More Than Just a Job: Marcus Felder on Blackstone’s Career Pathways™ Program
At Blackstone, we view our investments as partnerships—opportunities to help companies identify and implement operational interventions that will position them for lasting success to create investment value.
That mindset also informs Career Pathways—our program for Blackstone portfolio companies that provides them with the tools and resources to recruit, retain and advance employees from diverse and historically under-represented communities. These include individuals without college degrees, people of color, alumni of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and disabled people, as well as veterans, their spouses and caregivers.
Global Head of Private Equity Joe Baratta launched Career Pathways after observing how exclusionary recruiting patterns can gradually develop when companies hire from a limited talent pool. His board service with Year Up—a nonprofit that helps young adults reach their full potential through career opportunities—underscored just how much companies benefit from tapping into a more expansive talent pool. Seeking out and supporting employees from a wide range of experiences, identities and backgrounds not only helps companies solve the talent shortage, but also strengthens their outcomes by connecting them with perspectives they might otherwise overlook. Joe knew Blackstone could play a significant role in closing the opportunity gap and connecting companies with fresh sources of talent, and that conviction drove him to champion and serve as executive sponsor of our program.
Career Pathways connects our portfolio companies with Year Up and similar organizations to help recruit diverse and historically underrepresented talent—but that’s just the beginning. It’s not enough to get this talent in the door. We help participating companies— even those that already have a diverse talent pool for entry-level roles—identify strategies to build an inclusive environment so that employees from all backgrounds and identities can have a sense of belonging and opportunities to develop long, purposeful careers.
Great Wolf Resorts
Great Wolf Resorts, which operates family-oriented entertainment resorts, has partnered with Career Pathways to launch several new initiatives including:
- Working to build a new Management and Development program that recruits from colleges and universities, including HBCUs, and partnering with community-based organizations (CBOs) like Habitat for Humanity affiliates to identify other top talent from historically underrepresented backgrounds
- Creating a calendar of events and activation plans designed to foster inclusion and belonging
- Upskilling and supporting diverse talent so they can transition from stepping-stone to middle-skills and management roles at several of its lodges
- Hiring the company’s first Inclusion & Diversity Programs Manager to drive Career Pathways and advance broader DEI initiatives
What drew me to my role at Blackstone was the firm’s commitment to designing this program to follow the entire talent journey. Before joining the firm, I worked at the Posse Foundation, a nonprofit that identifies and equips young leaders from nontraditional backgrounds for success in college and beyond. While there, I helped our college and university partners recruit, enroll and graduate military veterans— a remarkable applicant pool that many universities fail to fully tap into. My work there showed me that you couldn’t just enroll a student and then walk away if you wanted to set them up for success. Instead, you had to stay connected with them throughout their college careers, supporting them by creating a strong sense of community and providing meaningful mentorship opportunities.
Blackstone’s long-term investment approach meant that it likewise recognized the importance of developing a program that portfolio companies could use to drive employee retention and advancement, which can ultimately lead to company success and create value for investors. Joe and I were aligned on doing more than just broadening the talent pipeline. We wanted the program to help amplify our companies’ reputations as employers of choice for diverse and historically underrepresented talent—the kind of places where people from all backgrounds actively apply because they know they will be fully supported in environments that are conducive to them doing their best work. This inclusive culture can accelerate our companies’ growth and generate lasting value for our investors.
We piloted Career Pathways in 2020 with six portfolio companies and we’re pleased to share that they’ve already made significant progress. Our pilot portfolio companies worked with us to implement changes to improve the inclusivity of their hiring and advancement practices, such as working with our partner organizations to recruit new employees and developing company-specific recruitment pages that highlight their participation in Career Pathways and their broader commitment to DEI. These changes have resulted in hundreds of hires and promotions of historically underrepresented talent.
The success of this pilot cohort has propelled Career Pathways to its next phase of growth. In 2022, all portfolio companies will have the ability to assess their DEI maturity and we plan to expand the pilot cohort to include 15 portfolio companies. We plan to help participating companies identify and improve on their DEI growth areas. We will also widen the program’s focus from entry-level roles to lateral hiring into mid-level roles and advancement from mid-level roles into more senior roles.
I’m thrilled by the early success we’ve experienced so far and excited about realizing this program’s full potential. Blackstone is in the business of building companies that last, and I’m looking forward to helping all our companies continue to foster cultures where talented individuals from historically overlooked groups seek to join, stay, grow and thrive.
Marcus Felder is a Vice President in Portfolio Operations. He will be leading several strategic hiring initiatives with Blackstone’s portfolio companies. These initiatives include The Career Pathways program, which identifies, attracts, and recruits young adults from underserved communities for opportunities across the Blackstone portfolio companies.