“The commitment to the SOAR program has been a tremendous boost for developing leadership talent at UPS in Louisville, Kentucky. The return on investment in the program is multifaceted. The participants benefit from increased confidence in their leadership skills and the ability to effectively communicate and manage up. They are able to apply concepts learned in leading their team to high levels of performance. The positive shift in company culture and awareness is noticeable. The staff members participating in the mentoring process have become aware of the quality and depth of the diverse talent pool. It’s changed the people conversation around to consider candidates that were previously unknown. To quote one participant, the ‘experience was like an adrenalin shot of leadership education for me.’ I recommend the SOAR program to any company who wants to empower their developing female leaders to their full potential.” – Vice President, Enterprise Network Planning, UPS

The Challenge

The logistics industry is characteristically dominated by men. Research tells us that even though women represent 48% of entry level jobs in the logistics sector, only 17% of Senior Vice President positions are held by women. Understanding the value in and the business need to create a strong pipeline of diverse emerging talent, UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company, sought to change this status quo.

The SOAR Solution

UPS began its relationship with SOAR 12 years ago through participating in SOAR Live by committing a few participants to the program annually. Soon, managers of the participants saw not only behavior changes in their leadership capacities, but also observed high promotion rates because of their growth and development. Because of the evident success of the program, UPS partnered with SOAR in 2012 to launch a custom internal development program for UPS’s Air Group based in Louisville, Kentucky. The custom experience was designed to scale the impact of the SOAR program and to build a pipeline of strong and viable UPS leaders.

Working collaboratively with UPS, SOAR developed an additional layer to the program to specifically address the lack of visibility women were experiencing. A two-fold mentorship program was created that matched each participant with a director-level mentor and a champion who was a member of senior leadership team. The mentor served as a resource for career advice and expertise and to guide the SOAR participant to greater responsibilities and career advancement. The champion acted as an advocate for the SOAR participant and exposed them to opportunities and experiences that resulted in greater visibility within UPS. Through these new relationships, the champions began interacting regularly with these emerging leaders where that had not been done previously. These senior leaders began to understand the issues, concerns and barriers that women were experiencing in advancing their careers. This new insight helped senior management shift UPS’s culture to reflect more diversity in leadership.

Additionally, as a component of the internal program, UPS SOAR participants created a leadership challenge project that continues to strengthen and support women at UPS today. These participants identified that part-time female supervisors were leaving UPS before becoming full-time supervisors because they had little or no support from female role models or managers due to the predominately male work environment. This significantly contributed to the lack of women in the pipeline for advancement to managers. To address this challenge, the SOAR participants created a mentoring program, LINC, specifically for these part-time female supervisors. The SOAR participant selected a part-time supervisor outside of their reporting line to mentor and to expose them to other divisions of UPS. After 6 years, the impact of LINC been instrumental in retaining and promoting female part-time supervisors. LINC is now coordinated through the HR function and the concept is replicated across the organization.

The Results

SOAR established a thriving sustainable and scalable program that has resulted in:

  • 40% promotion rates among women who participated in SOAR
  • 44% promotion rates among women who participated in LINC
  • increased career advancement such as key assignments and additional responsibilities
  • increased retention of part-time female supervisors
  • created a pool of emerging talent where it didn’t exist previously
  • created a culture of mentorship across functions, divisions, and gender

UPS continues to utilize SOAR as an integral partner in creating a strong and viable pipeline of future UPS leaders.