Goldman Sachs broker retires as he passes away at 98 – is this a record for staff retention?

A Goldman Sachs stockbroker who worked up until his death this week at age 98, had been with the firm since 1933, according to the New York Times.

It reports that Alfred Feld spent most of his career at the company’s New York City office, before moving to Palm Beach, Florida in his later years.

Feld was praised as an “active and tireless mentor to our people, and we have been privileged to benefit from his wisdom, leadership and perspective over the last eight decades” in a memo to staff from Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and president Gary Cohn.

Feld came on board with Goldman Sachs as the Great Depression took hold, and continued beyond the Global Financial Crisis.

His only break from Goldman Sachs was from 1942 to 1948 when he fought in World War Two. One of his qualities colleagues praised was that he stuck with blue chip stocks and was cautious in advising his clients.

But he missed the dot com boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the report said, as he “never understood tech”.

Feld’s story can teach the wider community about keeping knowledge in a company.

“His reputation for sound and conservative client coverage was widely known, and he advised some of the firm’s most significant relationships, many of whom have transitioned through multiple generations,” Blankfein and Cohn said in the memo.

Feld’s length of service to a business is clearly unusual. The Australian Human Resources Institute released a report in September which said 39.4% of members expected staff turnover would stay the same in the next 12 months, 30.3% expected it to decline, while 26.9% expected turnover to increase. 

The survey of 561 AHRI members conducted online at the end of 2012 showed an average staff turnover of 13%, down from 18.5% in 2008.

While Feld held his position for more than 50 years, the AHRI report shows that one in five staff left an organisation because of a lack of promotion opportunities. The second reason was having a poor relationship with a manager, at 16.57%.

Yet when surveyed on what their strategies to retain staff were, only 7.68% of respondents said they improved their approach to career development, fifth in the ranks of retention strategies.

Improving line management HR skills was fourth at 8.01%.

AHRI chairman Peter Wilson told SmartCompany that as the age of retirement increases in Australia, employers will adapt their approach to staff retention.

“With the shortage of talent employers are changing their minds and restructuring jobs to allow people to continue beyond normal retirement age, because they’ve got good intellectual property and they’re still productive,” he says.

He says age is less of a factor now in choosing the right staff.

“The world has changed, where we had terminal paradigms we now have continuous ones,” he says.

Wilson says it is not only good for companies to retain good staff, but it is also good if older people stay in the workforce.

“People do live longer if they’re doing something productive, as well as having good health.”

In the introduction to the report, Wilson said the 13% staff turnover rate was better: “enough to enable fresh blood and renewal, but not so great as to indicate that years of staff investment are walking out the door or that the costs of replacement will be prohibitive and destabilising.”

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