With hybrid work here to stay, could sponsorship be the key to boosting employee visibility and wellbeing?

With hybrid work models taking shape as the new norm in many knowledge-based workplaces, ensuring that employees have enough visibility is a new and complex challenge facing managers and employers. 

Recognition of your skills and output, as well as being visible to your colleagues and managers, is essential for productivity, and for workers to feel satisfied, motivated and confident in their jobs.

In the 2023 Women’s Ambitions survey, published in a report this month by Women’s Agenda, 27 per cent of women who had a hybrid or remote working model indicated that a lack of visibility at work was hindering their career. 

Additionally, 37 per cent of women said a lack of visibility, specifically to their upper management, was hindering their career progression. Another 16 per cent said their hybrid or remote work arrangements were getting in the way of them being promoted. 

Access to leaders is crucial for those in hybrid work

The complexity of hybrid work and its impact on visibility has also been brought to the fore in the recent Women@Work 2023: A Global Outlook Report from Deloitte. 

Here, four in 10 women said they had been excluded from meetings, decisions and informal interactions while working in a hybrid way, and 30 per cent of women said hybrid working has meant they have less exposure to senior leaders. 

There is multi-layered discussion that needs to be had about the impact of changing work environments on women, especially those in the early and mid stages of their career.

But one key measure that has been shown to increase feelings of visibility is participation in sponsorship programs that build a strategic alliance between a senior leader and an emerging leader. Additionally, sponsorship programs can also help senior leaders feel recognised for their work and connected to their leadership legacy.

How sponsorship can boost visibility 

Recent feedback from participants in Cultivate Sponsorship’s flagship program has indicated that being part of a curated sponsorship program has a multitude of benefits, and increasing visibility and connection in workplaces was a key outcome.

One of the key themes that emerged from the feedback is that at the beginning of the program, many sponsees felt like they did not have a strong profile outside of their immediate business unit which impacted their visibility across the business, limiting their career progression. 

The structured framework of the program strategically pairs sponsees with sponsors, helping them overcome feelings of isolation and invisibility in their jobs. One participant in the Cultivate program said being connected with a senior leader had been invaluable.

“This program and concept gives us an opportunity to interact so closely with senior leaders that would not otherwise be possible,” she said. 

“My sponsor has already helped me a lot. We’ve had a lot of detailed conversations and he has been very open and forthcoming about sharing his career journey and how he navigated his journey.”

Many sponsees also said that the program had helped them develop a clearer picture of their career progression pathway. At the end of the program, 100 per cent of sponsees said they had a clearer vision of what they need to do to achieve their aspirations.

“The key outcome is that I am clear of what I want to do next in my career,” one participant said.

“I am also clear of what additional activities, like networking and travel, I should add to make my next career move a dream move. I also want to start mentoring to ensure I can help accelerate the career growth for younger girls who are in a similar job role as me.”

Bridging this gap between emerging leaders and senior leaders is also having a positive impact on those who were part of the program as sponsors. At the start of the program 25 per cent  of sponsors said that they did not have a leadership legacy but by the end, 100% said that they did.  

Many of those who gave feedback to the program said these leadership legacies related to becoming more intentional in supporting and elevating the talent of the women around them. 

Indeed, one sponsor said the program helped them realise their leadership legacy was “no longer about myself or my success”.

“It’s about lifting my team members and folks that I sponsor to reach their career goals. And I am glad to advocate for more women after this exercise,” they said. 

Another said it was a complete “eye opener” to be able to learn more about their sponsee, and that the program helped change their perspective and approach to leadership entirely. 

“While my sponsee may appear quiet and reserved, once she gets into business (in meetings etc), she shows her ability to handle difficult decisions she had to make with professionalism and ease,” they said. “She won’t be an easy push over even though she had to handle senior leaders.”

At a time when visibility and workplace connections are more important than ever in a hybrid working environment, having a sponsor at work is a powerful strategy for your career. Mentors, coaches and managers provide advice and guidance behind the scenes, but a sponsor steps up and makes sure your experience and potential is known and valued in the organisation and you don’t disappear behind a screen.

Is sponsorship in your 2024?

Click below to register your interest in the Cultivate Sponsorship Program for next year! But get in quick as there is only limited spots available for our 2024 intake.