Get access to the exclusive HR Resources you need to succeed in 2018.
Sign up for free email newsletters and get more SHRM content delivered to your inbox.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 14 cities across the U.S. this fall.
Gain the skills you need to rise to the next level in your career. Jon us at SHRM's Leadership Development Forum, October 2-3 in Boston.
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
Executives have long turned to mentoring programs to develop promising employees and prepare them for leadership roles. Individuals seek mentors to advance their careers.
With more older workers staying in the workforce than ever before, younger workers have a large selection of potential mentors. But there may be fewer paths to advancement as senior workers postpone retirement. At the same time, there has been a growing awareness that access to mentors does not necessarily lead to promotions.
All this adds credence to the concept of sponsorship as opposed to mentoring. Sponsorship can be defined as a mentoring relationship in which sponsors go beyond providing advice and counsel to actively advocate for the promotion of those they mentor.
Women are more likely than men to receive mentoring, yet mentoring does not appear to provide the same career benefits to women as it does to men, according to a study from Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that focuses on women at work. This discrepancy may arise because fewer women have senior executives as mentors and because men are more actively sponsored by their mentors than are women.
These findings indicate that an increase in the number of active mentors may not necessarily lead to faster career progression unless opportunities are available and mentors take an active advocacy role. Another Catalyst report on the importance of sponsorship shows that formal mentoring programs seem to be more effective at improving the promotion rates of women than informal mentoring relationships brokered by individual employees. And sponsoring relationships are beneficial to those being sponsored as well as to sponsors, who receive feedback, enhance their skills and gain company knowledge. All these developments, in turn, benefit their organizations.
More senior executives are becoming aware that sponsorship programs boost the number of women and possibly minorities who advance to senior executive positions. But if women entering their prime working years grow frustrated with their lack of professional advancement, they may look for alternatives to supplement or even replace traditional mentoring relationships.
Instead of pinning their hopes on one or two influential mentors or even sponsors, these individuals may instead choose to build a strong network of peer advisors and advocates using social media, for instance. Though this may not take the place of a mentor or a sponsor on the senior executive team, a vibrant network or following may become an alternative route to influence and opportunity.
In designing future leadership development strategies, it is critical to recognize that formal mentoring—and especially sponsorship programs—seems to result in better outcomes for women and other underrepresented groups. HR professionals also will need to deal with barriers that block promising future leaders from advancing, such as low turnover at the top, industry slowdowns and widespread talent shortages. In addition, HR managers can leverage social technologies to engage employees at all levels, giving employees with the best ideas opportunities to shine.
The author is manager of the Workplace Trends and Forecasting program at SHRM.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Join SHRM's exclusive peer-to-peer social network
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies