Northwestern Mutual Sustainability and Social Impact: Strengthening Our Culture of Belonging

We invest in our people and our culture to enable everyone’s success.
May 7, 2024 11:00 AM ET

Originally published in Northwestern Mutual 2023 Sustainability and Social Impact Report

Our culture is a unique driver of Northwestern Mutual’s long-term success. Ensuring a diverse and inclusive environment is a growth strategy critical to relevance, competitiveness and long-term policyowner value. In fact, research over the last decade shows that companies with a diversity of talent are more likely to outperform industry peers and drive higher rates of profitability1. That’s why in 2012 we laid out a 15-year diversity and inclusion roadmap specifying priorities, behaviors and initiatives to be woven throughout our operations. 

We’re committed to ensuring our corporate offices and network of field offices across the country are places where each member of our workforce can contribute creative ideas, seek challenges, assume leadership and be valued contributors to the company’s and their own success. We act on this commitment every day—creating community through inclusion, building a diverse talent pipeline, and empowering our people to develop their full potential.


Researchers find that hiring a diversity of talent is a strong starting point— but it’s the workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive2. Creating a community of inclusion and respect gives Northwestern Mutual the foundation to better understand and serve clients, deliver longterm value and drive financial leadership. In our corporate and field offices we work to promote an inclusive workplace that’s more engaging and impactful, powering a better future for everyone.

Connecting employees, gathering insights 

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary employee-led groups formed to connect traditionally underrepresented team members and allies who share ethnicity, gender, nationality, identity, sexual orientation, generation or military or veteran status. Sponsored by members of the executive and senior leadership teams, ERGs and their allies advance the company’s business goals by helping us attract, develop, retain and advance a diverse workforce. Our nationally award-winning ERGs collectively have more than 3,000 members enterprise-wide. They include: 

  • African American 
  • Asian 
  • disABILITY Alliance 
  • Generations 
  • Hispanic 
  • Military Veterans 
  • Women’s

Similarly, the Field Advisory Councils—African American/Black, Asian, Hispanic/Latiné, Jewish Community, PRIDE@NM, Military Veteran, and Women—help us deepen our understanding of group challenges and provide guidance on inclusion efforts, including retention, professional development and other field-facing initiatives. 

Dozens of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Councils across our corporate and field offices bring colleagues together to help shape Northwestern Mutual’s vision and embrace D&I as a business advantage. Members provide key insights, drive innovation and engagement, and help individuals feel seen, recognized and valued. Meanwhile, executive leadership group members make up the Diversity and Inclusion Corporate Committee, working to coordinate D&I efforts across the enterprise. 

Since 2014, Northwestern Mutual has hosted unique Affinity Summits, which bring together women and multicultural communities and allies across our network of field offices to build on their mutual insights and experiences, grow careers and advance our business. This year, the Multicultural and Women’s Affinity Summits gathered nearly 800 field members in person at our corporate headquarters and welcomed another 1,000 virtual attendees. While the Multicultural Affinity Summit has always included intersectional attendees, in 2023 it formally expanded its audience to include those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community


Building financial security for our clients and maintaining industry-leading financial strength requires a workforce with different experiences, backgrounds, abilities and perspectives—reflecting the communities we serve. Across our corporate and field offices, we work to attract, retain, develop and advance a diversity of talent. We routinely review the diversity of our employees and field network of financial advisors and representatives to check on the progress we’re making toward better reflecting our communities. We’re proud that in 2023, Northwestern Mutual is more diverse than ever at all levels, including senior leadership positions.

Advancing women and people of color 

A diverse workforce enhances the range of available talent and provides deeper insights into growing markets. Research indicates increased diversity of talent also correlates to better business results3. We’re committed to making Northwestern Mutual the place women choose to join, stay and grow—as employees, financial advisors and representatives and clients. And at Northwestern Mutual, we work to build inclusion for groups that have been historically underrepresented in our industry. 

For example, we regularly bring employees from underrepresented groups together with executive leaders in roundtables to increase visibility, exchange ideas and build community and connections. Since 2021, more than 400 African American/Black and Hispanic/Latiné employees as well as talent from other demographic groups have participated. Results include increased engagement and decreased attrition. 

Northwestern Mutual offers consulting services to all our financial advisors and representatives, including coaching immersive experiences and workshops, to support talent strategies and strengthen a culture of belonging. The programs help our network of offices identify gaps or opportunities in diversity and inclusion and lay out strategies to advance a broader diversity of talent. 

As the diversity of our financial advisors, representatives and teams grows, so does the diversity of our policyowners and clients.

Field coaching, mentoring, and education 

Our initiatives to attract, develop and advance financial representatives and advisors from underrepresented groups include coaching, master classes and leadership programs. These programs have met with success. For example, in a new advanced, one-on-one mentoring program for African American/Black representatives, the initial cohort saw a 16% year-over-year increase in insurance premium production—and as part of the program, they’ll go on to mentor other financial representatives. 

This year, we hosted 50 financial advisors for our first-ever, two-day bilingual advisor academy (English and Spanish), facilitated by the Hispanic leaders of one of our most successful district offices. The program helped participants increase efficiencies and has led to a 6% higher retention rate for that group compared to their peers. 

To increase successful completion of industry qualification exams among African American/Black financial advisors, we launched a project to provide one-on-one tutoring, self-study videos and group review sessions. The project was so successful that this support is now offered to all financial advisors through our entire network of field offices.

Women’s Initiative Strategic Ecosystem (WISE) 

While we’ve long focused on supporting women across our workforce and the marketplace, in 2019 we unified these efforts through WISE. Several groups collaborate to advance women through mentorships, skills-building events, study groups and connections with senior leaders. These groups include, among others, the Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG), Women in Tech, and Visible Intentional Black Excellence (VIBE)—a grassroots group of 250+ women in the African American ERG. 

The Male Allies group partners with WISE members to cultivate partnership in the workplace. Nearly 70 senior male leaders have participated in structured 4-month study groups and have chosen to continue meeting to accelerate learning.

Women’s Field Association (WFA) 

In its third year, the WFA is now the second-largest field-led association at Northwestern Mutual, with more than 2,400 members advocating to attract, develop and advance women in financial services, across all roles and levels. The WFA also gives women a platform to communicate directly on important issues and create a community for growth, development and relationshipbuilding. WFA study groups for women now have more than 800 participants.

Developing leaders 

We know that a greater diversity of leaders attracts a greater diversity of talent and, ultimately, policyowners and clients. To strengthen our culture and drive business results, we offer leadership development programs designed to help all talent advance to the next level. 

One example is the Connected Leaders Academy in partnership with consulting firm McKinsey. The Academy supports development of African American/Black, Hispanic/Latiné, and Asian leaders, creating talent pipelines into senior and executive leader roles. More than 160 leaders have participated to date. Another example is Rhino Coaching, led by managing partner Leo Tucker, to accelerate the leadership journey of African American/Black leaders by fostering a supportive learning environment and a sense of community. Since 2022, 58 Northwestern Mutual field leaders have completed the year-long program. 

The Multicultural, Women’s, and PRIDE Leadership Programs help emerging field leaders crystalize their 10-year vision and personal development plan and further their leadership skills. Participants in the year-long programs collaborate with Northwestern Mutual corporate leaders on group capstone projects that explore strategic solutions for the company.


Studies show investing in employee development increases retention and engagement, benefiting both the employee and the business9 . Northwestern Mutual believes in supporting our people to be their authentic selves and to build the careers they want today and tomorrow. 

Our employee value proposition articulates why people should join and stay with Northwestern Mutual. We want employees to know they can trust in our stability, benefit from a culture of connectedness and choose from many paths and endless opportunities for a rewarding career. Living this proposition means we can attract the talent we need, continue our high retention rates and drive desired business outcomes.

Benefits for a better employee experience 

Northwestern Mutual offers a powerful network of support for our people through Total Rewards. With more than 40 benefits for corporate office employees, we work to ensure the well-being of employees and their families now and into the future. 

We offer corporate employees two floating holidays to make sure they have time to recognize days that matter to them. Other highlights include on-site Mutual Health Centers for employees, retirees, and in Wisconsin, eligible dependents; up to 10 days of paid time off a year for caregiving duties; infertility assistance and 12 weeks fully paid parental leave benefits for mother and/or father; and a guide to benefits supporting the well-being of LGBTQ+ employees. For our financial advisors and representatives, we offer a unique Return to Work Allowance designed to help them sustain and return to their practice following the birth or adoption of a child.

A broad view of Total Rewards for employees in our corporate offices includes:

  • Competitive pay, regular appraisals and feedback, with performance-based incentives 
  • Medical, dental and vision insurance 
  • Wellness and health management program and resources 
  • Life insurance, survivor and disability protection 
  • 401(k) employee savings plan and employee retirement plan 
  • Cash balance pension plan 
  • Flexible paid time off 
  • Parental and caregiver leave programs 
  • Career development and training resources 
  • On-site medical centers 
  • State-of-the-art fitness centers Learn more about our employee benefits.

Growth and development opportunities 

Our company strategy charts a bolder future for our policyowners and clients, our people and our business. To deliver on this strategy, we must understand employees’ skills, proficiencies and ambitions, and help them prepare to meet the needs of the business today and in the future. 

Northwestern Mutual’s size and scope affords employees the opportunity to explore their careers from many angles. Our new Career Hub gives full-time and part-time employees a single place to view opportunities to advance their skills and build a targeted career plan. The Hub delivers personalized matches to people connections, recommended learnings, and career opportunities. 

Education opportunities range from the university-style NMYOU, with a wide variety of resources and courses offered on internal and external platforms, to more specialized programs such as Leading at NM, guiding new leaders to develop the mindsets, skills, habits and support networks for success. Our Educational Assistance Program offers full-time employees tuition reimbursement for approved classes at all accredited U.S. colleges and universities. 

We offer all our employees and financial advisors and representatives coaching options at various career points. One example is BetterUp Coaching, which provides six months of one-on-one coaching for emerging leaders in our corporate offices, with 130 participants in 2023. Another example in the field, Early Career Coaching, helps multicultural talent, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and women accelerate their careers as financial advisors and representatives at Northwestern Mutual. In addition to professional coaches, the program involves peer-topeer learning and intentional community building.

Support for volunteering and engagement 

Our employees and financial advisors, representatives and teams regularly give back to their communities. We support them through the Northwestern Mutual Foundation as well as our Total Rewards package for corporate employees and our organizational policies: 

  • Volunteer PTO: Two days/16 hours of paid volunteer time a year for corporate employees 
  • Matching Gifts through the Northwestern Mutual Foundation: A dollar-for-dollar match for charitable gifts made by our people to U.S. accredited schools, childhood cancer nonprofits, and organizations supporting military veterans 
  • Northwestern Mutual Volunteer Program: Support for employee-led mentoring, blood drives, charity initiatives and events, and philanthropic collections 
  • Volunteer Support Program: $500 grants awarded to 311 organizations in 2023 for which corporate office employees volunteered 30 or more hours 
  • Community Service Awards Program: $6.3 million awarded since 1995 to nonprofits supported by our financial advisors and representatives in their communities. In 2023, we had the largest, most diverse pool of applicants since 2012.

Learn more about Northwestern Mutual’s commitment to strengthening our culture of belonging in the 2023 Sustainability and Social Impact Report.


1, 2, 3McKinsey & Company, “Diversity matters even more: The case for holistic impact.” December 5, 2023