Marcus Felder., Blackstone
Marcus Felder, Blackstone

There are a number of ways in which portfolio companies can recruit and retain diverse talent; one of these is to remove the degree requirement for job applicants, delegates at NEXUS heard earlier this month.

As part of a discussion on diverse talent, Blackstone principal Marcus Felder, part of the firm’s operations team focusing on talent at portfolio companies, said: “70 percent of jobs may require a degree, but only 30 percent of the workforce has a degree.

“So there is a mismatch there and there is something we can do.”

In response to an audience question about how to get started, Felder said step one was to identify the talent pools: “Where are these folks? What kinds of training are they getting? What industries are they going into? What are some of the results that these organisations have seen in terms of persistence in terms of their economic mobility path that they have been put on? What types of roles have they been successful in?”

The next step is understanding which department in a company could potentially remove a degree requirement. “We have playbooks for [portfolio companies] that we’ve developed with third-party vendors to say, ‘Hey, step one, here’s how you do it.'”

For companies that don’t know where to start, Felder recommended finding an ‘internal champion’.

“Maybe it’s in your sales group, maybe it’s in your customer care department. Where are there opportunities to say, ‘Here’s a way that we can pilot this, see if we remove a degree requirement,'” he said.

“We then connect them to the talent pool, and over time they will see.”

Felder pointed to one Blackstone case study in which the portfolio company partnered with Year Up, a charity that provides training and employment opportunities. “They have hired 20 people from Year Up in their customer care department. And that relationship has just kept feeding itself.”

Having established a successful pilot, it is “then important to have that champion internally talk about the successes that they’ve had and share it with other departments”, said Felder.

A sense of belonging

Felder was also asked how to foster a sense of belonging among diverse recruits. “Employee resource groups are important,” he said. “They are not the only solution, but they are one.”

Felder’s other recommendation was mentorship programmes. “Mentorship is a huge help in terms of bringing in new sources of talent which may not have the knowledge of what it is like to work in a certain environment.”