How organisations can make sponsorship work

24th Apr 2013

How to make sponsorship work in your organisation. 

Sponsorship has been going on in organisations as long as there has been an old boy's network, and of course that is exactly where it thrives in modern business. The challenge is that sponsors are subject to unconcious bias and tend to sponsor people like themselves and therefore the old boy's network is perpetuated. 

If organisations want to use sponsorship as a means to increase diversity, then the process needs to be formalised and potential sponsors and protegees need to be trained and supported through the process so that the programme can deliver it's outcomes. 

In a recent report by ReedSmith, sponsorship was shown to be the most effective way of increasing diversity in organsitions. The Harvard Business Review wrote a great research report a few years ago with some useful advice about how to make your sponsorship programme work. 

The report looked at companies that are doing poineering work in this area and reaping the rewards with better retention .More importantly talented women are being promoted and starting to change the face of their organsitions. 

  • Make sponsorship robust
  • Lead from the top
  • Pay attention to the pipeline
  • Make sponsorship safe

Make sponsorship robust

Sponsorship in isolation may not work. Companies like American Express, Cisco, Citi, Delloite and Time Warner are creating comprehensive approaches to building and leveraging the sponsorship relationship, by utilising leadership training, executive coaching, mentoring and 360. 

Lead from the top

It is imperative that an organistion has senior leader advocacy for the programme, it is what makes the difference between good intent and real outcomes. Some good examples of great programmes are Deutsche Bank, Novartis, Unilever. This has really worked within Unilever which was voted  into the 50 best companies for women to work for in 2013.

Pay attention to the pipeline

Sponsorship should not just be reserved for the most senior levels of women. Actually women would welcome this development at all career transition points. Bristol-Myers-Squib, Morgan Stanley and Turner Broadcasting are encouraging sponsorship to grow in their organisations. 

Make sponsorship safe

Some programmes use their female senior leaders to be sponsors- such as Intel. However for most organisations, there are not enough senior women for this approach. Ernst and Young have a 'Career Watch' programme, this was first piloted in the 1990's. This is a diversity programme rather than a gender initiative, when the latest review was done 70% of the women and minorites that were promoted to partner had been in the Career Watch scheme. It used to take women several more years than men to make partner, now they are making partner within the same interval. 

Pepsi Co have a programme called Power Pairs, where once a year the relationship is faciliated by an external facilitator to build trust and openess in sharing the sponsees goals and objectives, to ensure that the outcomes are achieved. 

If you want to know how you can create an effective sponsorship programme, we have a workshop on the 9th of May in London.


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How organisations can make sponsorship work