- Goldman Sachs is just as worried as any other employer about attracting and retaining top talent.
- According to HR chief Dane Holmes, hiring technical talent is a big challenge.
- Holmes said every leader at every company should be concerned about talent management.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The competition for a job at Goldman Sachs is stiff.
Of the 1 million applications for mid-level jobs that the bank receives every year, about 5,000 get hired. That means Goldman is nearly 10 times as selective as Harvard.
But Goldman leadership still worries, constantly, about their ability to attract and keep the world’s top talent. In particular, they’re focused on appealing to technical talent, waging a daily battle with companies like Google and Amazon, who might be the more obvious choice for a brilliant engineer.
Goldman’s attentiveness to hiring has probably helped it remain a Wall Street powerhouse. The bank’s recent efforts to snatch up engineers is also a sign that, across industries, the war for tech talent is fierce. That’s reflected in employee mobility: While not a perfect proxy for finance, recent self-reported LinkedIn data found that people working as data analysts and embedded software engineers had turnover rates of almost 22%.
“I have probably 40,000 people at the firm, and they wake up every day worried that they’re going to lose someone or they’re not going to get someone in any given time,” said Goldman’s HR chief Dane Holmes.
He added, “If you’re thoughtful at all, you know that you’re only as good as the team that you have. To me, if you get up out of bed and you’re not worried about the state of your team, you’re basically not being a good manager.”
Goldman Sachs avoids thinking it will be a top employer forever
In an interview with Business Insider, Holmes – who is leaving Goldman at the end of the year to join the HR tech startup Eskalera – said the bank doesn’t take for granted its appeal to ambitious professionals.
“I can’t think of a year where we didn’t worry about it,” he said. It doesn’t help that many economists say the US is at full employment, meaning almost everyone who wants a job already has one.
Holmes said, “We know that we basically have to constantly evolve and change in order to remain that employer of choice.”
Hiring tech talent at an investment bank is a special challenge. In August, Goldman announced that it was looking to recruit more than 100 engineers to help automate parts of its trading business.
Holmes readily acknowledges that Goldman will need to change its approach to hiring in order to attract tech talent. In the Harvard Business Review, he wrote that after the 2008 economic recession, “many of the candidates we were pursuing were heading off to Silicon Valley, private equity, or start-ups.” Beyond that, Holmes wrote, “we were no longer principally looking for a specialised cadre of accounting, finance, and economics majors: New skills, especially coding, were in huge demand at Goldman Sachs-and pretty much everywhere else.”
As Goldman’s then-CEO (now senior chairman) Lloyd Blankfein said in 2017, “Thirty per cent of the people who work in this firm are engineers, are technologists, because of the way the financial markets have gone. So we compete against Facebook and Google and all these other places for talent.”
Goldman has made some key changes to reach a wider and more diverse candidate pool, like conducting video interviews with recent graduates instead of visiting elite college campuses.
This week Goldman announced a new parental-leave policy: 20 weeks of paid leave for all new parents, regardless of their gender or caregiver status. It’s by far the most generous leave policy on Wall Street, and rivals leave policies at some top tech companies.
Earlier this year, Goldman relaxed its rigid dress code, in light of “the changing nature of workplaces generally in favour of a more casual environment,” according to a company memo.
Holmes said Goldman applies the same perfectionistic mindset to hiring for tech roles that it applies to hiring in general. “If we were able to hire nine of the 10 engineers that we were targeting, we wouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back for the nine out of 10 we got,” he said. “We’d probably be trying to figure out why we didn’t get the 10th.”
At Goldman, attracting talented professionals is less of a concern than keeping them engaged
Some management experts say a leader’s effectiveness – and an organisation’s – isn’t a function of how long they keep their employees.
As Sidney Finkelstein, professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, previously told Business Insider, a “superboss” is someone who spawns an entire new generation of talent within their industry. Think Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels and former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. These leaders know when it’s time to let go of a stellar performer who’s taking the next step in their career.
Meanwhile, top tech companies like Netflix say they want to know when their employees are looking at other jobs. Sometimes they will even go out of their way to help employees land those other roles.
At Goldman, Holmes said, “the challenge for us tends to be less the access point,” or the ability to get people excited about working at Goldman. Instead, he said, the relevant questions are: “Can I put them in the perfect job? Am I matching them the right way? Do they evolve and learn and grow and” – it’s hard for any manager to avoid wondering – “want to stay here?”
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