Be Yourself, Goldman Sachs

RJ Morris Bad HR, Employment Branding and Culture, Pop Culture, RJ Morris

Quick post today, melding Bill Parcells and Goldman Sachs. Of course. Parcells is a legendary football coach who was a walking quote machine. He trotted out lots of lines, but the one that seems to get the most play is this:

You are what your record says you are.

Great line, simple point: Say whatever you want about effort, hard work, improvement, moral victories, etc., but at the end of the day, you have a record that reflects your accomplishments. This is a great line to trot out for that consistent underperformer who always has an excuse.

Segue to Goldman Sachs, who was in the news last week for apparently telling their employees that they no longer have to work on the weekends. This is big news in the investment banking world, where employees sacrifice their lives for the chance to make mega cash money. Young investment bankers don’t have lives—they work so that they can live later. Again, this was big news.

If it was true, of course. Most people thought it sounded like BS. Fortune, specifically, called Goldman out.

Investment banking is a client-based industry, where employers don’t set the hours as much as they scurry to meet clients’ demands, no matter the time of day or day of the week. Goldman can suggest that junior bankers unchain themselves from their desks on Saturday and Sunday, but that won’t keep clients from sending an urgent request on Friday night.

And Goldman’s client services haven’t exactly been a bright spot for the bank since the recession… The last message Goldman ought to send to its clients right now is that it won’t be available to respond to their every beck and call.

Despite the competition from Silicon Valley, Goldman received 17,000 applications for the 332 open spots in its 2014 analyst program—up 14% from 2013. Applicants to the program—soon-to-be college grads from elite colleges—know exactly what they’re in for: the opportunity to make a lot of money at the expense of long, unpredictable hours.

Recommending that young bankers limit their workweek to five days is nice, but the prospect of capturing a larger slice of the bonus pool has a bit more appeal. It’s safe to say that employees at one of the best-paying companies who are driven by money enough… certainly consider the correlation between their hours on the job and their salaries.

Can you imagine the meeting in the Goldman conference room?: “Here’s what we’ll do—we’ll tell people they don’t have to work as hard and can have their weekends off but somehow still make crazy bonuses and earn in the top 1%. Yeah, that’ll work.”

You are what your record says you are. You’re Goldman Sachs. You are unapologetically capitalistic and crazy. You don’t have hold music—instead, you probably have the Gordon Gecko “Greed is Good” speech for people on hold (made up). You hate lunch lines at your office so much that you provide a discount for people who eat before 11:30 am or after 1:00 pm (true).

Own who you are, Goldman. When 17,000 people apply for 332 openings, you’ll do all right. Fortune called it “window dressing.” That’s code for “meaningless BS.”

RJ Morris

I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.