Our annual employee survey helps us understand global employee perspectives on inclusion, engagement and accountability. In 2017, 84 percent of Northrop Grumman employees completed the survey, which had been translated into eight languages. Overall, engagement and inclusion scores exceeded externally benchmarked, high-performing companies' scores and significantly exceeded the benchmark for other aerospace and defense companies included in the survey database. Our leaders and teams worked together to use the results to create 2017-2018 action plans. Acquiring, engaging, developing and managing our people helps us build the best culture and allows all employees to achieve their full potential.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are cornerstones for creating the best culture at a top performing company. When combined, they support higher levels of engagement, innovation and performance for our employees, customers and shareholders. At Northrop Grumman, this culture defines who we are and how we operate our business. With employees in 50 U.S. states and 40 countries, our values-based culture creates a workplace that blends individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, preferences and behaviors.
Through Operation IMPACT we support severely injured service members and their families. The program provides personalized placement assistance and community outreach. Since inception, we have placed more than 275 candidates at Northrop Grumman through Operation IMPACT. A partnership with other employers through our Network of Champions allows us to continue to support veterans as they gain employment at more than 60 companies in the Network.
We continually look for ways to help bridge the employment gap for retiring and exiting service members. Our internal employee resource group VERITAS (Veterans, Employees and Reservists Inspired to Act and Serve) supports veterans. We also maintain existing partnerships with external groups including the Military Officers Association of America, DOD Hiring Heroes, Virginia Employment Commission, Student Veterans of America and Corporate Gray.
We understand and value the relationship between diversity, innovation and performance. We proactively seek talent with different perspectives, unique skills and experiences. That focus helps us find the best talent to fill new positions and to help us grow. As we have throughout our history, in 2017 we continued to partner with numerous diversity organizations such as the U.S. Business Leadership Network, Out & Equal, oSTEM, Black Engineer of the Year and Society of Women Engineers to help us connect with talented candidates who are diverse and who will thrive in a team environment.
We benchmark pay using external salary surveys. We monitor pay rates to ensure equitable remuneration for women and People of Color, and our incentive system is performance-based.
Equal Employment Opportunity
We build employment equity and nondiscrimination principles and policies into our company operations specifically designed for each country where we operate. Within the United States, we develop annual Affirmative Action plans, where applicable, that document specific steps to drive awareness of representation and underrepresentation of veterans, minorities, women and People with Disabilities.
Performance is at the center of our values, and performance management is one of the vehicles to ensure expectations are clear and achieved. All employees receive annual, formal feedback and are eligible for development opportunities to achieve career goals. In addition, employees receive formal performance reviews; however we encourage continuous feedback as a mechanism to high performance. During the performance cycle, this allows us the opportunity to provide employees with career guidance and development.
Employees who are regularly scheduled to work 20 or more hours per week are eligible for health and welfare benefits under the Northrop Grumman Health Plan, including benefits for domestic partners and transgender benefits. Qualified full-time and part-time employees are eligible for the 401(k) plan, retirement plans, work/life benefits, childcare information, life and disability insurance, education assistance and other employee benefits.
In 2017, external agencies logged 32 complaints of discrimination across the company. We investigate all such complaints and take appropriate action. Of these complaints, we successfully resolved 10, with 22 still open/pending as of December 31, 2017.
Currently, collective bargaining agreements cover approximately 3.3 percent of Northrop Grumman employees. At Northrop Grumman facilities, our employees are free to exercise their rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION 2017
Create an inclusive work environment that fosters creativity, innovation and colleague engagement and increases the number of underrepresented women and People of Color in leadership positions.
In 2017, we completed year three of our five-year diversity plan with growth in almost all areas. Female leaders increased from 25.2 percent in 2016 to 26.3 percent in 2017. People of Color in leadership increased from 23.7 percent in 2016 to 25.2 percent.
In 2017, more than 50 percent of college hires were diverse, strengthening our future leaders' pipeline. Our overall representation for People with Disabilities increased from 6 percent in 2016 to 7.1 percent in 2017. Of all hires, People with Disabilities comprised 10.8 percent in 2017 and veterans 24.6 percent.
Engage external stakeholder groups that support and serve our values and interests in recruiting, developing and recognizing a diverse workforce and contracting with diverse suppliers.
In 2017, we participated in almost a dozen diversity conferences to recruit new employees and develop talent. We won awards and were recognized by more than 25 organizations, including those representing LGBT, veterans, People of Color, executive women and People with Disabilities. We achieved a perfect 100 point rating on the Disability Equality Index Best Places to Work for Individuals with Disabilities. To strengthen our partnerships, senior leaders spoke at conferences such as Out & Equal, the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers and the U.S. Business Leadership Network.