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Published: 25 Aug 2017

Northern Trust, Winner 2012, The Lexington Gray Best for Flexible Working Award

Founded in 1889 and headquartered in Chicago, Northern Trust is a financial services company employing 1,400 across Europe, Middle East and Africa. (EMEA).  Like many organisations, they have a suite of flexible working policies on offer, but they recognise that it is the day-to-day uptake and use of these policies which is the real test of how flexible an organisation is.

Northern Trust approaches flexibility in a positive way and aims to accommodate all requests for flexible working. To drive already high staff satisfaction with their work-life balance, Northern Trust promotes the benefits of a good balance and reiterates their commitment to helping their employees find this. Underlining this commitment, all managers at Northern Trust complete mandatory training which addresses the legal framework, the benefits of flexibility and flexible workers to the organisation as well as challenging unconscious bias. 95 percent of managers have completed this modular training, with the other five per cent nearing completion.

Northern Trust explains their flexible working culture simply:

We believe in individual as opposed to linear career paths, and this philosophy has been instrumental in creating our flexible working culture.  This small but powerful endorsement gives permission to employees who want a more balanced work life. While the sector norm is for individuals to actively seek continuous advancement, we enable employees to drive their own careers at a pace that suits them. This means that it is acceptable to step off the promotion treadmill for a while or let your career plateau as long as you continue to remain successful in the job you hold. By releasing this pressure to travel a set career path our organisation is well placed to attract and retain people seeking work life balance.”

A large proportion of Northern Trust’s managers in EMEA are female (40 percent) and this sends out positive signals about career success, gender and flexibility. They also have senior support, with the CEO of Northern Trust Global Investments International championing their employee network which supports work-life balance. This role modeling by a senior leader reinforces the importance of work life balance for both genders and last year 31 percent of flexible working requests came from men, all of which were agreed.

At Northern Trust, the benefits to organisational performance are evident to all:

We experience a positive perception of flexible working because we have visible role models and advocates and a culture of caring for the wellbeing of our employees, local communities and clients. Our culture is sustained because we generally promote people from within our ranks and with an average tenure of seven years our culture is maintained as people advance.  We believe flexible working generally leads to better performance and more effective working and our staff appreciate and value that we trust them get on with the job whereever they are located. Flexible working is business as usual.”