Setting the Context
According to the 2022 Women in the Workplace report, there is a disparity in the representation in women and racially diverse talent in senior career levels within corporate organizations. As a result, building a strong bench of talent for those roles has become a key priority for many organizations. In an effort to tackle this challenge, several studies by various organizations have established a link between relational networks and career advancement, especially as it relates to historically underrepresented demographic groups. One of the initiatives I designed to help close the talent gap is a form of relational development, referred to as Talent Championship.
What is Talent Championship?
Talent Championship is a form of relational development that pairs organizational leaders with early career and emerging talent to provide strategic support and advocacy directly tied to career advancement. Talent Championship borrows the best elements of the domains of coaching, mentorship, and sponsorship, but maintains a unique form. From the domain of coaching, Talent Championship borrows Socratic methodologies aimed at deepening self-awareness through questioning, from mentorship, it borrows empathetic behaviors aimed at creating a strong bonds and mutual respect, and from sponsorship it borrows from advocacy actions aimed at career advancement.
One of distinguishing elements of Talent Championship begins with the participants themselves, their career levels, as well as the roles they play in the relationship. The leaders who occupy the Talent Champion role possess more than simply the willingness to participate, they hold a level of positional influence anchored by their direct reporting structure and are committed to leveraging their influence for others. For the early career and emerging talent participants referred to as prot©g©s they occupy career levels deeper in the pipeline (non-executives) who demonstrate consistently strong performance, a resolve to act on feedback given and readiness to step into a new opportunity. The second distinguishing element of Talent Championship is the process by which participants are matched, the pairing process goes beyond, ‘likeability’ due to the keen focus on advancement, considering career goals and developmental needs as the primary pairing criteria. Another distinguishing element is the development planning process, which anchors the relationship and ensures alignment and measurable progress. Participants work in a collaborative manner to align on key focus areas with concrete actions to be taken by the prot©g© as well as the champion. This allows for a level of accountability, shared goals, and increased likelihood of success.
The Strategic Talent Outcomes
The benefits of Talent Championship are numerous having significant impact on the individual careers of the participants as well as the broader organization. For the Prot©g©s, the benefits include enhanced visibility and exposure, preparation for their next assignment, support implementing their career roadmap, and lastly someone at the table who can meaningfully discuss their strengths and contributions. For the Champion the benefits include strengthening their leadership and interpersonal skills with regards to listening and providing feedback, developing their intercultural competence, in addition to expanding their network and circle of influence and proving them with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
" Participants work in a collaborative manner to align on key focus areas with concrete actions to be taken by the protégé as well as the champion "
For the organization the outcomes include a stronger bench of talent, increased talent retention, access to wider pools of talent, increased engagement, a strengthened culture, and lastly inclusive leaders. It’s a several fold win for organizations.
For organizations seeking to launch a new program, I would recommend the following best practices to ensure program effectiveness.
Begin with Data
Analyze workforce trends to understand where the greatest opportunities are the accelerate representation and talent mobility. This will help inform the career levels of participants and with measuring progress at the end of the cohort.
Set Clear Expectations
Participants and key stakeholders should be made aware of the goals, behaviors, and time commitment to ensure success. This allows everyone to make an informed decision regarding participation, timing and resources required for success.
Match Pairs with Intention
Focus on development needs vs. likeability to ensure the relationship is anchored in development as opposed to a fun experience. Capture and leverage the appropriate data points to facilitate the most effective relationships.
Provide Resources, Training and Support
Regardless of the level of experience and maturity, providing training resources and support is a great way to signal the organization’s commitment to the success of the individuals in the program and to help ensure participants feel confident is assuming their respective roles with leads to effective outcomes.
Measure and Report Progress
Be sure to not only begin with the data but end with it also. Leverage similar data points and others to measure progress and talent outcomes associated with the program. Be sure to socialize the results with broader stakeholders to build continues buy-in and support helping to drive new cultural behaviors into the organization.
Talent Championship can serve as a key strategic initiative in an organization’s talent strategy and ecosystem addressing some of the significant challenges faced by organization’s today and positioning them for success to address the challenges of tomorrow.