Northwestern Mutual’s talent transformation: Navigating market shifts
With a pedigree spanning 160 years, Northwestern Mutual has been a trusted brand through good times and bad.
To stay on top, it's always kept evolving what it does - whilst focusing on its policy holders rather than Wall Street.
Find out how they are framing their recruitment conversations around the current market challenges.
Why watch on demand?
- Get the inside story of this recent talent transformation journey
- Discover the impact of a new talent strategy on Northwestern Mutual’s growing workforce of over 7,500 people
- Hear first hand how to take a different approach to attracting, developing and retaining talent in a rapidly evolving environment
- Explore how to assess where your talent strategy is in terms of present market shifts and headwinds – and what you’ll need to tackle next
- What you need to prioritize when it comes to the changing expectations of the employee-employer relationship – from improved user experience and technology shifts, to greater flexibility and new ways of working
The realities of talent transformation
The last two years have been marked by sudden and significant changes – particularly in the talent acquisition space. And we now know that these unexpected swings are likely to become part of business as usual. But it’s business-critical that the company has maintained its commitment to its people. So, how can talent teams transform to face the unexpected in the future?
UNLEASH and our friends at Beamery are delighted to bring this on-demand webinar session with Northwestern Mutual, telling you all about their talent transformation. They shared how they are framing their recruitment conversations around these market challenges and how to bring the rest of your business along on the journey to becoming a more responsive and more agile talent organization that’s ready for anything!
The talent market headwinds
Kelly Culler is currently VP, Global Talent Acquisition and Human Resources Business Partner for Northwestern Mutual. She holds nearly two decades of HR experience, within the areas of HR strategy, organizational development, performance management, leadership coaching and, talent acquisition.
Kelly’s spread of HR skills and background in recruiting has clearly given her amazing levers to lean on to completely upend and transform HR, and hiring specifically, within a sector and organization that is oftentimes cast with the assertion of being outdated and stale. Unlike many of its rivals in the financial sector, Northwestern Mutual has taken a progressive approach with its talent strategy.
The organization’s deep-seated cultural roots were certainly one of the big challenges that Kelly and her team have had to overcome, she shared with us. Being one of the greatest wealth management companies on the planet – the legacy and history was something that needed to remain a cornerstone, but also be totally upended in order to be attractive and competitive and enticing to new talent, whilst also retaining current employees. These industry challenges, as well as the struggles within the financial market itself, have created a melting pot for pain with recruiters in the sector and their respective workforces.
Kelly also shared, as many will be able to relate, the overnight challenges created by the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns meant their workforce at Northwestern, which was not used to working from home due to their high-touch, high-relationship oriented culture, was thrown into an entirely unknown and untested territory of ways of working.
At breaking point?
We heard from Kelly during this session, a story that many industries and talent leaders will recognize. Come June 2020, Northwestern Mutual began a phased approach back to the office. They had seen trends of hyper-productivity whilst employees were working virtually but knew that this had downfalls too when it came to burnout and their workforce’s wellbeing and mental health. This “back to campus” operation demonstrated the need to find resilience and balance in the management of the workforce.
Kelly also recognized there was a clear shift in the recruitment conversations they were having. Candidates were now overtly asking, “What is your stance on a flexible work model?”. These shifts in expectations, coupled with the shock of a substantial number of early retirements – boomers choosing other roads because the pandemic challenged their thinking and what they want to do long term – as well as concern over the skills of the future and how to obtain and sustain these, led to a drastic rethink about how to get ahead of some of its competitive threats.
A combined approach to talent and recruitment
Here are some of the strategies that Kelly shared with our audience that led to them bettering their talent experience at Northwestern Mutual, in turn helping their recruitment efforts:
- Investment in the digitization of the employee experience.
- It has settled on a flexible work model that reflects a few days in, a few days out, enabling individuals to operate how they need to, to get the job done.
- As 60% of its workforce has +20 years of tenure, and it has 150 retirees per year, they have created detailed succession plans, that include upskilling and cross-training.
- They have hosted engagement events to get people back into the office and to regain cultural affiliation and a sense of purpose.
- They have done a lot of work and analysis on DE&I and created a strategy on how to provide the right opportunities to the right talent.
- They are putting a lot of emphasis on internal promotions and encouraging employees and line managers to talk about those next career steps. This has been solidified in their newly created internal mobility tool, which they call their “talent market navigator.” This is a platform that sits on top of LMS. All of the jobs within the organization sit in there so they’re searchable. It also includes assessments for internal employees and planning tools that help them to think about their next career move. Previously, employees would have to have a conversation with someone that’s in the know about the skills that match certain roles, but the tool completely democratizes the opportunities and removes the fear, providing an accessible and easy platform.
- The organization has also appreciated the emphasis on total human wellness and the importance of a purposeful culture, realising that to retain top talent, they need to be providing a purpose-driven company for employees to feel valued and like they are working towards a bigger goal. To solve this, Northwestern Mutual has reflected on being able to communicate and drilling down more successfully on the noble purpose they already had in play, “to save Americans from financial anxiety.”
Attracting and engaging new talent
Northwestern Mutual has undergone a significant project to find, attract and convert new talent. One key piece of advice that Kelly shared with the audience, is the biggest breakthrough and tangible results they had from any of their talent projects, was their overhaul of the approach to sourcing. She explained that creating specialized sourcing talent enabled the fastest lift, for the most acute problems and they saw rapid progress. It also enabled them to make great waves in their bid to hire more diverse talent, as talent “hunters” have the ability to match diversity with skills. Creating a sourcing model based on diversity and critical skills, encompassing new sourcing talent, as well as tools that provided the means to intersect location and talent pools and the information for where to look for the best-fit talent provided this new talent with the means to expand Northwestern Mutual’s talent pools.
Kelly shared, that this approach, coupled with a new CRM that provides more stickiness; an approach that was more multi-channel for their recruitment marketing; and the addition of candidate stories to their career sites, has meant their marketing results and candidate experience has accelerated.
They are reinforcing their progress in the HR and recruitment teams by using surveys and performance analysis to measure the outcomes of their new tools and strategies, measuring whether they made the right priorities. They use measurements like hiring manager sentiment, candidate sentiment, close rates, and other top metrics and lagging indicators. These provide Kelly and her team a continuous cycle of review and calibration, garnering true insights into employee and candidate feedback from these metrics.
“If you don’t prioritize, you’ll end up being a mile wide and an inch deep, and you’re gonna make a lot of progress on a lot of little things, but you might not get the outcomes you want.”
Kelly Culler, VP, Global Talent Acquisition and Human Resources Business Partner, Northwestern Mutual
If you want to hear more about Kelly and Northwestern Mutual’s amazing transformation journey, watch our on-demand video now. And if you’d like to find out more about putting talent transformation at the heart of your business, check out www.beamery.com
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