This case study represents one of the four finalist submissions for phase two of i4cp's 2021 Next Practice Awards. View other Next Practice Award case studies.
T-Mobile’s Un-carrier philosophy has always been committed to a diverse employee base, so much so that it is a majority-minority company. However, with the death of George Floyd and the growing racial tension in this country, T-Mobile took a hard look at its diversity, equity, and inclusion practices and determined that the company needed to do more work in those spaces, particularly increasing diversity in leadership.
One way to increase the diversity in leadership is through internal development programs that target underrepresented groups. However, the company is mindful that people of color and women are often over-developed, over-mentored, and under-sponsored, so T-Mobile wanted to create programs that included more than just development and mentorship. The DE&I Learning team knew that employees of color and women need sponsors who would open their networks to participants and advocate for them when they weren’t in the room.
Enter Lead Magenta Next. T-Mobile created Lead Magenta Next with the sole purpose of increasing the diversity of its leadership. It is designed to create more opportunities for underrepresented talent and strengthen the company’s talent pipeline. The focus of this program is increasing representation at the senior manager and director levels. The goal is to put underrepresented talent at the intersection of sponsorship, readiness, and opportunity.
Solution – Scope & Innovation
Given the opportunities T-Mobile has in relation diversity in upper management and at the executive level, the team studied what other corporations have done to improve leadership diversity from a development perspective and learned about several key factors in successful programming for women and people of color to help them advance to higher levels within the organization. One of these factors is an ecosystem of support that includes sponsorship. Sponsorship has been shown to be a key differentiator in upward mobility for underrepresented groups.
From that research, the team designed a development program from the ground up that includes a Personal Advisory Board, consisting of
- an internal mentor to guide participants through their stretch assignment,
- an external mentor to assist with individual development needs,
- an executive sponsor to open networks and advocate,
- an internal executive recruiter to provide insight into hiring, and
- the participant’s manager to support engagement in the program.
The team aimed to develop participants in several different ways, through on the job practice via the stretch assignment, formal leadership curricula, and direct mentoring and sponsorship. Lead Magenta Next drives development with
- a six-month-long stretch assignment,
- a week-long leadership development program,
- pre- and post-program 360 evaluations and development coaching,
- DE&I education specific to their identities,
- DE&I education to mentors and sponsors,
- workshops that focus on personal brand, executive presentations, and networking, and
- a Capstone project that is presented to executive sponsors.
To make sure that Lead Magenta Next is truly relevant to underrepresented minorities, the DE&I Learning team partnered with each of T-Mobile’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to guide program components. This was the first time ERGs had been engaged for an enterprise-wide development program. For instance, in designing the first pilot cohort, the team worked with the Multicultural Alliance to identify the specific development needs of its members, who are primarily people of color, and engaged a partner university to create cohort-specific DE&I education.
While the program is open to anyone across the company at the manager, senior manager, and senior IC levels, participants must be a member of the ERG associated with the cohort. Employees can be nominated by anyone in the company (including themselves to mitigate potential bias, which was a first for the company) and must complete an application demonstrating their competencies, values, and career goals. Their manager must also complete an application, and skip-level leaders are looped in at every step. The program accepts 25 participants, which so far has been about 13% of the total applicants for each of the two cohorts we have initiated.
The DE&I Learning team faced some barriers throughout the development and socialization of the program. There were questions about why a program offered only to certain groups was needed and whether it was equitable. The program team fielded these concerns with industry trends and research findings, and these conversations often transformed into opportunities to educate leaders about the barriers underrepresented minorities and women face at work. There were also concerns about why such a high-touch approach was taken in the execution of the program. Ultimately, resources were allocated to the program because T-Mobile takes DE&I opportunities seriously, and underrepresented employees and women deserve a high level of attention and company engagement.
Results & Impact
The goal of Lead Magenta Next is to increase the diversity of T-Mobile’s leadership, and the program’s success is evaluated across several measures. (These data reflect the first cohort; the second cohort is in progress.)
- Promotions and other career moves
- 28% of the first cohort were promoted within 2 months of the end of the program. They reported that sponsorship was the key factor in gaining their promotions.
- Improvement of leadership skills via change in pre- and post-program 360 evaluations
- (Data is not yet available for the first cohort.)
- NPS scores
- The first cohort reported the program NPS score of 94.7.
- Capstone success
- In the first cohort, one team’s project gained so much interest at the leadership level that it was presented to T-Mobile’s Executive Leadership Team, including T-Mobile’s CEO Mike Sievert, and has been slated to move forward and receive dedicated resources.
As a comprehensive, high-value program, Lead Magenta Next set a new bar for leadership development at T-Mobile. It has a holistic approach that combines formal development, real life practice, sponsorship, and community to provide the best learning experience for participants. With strong guidance from the ERGs, Lead Magenta Next opens up new possibilities for partnerships across the enterprise and brings diverse employees together for innovative, authentic growth. It reaffirms T-Mobile’s commitment to equity and inclusion and has already succeeded in diversifying leadership.
For future cohorts, the DE&I Learning team plans to weave DE&I topics throughout all facets of the program and challenge participants to view leadership through the lens of equity. We will offer more opportunities for cohort cohesion through Slack and other platforms, because, as one participant said, the most impactful thing about the program was “the collaboration with my group members and how much we challenged ourselves and the confidence we built throughout the program.”
Lead Magenta Next drives leadership to the next level for underrepresented groups and supports T-Mobile’s mission to recognize every employee for their unique strengths. As T-Mobile’s values say, “WE WON'T STOP. We are relentless. Striving. Never complacent. We find a way, busting down barriers. We don't wait for change, we make it.”