BRAC’s success is largely a result of its ability to develop and retain very talented staff. As one of our core values is inclusiveness, we also must ensure that we are advancing staff in an equitable way. Often when thinking about how to develop junior staff, particularly those that are underrepresented in leadership, “mentorship” is immediately posed as a solution. However, research from organizations in the United States shows that for women, mentorship rarely ameliorates the disparity. BRAC may want to consider how these findings and ideas apply to its own organizational context.
Why is mentorship ineffective? Are there strategies from other fields that we could apply in innovative ways to this challenge? Before putting ourselves into the debate we should first give a thought to two particular words: sponsorship and mentorship. What comes first into our mind when we think of it?
Mentorship refers to a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.
Sponsorship on the other hand, is comparatively a newer concept to be applied in staff development. A simple definition for this term is, one who assumes responsibility for another person or a group during a period of instruction, apprenticeship, or probation.
Now, here in this blog post, today, I am not just trying to share academic concepts with you, rather I want to get an idea of how sponsorship can be an important part of career advancement for an employee. That is, what if one’s “mentor” or “sponsor”, marketed someone’s ability and capability to increase their visibility and likelihood of promotion to other leaders within the organization? In addition to empowering the mentee through advice, the mentor is actively using their power or position to create opportunities for his or her mentee, allowing her to demonstrate her competence and develop new skills.
This is a type of mentorship +. Authors in Harvard Business Review write, “There is a special kind of relationship—called sponsorship—in which the mentor goes beyond giving feedback and advice and uses his or her influence with senior executives to advocate for the mentee.” (Click to visit article: Why Men Still Get More Promotions than Women).
From the above discussion we certainly get an idea on how important these tools are in case of career advancement for an employee. In simple words, it gives employees a sense of security that there is someone who is to observe their good work and powerful enough to appreciate the good work and help them to step to the next level of the career. This definitely motivates a fresher to keep up the good work and improve day by day.
The question is, as an organization why should we think of this issue? What benefit does it bring? To me staff is the most important resource that an organization has, and when they are not only skilled but also satisfied and motivated to what they are doing, real innovation can happen. Every person needs recognition to her/his work. Otherwise if someone stuck in one position, there exists no scope to improve and most importantly the enthusiasm diminishes.
So the root question arises: would sponsorship work for BRAC? Have you seen informal examples of senior leaders using this technique to elevate their junior staff? How does is fit with BRAC’s culture and human resource practices? If we think that sponsorship would encourage employees to work harder and that serves the organization better, it may be worth exploring.
Already, BRAC has introduced several initiatives to promote leadership. The Young Professional Programs and District BRAC Representatives are the examples of it. But how are we addressing other systemic issues like overall staff satisfaction, metrics of evaluation, professional development, and support for innovation within our huge organization? Sponsorship is an example of strategy others are taking to address some of these issues.