Bernadine Goosen seems to be drawn to working for family businesses

When she is not wearing the HR officer hat, Bernadine Goosen indulges in mountain biking.

Chief HR officer at Beck Family Estates Bernadine Goosen is passionate about digitising HR and taking HR practices to the next level by using data and analytics and different technologies.

 Beck Family Estates, is a leading group of wine and Cap Classique producers, comprising Graham Beck and Steenberg Vineyards, among others. 

“I am really into HR data analytics and how that can add value to businesses. “When I do have spare time I analyse data, look at trends and interpret what the data tells me.” 

She admits that if the opportunity to tap into data analytics had presented itself early on in her career, she would have grabbed it with both hands.

It had always been her ambition to become an HR practitioner, but because her parents could not afford to pay for her tertiary education, Bernadine ended up studying part time.

While she studied part-time, she secured a job at Absa which was at the time known as Volkskas. “I started in the general ledger department, progressed to be a personal banker but did not like it all. I was then fortunate to secure a job in HR.”  She would work during the day and study at night.

After a short stint in a training consultancy business, Bernadine joined Vital Health Foods where she worked for nine months as a Training Coordinator and PA.

A promotion to HR Manager followed and Bernadine continued to work there for ten years. Some of the talent management and employee wellness initiatives that Bernadine was instrumental in designing and implementing led to Vital Health Foods being awarded the “Most Caring Employer” and “Healthiest Company” in the Discovery Health Company Index for two consecutive years.

After ten years of working at Vital Health Foods, she decided to start a consultancy business. “It was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. The Graham Beck family then approached me to manage their HR department.”

Two years ago, Bernadine decided to enrol for an MBA at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB). Her thesis subject pertained to perceptions in the workplace, and it drew wide attention and acclaim in the media, besides rewarding Bernadine with a cum laude pass.  The study suggests that family supportive companies are more likely to be employers of choice and ensure employee loyalty. Also, that companies are likely to reap the rewards of offering a family-friendly and work-life balanced culture.

Bernadine spent most of her HR career working for family businesses.

“I am drawn to family businesses. The Beck family interests in South Africa consist of two wine estates, a boutique hotel and two restaurants.”  She says her job is challenging because she does not use a one size fits all approach because the businesses run by the Beck family have diverse cultures.

“My responsibilities include assessing business risks and making sure that HR policies and practices are implemented accordingly, and that rules and regulations are followed. I also work closely with the different CEOs in the business.”

 She is proud of herself for having been able to adapt and achieve success in different companies and being able to build HR policies and practices from scratch.

She acknowledges that working with people is always a challenge. But her resilience and her ability to adapt have helped her deal with the challenges she has encountered along the way.

For her, a good HR leader is one who listens, is open to feedback and adaptable.

“You must be a leader who leads with the people, and not from the top.”

Beck Family Estates is one of many businesses that were hit hard by Covid-19 as it had to curtail its business activities because alcohol sales were prohibited, and it had to close its hotel temporarily, due to restrictions put in place by the government.

“We are very reliant on international travel for the hotel specifically. We had to think out of the box and be agile. We had to design a different business model and had to be creative in the way that we used our labour. Many employees had to double up in roles. Having a multi-skilled workforce became particularly important for us.”

On the liquor side of business, the company focused on online sales and expanding its direct-to-consumer platforms. 

Being “super” adaptable and “agile at the speed of light,” are some of the things that kept the business successful, Bernadine says.  We also had a huge focus on employee wellness and mental health.

As busy as she is, balancing her time is important for Bernadine who says she and her husband make sure they switch off their electronic devices during family dedicated time.

“We have this rule that at dinner time, we do not bring phones to the table. This discipline is difficult, but I have an incredibly supportive husband,” she proudly states.

When they are not occupying themselves with their careers, the couple spends time outdoors, mountain biking and enjoying nature.