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Navigating COVID-19 as a CHRO with Bentley de Beyer

Employers 04.22.2020 5 MIN READ


On April 3, Goldman Sachs new Global Head of Human Capital Management Bentley de Beyer joined Ayco for a discussion of his first months integrating into the firm during an unprecedented time, the measures Goldman Sachs has taken to support its clients, communities, employees and their families, and lessons learned communicating with a global workforce during the pandemic.

Bentley came to Goldman Sachs in January 2020 after 20+ years in Human Resources roles around the globe, most recently at Johnson & Johnson. What follows is an executive summary of his conversation with Greg Wilson, Head of Institutional Client Businesses at Ayco.

Click here to sign up for the full conversation and Bentley's presentation on-demand. 


Bentley de Beyer

Bentley de Beyer
CHRO, Goldman Sachs


Starting a new role during a time of crisis

  • In his first months at the firm, Bentley has spent a lot of time learning and listening to the firm’s leadership, people and clients.
  • Bentley shared the urgency in staying close to the pulse of an organization at these times.
  • There is an increased need to be as transparent as possible in terms of the health of the business, the health of clients and the health of the communities the firm serves.
  • Bentley’s team is concentrating its attention on impacting Goldman Sachs’ people and families. Their focus has shifted as needs dictate, sometimes hour-to-hour.

Bentley de Beyer

Bentley de Beyer
CHRO, Goldman Sachs

“I think navigate is such an important word right now because for all of us, this is unprecedented and certainly there are no playbooks here. For us it is really important to just have a great compass, have a true North, and continue to help our folks navigate.” – Bentley de Beyer


Lessons learned from early outbreaks in Asia

  • While many in the U.S. have been thinking about the response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last month, Bentley’s team has been working on Goldman Sachs’ response for months as the virus spread in Asia.
  • Particularly at Goldman Sachs, the Asia-Pacific team have been leading the way in modeling how to work in split teams, adapt to working from home, accommodate family considerations and create robust response plans.
  • Transparency and communication is key, with particular attention to the intensity and frequency of communications. The firm is being very creative around how it is meeting people where they are through creative means.
  • A big “aha” moment for Bentley was realizing the majority of Goldman Sachs’ workforce was experiencing a large scale crisis for the first time in their career. To combat the heightened levels of anxiety amongst the population, Bentley’s team focused on their wellness response in a more substantive way.
  • Communication and storytelling can be incredibly powerful, particularly with 98% of the firm's employees working from home. Storytelling has helped build a strong spirit of togetherness and community amidst the challenge of staying connected.

Supporting our people

  • The HR/people function in companies should be taking a very clear and active leadership role.
  • As teams are out of their normal environment, Goldman Sachs sent a communication to employees consolidating all available benefits and resources in one area.
  • Bentley stressed the importance of listening and learning from the employee population and being agile in addressing their needs.
  • The firm advanced 10 family care leave days to all employees, in addition to other leave available.
  • Leadership at the firm is empowering managers to lead by example, supporting flexibility and understand their team members’ personal circumstances.
  • All of the firm’s learning and development teams have shifted their focus to programs and innovations that help employees manage through challenges and ambiguity.
  • To help employees stay physically and mentally robust, the firm is promoting 24/7 employee assistance and counseling services, mindfulness tools, on-demand fitness classes, meditation and other resources.
  • The firm is keeping employees motivated by focusing on accommodation, staying flexible and highlighting timely stories. These stories show how the business continues to move forward in this environment, especially as it relates to aiding efforts by governments, companies and non-profits combatting the pandemic.

Supporting clients and communities

  • David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, announced the firm will be offering a $550 million small business stimulus package.1
  • The firm expanded its signature Community TeamWorks initiative to include virtual volunteering opportunities with organizations on the front-lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The firm is focused on staying connected to clients and serving their needs. Ayco has played a central role in providing financial wellness resources to clients and their employees.

“‘How are you doing?’ are probably some of the best words to string together in a sentence on every phone call. We’re getting out in front of our clients just to simply ask ‘How can we help?’ It sounds so simple and so blatantly glib and common-sense, but we’ve all been working at an intense rate and I think a 15-second pause is very powerful right now. It’s a moment of connection and caring.” —Bentley de Beyer

The future of work is now

  • Bentley sees a new normal after the pandemic subsides, as pressures have already emerged over the past few years around workplace flexibility.
  • Productivity statistics during the pandemic could accelerate the future of work and flexibility practices, especially as large corporations around the world continue to evolve their approach to working remotely.
  • Instead of being a competitive advantage, flexible work could soon be a base expectation for talent.
  • At a time when environmental considerations have been top of mind, there may be a strong push, moving forward, to evaluate the need for travel when a virtual meeting could suffice.
  • Regardless, connectivity is still at the center of the workplace, but it may be shifting from a physical presence to a virtual one.

“I think the future of work is now. For the past 10 years, we’ve been talking about the future of work. This is the largest global experiment on the future of work that I can ever imagine. Certainly not the way that any of us would’ve liked it to occur, but we can learn a lot about the capacity for folks to work in different locations and be highly productive. The old adages around, ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t be productive’ have been blown away.” —Bentley de Beyer

Click here to sign up for the full conversation and Bentley's presentation on-demand. 




1This amount has been updated as of April 7, 2020.


For disclosures relating to this article, please click here.