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Build an Employee Sponsorship Program

Address barriers to career advancement and leadership diversity through intentional sponsorship.

  • Fulfilling commitments to leadership diversity and DEI relies on using leadership diversity goals to identify and address barriers and biases in talent management programs that identify and develop future leaders. With the use of coaches and mentors, the focus tends to be on improving the competencies of underrepresented talent, but these are ultimately development methods and do little to address organizational-level barriers and biases.
  • While many leaders likely engage in informal advocacy and sponsorship of individuals in their own networks, this is prone to perpetuating “like me” bias and gaps in leadership diversity and does little to dismantle organizational barriers and biases.

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Our Advice

Critical Insight

Intentional sponsorship, rooted in equity and inclusion, shatters glass ceilings. Formal sponsorship is a mechanism to empower and uplift high-potential employees who are often overlooked, improving leadership diversity, retention, and engagement.

Impact and Result

  • Set meaningful and targeted sponsorship program goals, customized to meet the needs of the employee segments who would benefit most from sponsorship and are currently underrepresented in leadership.
  • Establish a program structure that is aligned with employee needs and program goals.
  • Outline selection and matching processes and offer ongoing support to enable effective sponsorship relationships.
  • Continuously monitor and iterate the sponsorship program as appropriate to reflect changing needs.

Build an Employee Sponsorship Program Research & Tools

1. Establish the need for sponsorship

Assess organizational readiness for sponsorship, identify employee segments that would benefit most from sponsorship, and determine program goals and metrics.

2. Design the sponsorship program

Establish sponsorship program structure and determine selection criteria, sourcing methods, and matching criteria.

3. Implement and monitor the program

Develop program action and communication plan, launch the program, and plan to monitor and iterate, as needed.

About McLean & Company

McLean & Company is an HR research and advisory firm providing practical solutions to human resources challenges via executable research, tools, diagnostics, and advisory services that have a clear and measurable impact on your business.

What Is a Blueprint?

A blueprint is designed to be a roadmap, containing a methodology and the tools and templates you need to solve your HR problems.

Each blueprint can be accompanied by a Guided Implementation that provides you access to our world-class analysts to help you get through the project.

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Get the help you need in this 3-phase advisory process. You'll receive 9 touchpoints with our researchers, all included in your membership.

Guided Implementation 1: Establish the need for sponsorship
  • Call 1: Evaluate the organization’s level of readiness for a sponsorship program.
  • Call 2: Assess the organization’s need for sponsorship.
  • Call 3: Identify employee segments who would benefit most from formal sponsorship and define program goals and metrics.

Guided Implementation 2: Design the sponsorship program.
  • Call 1: Establish the program structure.
  • Call 2: Define sponsorship expectations and key relationship milestones.
  • Call 3: Finalize selection criteria, sourcing methods, and matching criteria.

Guided Implementation 3: Implement and monitor the program.
  • Call 1: Develop a program action and communication plan.
  • Call 2: Prepare to execute selection and matching.
  • Call 3: Plan to launch, monitor, and iterate the sponsorship program, as needed.


  • Jennifer Hargreaves, Founder, Tellent
  • Steve Howe, Founder, ResilienceBuilder
  • Winny Shen, Associate Professor of Organization Studies, Schulich School of Business
  • Nicole Simpson, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, RAPP Worldwide
  • David Wilkin, Founder & CEO, Ten Thousand Coffees
  • Ingrid Wilson, Member and Board Director, Canadian Association of Black Insurance Professionals