May 11

How to Create a Company Culture of Sponsorship to Improve Employee Retention

This article originally published by HR.com on May 11, 2017.

Maintaining top talent is a crucial priority. In a competitive environment with ever-increasing workforce turnover, 87 percent of employers believe employee retention is a critical concern.

On average, Americans are spending slightly more than four years in a given job, while Millennials expect to stay for less than three. Frequent staff changes can be time-consuming and costly. Now more than ever, HR professionals should focus on keeping the company’s most important asset: its people.

Offering higher salaries and expanding benefits could prevent employees from pursuing better offers elsewhere, but there is another option. A sponsorship program is a low-cost alternative that helps extend the time people stay with your organization. This is especially true for Millennial employees.

Why Millennials?

Focusing retention efforts on Millennials has great potential — this group will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Not only that, but these younger employees command lower salaries and are most interested in professional growth.

That means empowering and motivating young employees is a move that’s cost-effective and capable of making a difference. More than half of Millennials have said that they seek work that aligns with their values. They aren’t always looking for work that guarantees a certain number on their paycheck.

Additionally, they want opportunities to further develop themselves — they are, after all, in the early years of their professional lives. Providing professional development and advancement is the key to ensuring a young employee’s tenure with your company.

Why Sponsors?

A sponsor is different from a mentor.

There’s a lot of buzz around mentors, and there’s no denying a mentor is a great place to start. A mentor makes it easier for a new hire to navigate the organization, learn important skills, and avoid potholes. Thanks, in part, to the direction of a mentor, top individuals will start to stand out.

Sponsors then work with those top individuals. A sponsor will use his or her influence to move a high-performing younger employee’s career forward. These advocates may provide some of the same direction and advice mentors do, but the primary goal is supporting career growth. Sponsors help by positioning junior employees as leaders.

The bottom line is this: Mentorship gets an employee acclimated, but sponsorship is what leads to advancement — and retention.

A good sponsor has a type of currency that your company values, whether it’s political, social, human, or intellectual capital. This individual uses that to back top talent, advancing the organization and its vision at the same time.

You and your company win when both Millennials and sponsors stay because they’re rewarded by a sponsorship system. Young employees have an avenue for growth at your company, and sponsors advance themselves and their own careers by contributing to the growth of up-and-coming talent.

Building a Culture That Values Sponsorship

While you might not be a potential sponsor, you have the ability to help others see sponsorship’s power. Here’s what your team can do to create an environment that encourages and nurtures the practice:

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