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Bertelsmann has always attached great importance to the intensive promotion of young talent – qualified employees at all levels are prerequisite to the company's economic success. "I firmly believe that mixed teams are more successful," says Bertelsmann Chairman & CEO Thomas Rabe. "It is therefore of paramount importance that we win the brightest minds for Bertelsmann and develop them into excellent executives." The "Bertelsmann Sponsorship Project" was launched in 2013 against this backdrop.
The aim of the sponsorship project is to open up career opportunities for selected junior executives from all areas of the company. To this end, the young managers (Mentees) were in direct contact with a high-ranking sponsor from the Bertelsmann Group Management Committees (GMC) over a year and a half.
The special feature of the sponsorship project: The application was made directly – instead of through a nomination by the personnel departments. The GMC's final decision on the final selection of Mentees was based on an innovative and diversity-based selection process involving the HR department, an international HR consultancy, and Heads of HR managers from Bertelsmann's divisions. The first round of the procedure was carried out anonymously in order to ensure that conditions for all interested employees were as uniform as possible. This was followed by online tests, phone interviews, and a two-day assessment center in Berlin.
In all, 103 applicants from 19 countries applied for participation in the 18-month program – a third of them female executives. From this pool, 24 finalists and finally eight mentees were selected. In the end the rate of successful applications by women and minorities was higher than in comparable programs.
After the successful conclusion of the application process, the actual sponsorship project began. The individual partnership of the selected junior executives to GMC members consisted of regular meetings, networking at management level – e.g. through participation in top management meetings – as well as external coaching. The sponsors also gave their Mentees, who were deliberately chosen from a different corporate division, direct insights into their working world. Participants used their counsel to develop new ideas and business approaches. In return, the GMC members received new impetus via the reports, views and interests of tomorrow's top executives. "The feedback on our sponsorship project has been positive down the line. Both the Mentees and the sponsors praise the close interaction, which opens up entirely new perspectives for everyone. But we've also received a lot of encouragement for the project and the innovative selection process from the outside as well," said Chief HR Officer Immanuel Hermreck, who was responsible for the project.