Knowledge Center

The Northern Trust Company—Sustained Leadership Commitment: Diversity at Work

Senior management of The Northern Trust Company recognizes the role played by a diverse workforce in achieving unrivaled client service and superior financial and operating performance. Beginning in the late 1980’s, Northern’s Sustained Leadership Commitment: Diversity at Work has enabled the company to identify, develop, and assign the best people to positions around the company. A driving force of this initiative is the Corporate Diversity Council (CDC), a management group that recommends goals and strategies for meeting the organization’s diversity challenges. With full support from the company’s Chairman and the Human Resources Department, the CDC has defined measurable, three-year goals in the areas of performance management, diversity training, retention and development, representation, and communication/awareness. All business units are represented on the CDC; Human Resources administer the Council’s work and staffs its activities. Furthermore, each business unit has its own diversity council that sponsors roundtable discussions, strengthens recruiting and people development efforts, and offers employee forums to discuss diversity issues.

Northern’s initiative includes mandatory diversity training for all employees, including managers and supervisors; the Talent Identification and Development Systems (TIDeS); and Partners in Performance (PIP). Diversity at Work, for non-manager employees, and its counterpart, Managing Diversity at Work, for managers, are required programs that communicate Northern’s values and the expected workplace behavior for all Northern people. The TIDeS program identifies and develops high potential employees, enabling the Board of Directors to regularly monitor the representation of women and ethnic minorities. PIP, a tool for performance management, features specific, measurable, results-oriented, and time-specific goals; 25 percent of managers’ bonuses and/or salary increases are linked to this tool. Work/life programs and formal mentoring programs complement the initiative. Business unit heads are accountable to the Chairman. “Diversity Report Cards” provide feedback and recommendations to business heads.

The results of Northern Trust’s initiative can be seen in substantial growth for women and minorities across all executive levels. Since 1990, the number of women officers has increased from 39 percent to 49 percent (women of color account for 24 percent of women officers); the number of women VPs has increased from 23 percent to 39 percent (women of color account for 12 of women VPs); the number of women SVPs has increased from 6 percent to 28 percent; and the number of women at the EVP level and higher has increased from zero to 14 percent.