazing people who have done that for me. If you’re not familiar the term that we now use for this type of advocacy is Sponsorship,
I was delighted to be invited by Martell McBean to speak at Nest Pensions recently to provide a Masterclass on the topic of making the most of your sponsorship relationship for sponsors and sponsees. Some of my thoughts on why Sponsorship is so important are below.
How can Sponsorship support organisations key challenges?
One of the key challenges that organisations face in fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace is ensuring that individuals from underrepresented groups have equal opportunities for advancement and growth. Sponsoring underrepresented colleagues can be an effective strategy for tackling this issue, an equitable solution, as it helps to break down traditional barriers and create a more level playing field.
What exactly is sponsorship?
In essence, it involves a more senior employee taking an active interest in the career development of a less senior colleague. Unlike mentoring, which focuses on providing advice and guidance, sponsorship involves actively advocating for and promoting the sponsee, opening up opportunities for them, and offering support and feedback as they progress.
How effective is sponsorship?
Research has shown that sponsorship can be particularly effective in supporting individuals from underrepresented groups who may otherwise face barriers to advancement. For example, a Harvard Business Review article found that while women are often well-represented at entry-level positions, they are significantly less likely to advance to higher levels of leadership than their male counterparts. However, when women were sponsored by senior leaders, they were more likely to receive promotions, better opportunities, and increased visibility within the organization. And another HBR article highlighted that 65% of black employees are more likely to climb the career ladder successfully when winning a sponsor. However, only 5% of black employees succeed in winning career sponsorship. This figure pales in comparison to the 20% of white employees that do.
Why does sponsoring underrepresented groups work?
First and foremost, it helps to break down the implicit biases and ingrained prejudices that can often limit opportunities for minority groups. When senior employees actively advocate for their sponsees, they can help to challenge and overcome systemic barriers that may have previously hindered their progress.
In addition, sponsoring underrepresented colleagues can help to create a more inclusive culture within the organisation. When individuals from diverse backgrounds are given equal opportunities to progress, it sends a powerful message to the wider workforce that the organisation values and recognises the contributions of all employees. This can help to build a more positive, engaged, and motivated workforce, leading to better business outcomes and increased innovation.
What can organisations do to foster effective sponsorship programmes?
Here are a few key strategies:
– Encourage senior leaders to take an active interest in the development of their junior colleagues, especially those from underrepresented groups
– Provide training and support to help sponsors and sponsees build effective relationships and communicate effectively
– Develop clear criteria for selecting sponsees and ensure that the process is transparent and inclusive
– Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the sponsorship programme and make changes as needed to ensure that it is meeting its goals
Ultimately, sponsorship can be a powerful tool for creating a more inclusive workplace in which individuals from underrepresented groups have equal opportunities to advance and succeed. By actively challenging bias and prejudice, promoting diversity, and fostering a culture of equality, organizations can build a more engaged and motivated workforce, leading to better business outcomes and a brighter future for all employees.
Questions for you
So, what steps is your organisation taking to promote workplace sponsorship of underrepresented groups? What successes have you seen? And what challenges have you faced along the way? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Leave a Reply