Sponsorship is defined as using your influence and/or power to advocate and positively impact the growth and career advancement of a team member. A sponsor is a senior leader with significant influence and responsibilities. A sponsor will then use this influence to but not limited to;
At GitLab a sponsorship program can be a way of rewarding and growing top performing GitLab team members. Alternatively, it can be used to increase representation or provide visibility to underrepresented groups at GitLab, which can be seen via the Sales Sponsorship Program Pilot for Black Team Members.
This page outlines what sponsorship is and the pathway to creating a successful sponsorship program
Mentorship is defined in our Mentoring handbook page: Mentor relationships are an opportunity for individuals to learn from someone's personal experience, background, and perspective. These relationships build trust on a team, provide safe space to make mistakes, and encourage both personal and professional development.
Harvard Business Review defines the difference between sponsors versus mentors: “While a mentor is someone who has knowledge and will share it with you, a sponsor is a person who has power and will use it for you.”
A DIB sponsorship program can start in a variety of ways:
1. By request from a senior leader to a People Business Partner or DIB Team 2. By request of a People Business Partner as part of the departments ongoing people strategy 3. By the Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Team as part of the ongoing DIB Strategy for that department or GitLab as a whole
When requesting a new Sponsorship Program these things should be taken into consideration
1. Bandwidth must be available to carry out the sponsorship program 2. A defined list of potential participants 3. Clear goals of the Sponsorship Program i.e; to provide growth opportunities to top performers or to increase leadership representation of a URG in the department
Stakeholders: E-Group Leader, Senior Leaders, DIB Team, Learning & Development, Sponsee Managers, People Business Partners
The Executive Sponsorship Advocates are nominated senior leaders by the E-Group Leader/PBPs/DIB Team to help evangelise the sponsorship program with there peers. They will share in the accountability for the success of the Sponsorship Program.
A Sponsor is someone who has power and influence at GitLab and will use that power to advocate, elevate and impact a team members opportunities and career progression at GitLab.
A sponsor at GitLab is:
As a Sponsor you should be:
A sponsor will:
The sponsorship relationship may not provide all the above but the sponsor should be willing and able to provide some of the opportunities above to the sponsor.
A Sponsee at GitLab will:
As a Sponsee you should be:
A Sponsee will:
Create an issue in the DIB Project to begin the process of developing the Sponsorship Program
Identify the key stakeholders of the program, likely stakeholders will include but not limited to:
Ensure that you operate with a high degree of communication with the key stakeholders on project timing including: Communicaion dates, communication templates, leadership comms etc
The timeframe of the program will be highly dependent on the goals of the program. We suggest a minimum of 6 months and maximum of 12 months for a formal sponsorship program. The idea is that after the formal program an informal relationship will continue with the successful matches.
An Executive Sponsorship Advocate should be a senior leader who has the ability to influence other team members across the department around the program.
You should work with the E-group member and People Business Partners to identify the most appropriate leaders. Consideration should be given to:
A sponsor must be able to fit within the criteria outlined above. When identifying appropriate sponsors you should:
When identifying sponsees, first consider the goal of the sponsorship program and set out a criteria for Sponsees. This could be; must be rated 1-3 on the 9 box performance exercise or must be a member of xx URG and performing in the role. It could also be a combination of the two.
Utilise the number of sponsors to establish how many sponsees can participate in the program. Ideally each sponsor will only have 1 sponsee however exceptions can be made where applicable.
Once a criteria has been set and the number of sponsees established, identify with senior leaders and managers who should be nominated to participate. When nominating:
Once sign ups are complete, it is important to provide training to the Sponsors and Sponsees. This should include training on:
Accountabilities and Expectations of the program
The responsibilities of being Sponsor or Sponsee
Once sign up has closed for the Sponsees, matching can begin. You should utilise the answers in the sign up form to match sponsees and sponsors appropriately. Other considerations include:
To ensure a successful sponsorship relationship, we have built out a framework on how to ensure that you ultimately achieve advocacy. This framework is not linear, you may go back steps occassionally to ensure that authentic sponsorship can occur but if you follow the process, bulding and maintaining trust the process will work.
Take the time to build a solid relationship with each other. This will be particularly important if you have no previous direct working relationship and can often take some time to cultivate. It is very important to build the relationship first before moving into authentic sponsorship.
You have taken the time to build a relationship with each other, the next step is to develop that relationship by becoming action & capability focussed. In this step the sponsor will help guide the sponsee on areas of improvement in skills & capabilities. The sponsee is responsible for acting on feedback and being intentional about displaying these improvements to the sponsor.
This is where both parties agree to move forward with the next step, which is sponsorship and advocating for the sponsee. This can take many forms, such as; a formal discussion, the sponsor outlining actions to the sponsee or at the sponsees request. This is an opportunity to provide feedback, any uncertainties and to reestablish career development goals.
Now that a commitment has been made and the sponsor is satisfied that the sponsee is ready for the next step. The sponsor actively and intentionally advocates for sponsees continued career development and advancement at GitLab.
There should be a series of feedback touch points during the program.
60 days - this should evaluate the strength of the matches, discover any additional resources that are required and remedy any issues early.
Mid Way - this should evaluate what stage the sponsorship relationship is at, if the commmitments are still being met and provide some additional encouragement to move the relationship forward.
End of program - this should eva;utate the effectiveness of the full program, any results that were achieved and an opportunity to gather iteration data.
Throughout the program, the program lead and Executive Sponsorship Advocates should communicate regularly with the participants. A great way of doing this is providing regular resources on sponsorship activities. Here is a list of helpful resources that you can use:
At the end of the program, we will conduct feedback sessions as above. We will also conduct a Next Step Plan.
This will solidify any expectations for after the program, whether that is to enter a more informal sponsorship program, on going advocacy for career development or growth.
The goals of including Sponsorship Programs at GitLab is to help ensure that our top performers and team members from underrepresented groups are giving increased opportunities to work with senior leaders. This will increase engagement within these groups and ultimately increase the retention of of team members.
All programs should have some form of measurable for success, below are a few examples.
Sponsorship doesn't have to happen in the confines of a formal program. You may have a desire to sponsor a team member but no program exists as yet. This is something that is encouraged and we have seen happen successfully in the past, you can view this video as an example.
When entering an informal sponsorship relationship be sure to still outline and discuss the goals of the sponsorship. Follow the Sponsorship Framework to ensure success and hold each other accountable.
This will ensure a great experience for both the sponsor and sponsee.