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Goldman Sachs has a plan for tackling staff burnout

Allie Nawrat

Leader

Goldman Sachs burnout
Credit: Anyra via Twenty20.

Unleash Your PeopleGoldman Sach’s president John Waldron shares how the investment bank plans to improve employee wellbeing.

  • Following a well-documented employee ‘scandal,’ the bank is back in the news.
  • This time Goldman Sachs is sharing how it intends to tackle staff burnout.
  • The bank’s president has said junior talent will be much more looked after and nurtured.

Over the past few months, Goldman Sachs has been unable to stay out of the news – and largely for the wrong reasons.

A month after the bank’s CEO David Solomon made his opinion of remote working very clear, Goldman Sachs ws again making headlines when a leaked slide deck prepared by junior banking analysts laid out the horrors of their working conditions.

The presentation, made for senior management, detailed 95 hour working weeks and a significant decline in both mental and physical wellbeing.

This created shockwaves and led to many debates about employee wellbeing at Goldman Sachs – as well as across the banking sector.

{Read more: 6 mental wellbeing apps to beat employee burnout for good]

Goldman Sachs responds to the claims

In a response memo, Solomon declared that he and the bank’s leadership team took the complaints “very seriously”. He also announced stricter enforcement of the Saturday rule, where junior bankers are banned from working from 9 pm on Friday until Sunday morning.

However, since Solomon ended his memo by saying, “if we all go an extra mile for our client, even when we feel that we’re reaching our limit, it can really make a difference in our performance”, there were concerns that these moves were just window dressing and wouldn’t actually improve employee wellbeing in Goldman Sachs.

This was especially the case since others in the banking sector were making more meaningful moves – such as Citigroup introducing Zoom-free Fridays and giving all employees an extra day of annual leave to reset.

The bank’s president enters the fray

Now, Goldman Sachs president John Waldron has made a fresh attempt to mitigate staff burnout.

In a Zoom call on Monday hosted by the Economic Club of New York, Waldron noted that he has had “more discussion than I’ve had in a long time around people, culture, mental health, wellness” and the role this plays in winning the war on talent, according to Business Insider.

He then outlined steps the company intends to take to improve employee wellbeing and tackle burnout.

Waldron noted that the bank would put up more “guardrails” to ensure junior bankers had a proper work-life balance – including implementing the Saturday rule.

“As the activity levels went along, we became a little lax in making sure we kept that exception going, and so we’re now being much more proactive in making sure that that happens,” Waldron said.

Also, he noted that the bank would be strengthening its focus on mentoring young people – which is ironically one of the reasons Solomon is so anti-remote working. According to Waldron, the company will now be committed to ensuring executives are properly invested in the development and careers of juniors.  

Other initiatives Goldman Sachs is introducing to tackle burnout are leaning on automation for certain tasks performed by younger banks and recruiting more junior staff.

“A lot of that work can be automated, and then the younger generation can focus more on value-additive capabilities that enhance their development and makes the job more interesting and more valuable,” explained Waldron.

Waldron said Goldman Sachs had been incredibly busy during the pandemic, while also being “candidly under-resourced”. He added that he wished the bank had done this sooner. But, he concluded,

“We want people to stay here longer and feel really good about their career opportunities. And we have a lot of work to do to make sure that that happens.”

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