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Northern Trust, Finalist 2014, The E-ON Best for Engagement Award

Northern Trust has a longstanding commitment to care for its employees. To this end, the Company has established a flexible working and family-friendly culture that respects and supports work-life balance. In 2012, responses to the Employee Engagement Survey suggested areas for possible enhancement, so it became one of Northern Trust’s three global priorities. Additionally, following an overwhelmingly positive response to the alternative work location programme that the Bank had implemented during the Olympics, a feasibility study was conducted with a view to extending and formalising these arrangements in the London office.

As a result, in July 2013 Northern Trust implemented a pilot ‘work from home’ scheme called WorkSmart across four business areas. Partners whose roles were identified as being eligible could choose their preferred place of work between home, office, or a suitable alternative location of their choice. Of the 120 employees initially able to participate, 60% elected to adopt the new, more flexible arrangements. The programme involves employees giving up their traditional desk space and being provided with a laptop with integrated soft phone technology. When on- site, employees worked in a ‘hot desk’ environment.

Throughout the pilot, Northern Trust conducted weekly surveys. At the beginning of the pilot, 82% of staff positively supported WorkSmart; upon conclusion, that figure had risen to 92%. Feedback also indicated that: the majority of participants worked two days from home and three in the office; most cited a significantly improved work-life balance (flexibility of arrangements, empowerment through choice, reduced commute times and cost savings, ability to perform tasks in a more productive environment). Those who did not participate in WorkSmart experienced no disruption to their normal business routine or to team morale and were equally supportive of the programme (even though they had chosen not to participate). Managers also noted no adverse impact on morale or team performance. As a result of the positive feedback WorkSmart received, Northern Trust officially launched the programme in October 2013 and more employees are joining the scheme throughout 2014.

Northern Trust believes in taking a proactive approach to alternative working practices and therefore introduced a flexible benefits scheme in 2013, allowing employees to choose benefits to suit them and their families. For example, employees can ‘buy’ an additional (up to) five days holiday or ‘sell’ (up to) three days. Dental, private healthcare and life assurance are also available for their families, as well as childcare vouchers. Their well-being programme, nGood Health, encourages and supports employees and their families to embrace a healthy lifestyle and work-life balance. Working to foster an effective, active and healthy workplace, the programme includes health-risk assessments, wellness screening, incentives for healthy lifestyle practices and frequent healthy lifestyle information and webinars.

Northern Trust also has an array of work-life balance policies and programmes, including an Employee Assistance Programme. This supports all employees and their families with telephone or face-to-face counselling on both personal and professional challenges.

Maternity, paternity and adoption paid leave are enhanced and with a wide range of flexible work schedules, the bank’s maternity returnees are able to find flexibility to suits their needs. Maternity coaching is also on offer.

The bank believes that it is its genuinely positive approach to flexibility and not their policies that drives success. In the past year, 90% of flexible working requests were approved and currently 20% of employees are working flexibly, of which 33% are men (10% have senior positions). Requests are approached with a ‘can do’ attitude and where a request cannot be met, the bank endeavours to find an alternative solution. While 67% of flexible working requests received in 2013 were approved without any change to the original request, 23% were adapted to suit the needs of both parties.

In Northern Trust’s last Employee Engagement Survey, 83% of employees felt engaged with the organisation and 75% felt they had sufficient flexibility to meet personal and family needs. These statistics were reinforced in 2013 by a retention rate of 94% for employees working flexibly and 93% for all other staff.