May 28, 2013 — When was the last time you took a chance on another person at your workplace? When was the last time you really advocated for a colleague? Or the last time someone did the same for you? Maybe you recommended a star performer for a high-visibility project, or perhaps a mentor sang your praises to someone more senior at your organization. If any of this sounds familiar, you were engaging in sponsorship, as either a sponsor or a protégé.
Catalyst research shows that sponsorship is critical to advancing high performers and gives them greater opportunities to excel through skills development and increased visibility. Our research also shows that men tend to have more senior and influential advocates—a.k.a., sponsors—than women, which means they tend to earn more money and get promoted faster and more often than their female colleagues.
What can engaged leaders do to help level the playing field? And what types of programs and strategies have the most lasting impact on a high-potential employee’s career? A smart place to look for this information is in Catalyst’s comprehensive database of over one hundred corporate Practices. Our Practices describe innovative organizational efforts that can serve as models for our member organizations—and signal to high-potential employees which companies value women’s advancement enough to make sponsorship and other development activities a priority.
This year, Catalyst launched the Practices Recognition Program, which involves a formal, research-based evaluation of global Practices with a specific focus, to highlight particularly compelling examples. In the inaugural cycle, we focused on impactful sponsorship programs.
The following four Practices were formally recognized at the 2013 Catalyst Awards Conference. Catalyst recognizes that “one size does not fit all,” and each of the organizations below has taken a unique approach to engaging employees and creating inclusive cultures:
- Deutsche Bank’s Accomplished Top Leaders Advancement Strategy (ATLAS)
- Kimberly-Clark Corporation’s Fostering Talent Development Through Sponsorship
- Lloyds Banking Group’s Championing Diversity to Build a Strong Talent Pipeline
- Nationwide’s Touch Point Program
Deutsche Bank’s ATLAS program pairs high-potential women with Group Executive Committee members willing to sponsor them. Over the course of a year, the pairs engage in in-depth, individual career assessments, strategic meetings, and a larger group session.
Leaders at Kimberly-Clark are expected to engage in sponsorship activities, and the tone is set by the CEO and senior executives. Sponsorship is a hot topic in the company’s annual leadership forums, and, with guidance from their managers, leaders are expected to model sponsorship.
At Lloyds, sponsorship is modeled at the highest level. Lloyds’ Chairman serves as a mentor in the United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 Cross-Company Mentoring Scheme, which pairs talented employees with Chairmen or CEOs from other organizations.
Via its Touch Point Program, Nationwide pairs protégés with senior leaders across different business lines and functions in order to improve participants’ knowledge of different roles and business units at the company. These pairings also span gender, race, ethnicity, and other dimensions of difference. Visibility is key—protégés are introduced to Nationwide’s CEO and its board of directors.
The programs above provide leaders with valuable lessons about what works best—and how. If your organization has a unique program that you believe could benefit others, please tell us about it in the Practices Submission Form on Catalyst’s website.
And as you consider your own career, think about whether and how you have been sponsored—or sponsored someone else.
How did the experience affect you personally and professionally? What do you wish your company or leadership had done for you?
We look forward to your insights!