Diversity in the Workplace: A Conversation with Northrop Grumman

July 5, 2021

Northrop Grumman is the largest aerospace and defense employer in Utah with 7,000 employees at nine sites. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are top priorities as the company embarks on adding over 2,000 positions in Utah over the next two years as part of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program (GBSD). We spoke to Kerri Harris, Manager, HR Business Partner, and Iris Lovell, Senior Principal, HR Business Partner, to learn more.

Company Background
Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of customers worldwide. The company’s 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services. In early 2020, the company announced hundreds of millions of dollars of additional investment in Utah, which will create thousands of new, high-paying jobs in Northern Utah.

DEI at Northrop Grumman
“Northrop Grumman believes diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace is an imperative,” explained Lovell. “With over 90,000 employees globally, we employ people from a wide variety of backgrounds.”  

Northrop Grumman consistently ranks in the top 50 companies for diversity based on DiversityInc’s annual survey that assesses company performance in talent pipeline, talent development, leadership accountability and supplier diversity. The company ranked number 21 this year.

“We measure our progress quarterly,” explains Lovell. “We are always looking for ways to improve representation.”

“Our variety of exciting programs is a huge opportunity to recruit diverse talent to Utah,” states Harris. “We are working hard on our ‘Why Utah’ pitch which includes selling the Utah lifestyle, our family-friendly environment, and terrific career advancement opportunities within the state. With nine Northrop Grumman facilities, we can provide terrific career trajectories in Utah to anyone.”

“Northrop Grumman’s proud history in Utah is also a selling point,” adds Lovell. “From the Hercules project to space shuttle, to the Mars Rover and NASA’s Space Launch System boosters through GBSD, Northrop Grumman is always innovating in Utah, and people are attracted to that legacy.”

Hiring and Onboarding
“It starts with pre-recruiting,” explains Harris. “From identifying candidates through hiring and onboarding, and throughout their careers at Northrop Grumman, we strive to recognize differences in people and help all of our employees feel comfortable.”

Northrop Grumman has a well-defined process to bring the best candidates to the table. “For any manager role (and higher), we create a diverse slate of candidates before we begin the interview process. We also require diverse interview panels to ensure varied perspectives in the hiring process,” explains Harris.

Like many large employers, Northrop Grumman has a network of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Ten of the thirteen have chapters in Utah, each with more than 200 employees.

“Our ERGs are open to any employee – whether they are a member of the identified group or an ally. When we onboard new talent, we introduce them to the ERG leaders on day one so they have a picture and a name of someone they identify with immediately,” states Harris.

“I personally serve as the executive sponsor of our veterans’ group,” Harris continues. “I’m not a veteran myself, but I have a personal passion around helping veterans make the transition from the military to the private sector. Allies are welcomed and encouraged in all of our ERGs.”

Lovell adds, “And our support doesn’t just stop at the door. We try to be proactive in helping employees orient outside of work – ‘Here’s the grocery store, here are some outdoor activities, etc.’ We also have clubs, in addition to our ERGs, where employees can build connections around hobbies and interests like golf, photography, hiking…”

“Even a motorcycle club,” interjects Harris. “I’m a member of that one!”

Community Outreach
“Northrop Grumman has a strong focus on community involvement and giving back,” explains Harris. “ERGs are encouraged to support the community through volunteerism and employee giving.  Northrop Grumman provides Community Service Grants in recognition of our employees' volunteer efforts. In addition, we have Matching Gifts for Education as another way we support our employees’ and their personal commitment to education.”

“Additionally, we support organizations that help inspire interest in STEM careers,” adds Lovell. “In Utah, we’re proud to support FIRST and VEX Robotics, Cyber Patriot, and Clark Planetarium- among others.”

She continues, “We also host the High School Involvement Partnership, known as HIP, to inspire high school students to explore STEM careers. The program is growing and we are currently expanding the program in Utah in Magna, Promontory, Salt Lake City and Roy.”

In addition to building new, young talent, Northrop Grumman invests in a “returnship” program to attract experienced employees who’ve been out of the workforce for various reasons. “We call it iReturn,” explains Harris. “It’s a 12-week program to prepare people who’ve taken a break from work for two or more years to care for family, pursue additional education, or any other reason, to successfully transition back to full-time employment. We’re delighted to be hosting our first cohort in Utah this fall.”

Advice to Other Employers
“The Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion gets it right,” says Lovell. “Engage your stakeholders and focus on ‘Nothing about us, without us.’ Listening is the first step.”

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