At the Blackstone Group LP, nearly half of each year is spent completing the extensive 360-degree review process that examines every employee's performance based on inputs from peers, subordinates and supervisors.
The importance of the process to the New York-based firm is emphasized by the fact that Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman, co-founder and CEO, kicks it off every year, and Hamilton E. “Tony” James, president and chief operating officer, who calls the firm an “intellectual democracy,” works to refine it annually.
The results should provide “an indicator to employees as to how they are doing, what future opportunities (they might have) ... their access to promotions,” said Robin Wynn, Blackstone's managing director of human resources. “It also opens the door to difficult conversations.”
Bennett J. Goodman, senior managing director and co-founder of GSO Capital Partners, Blackstone's credit business, said the system enables people who do the best work to move up quickly. “To have credibility as being a meritocracy, people have to see that it works,” he said.
And employees do. As one employee responding to Pensions & Investments' Best Places to Work in Money Management survey said in listing the best things about working at Blackstone: “Meritocracy — advancement of responsibilities and pay are based on performance.”
One criteria used to evaluate performance of the roughly 2,200 employees is how each one “contributes to a positive culture” at the firm, Ms. Wynn said.
She described the “Respect at Work” program Blackstone has operated for 15 years that is designed to help each new hire understand how the firm expects people to treat each other. Maintaining the culture has been an important objective as the company has hired about two-thirds of the existing staff since going public in 2007.
Other employees responding to P&I's survey wrote: “My colleagues are nice people in addition to being superb at their jobs,” and “Strong culture of the firm based on excellence, integrity, accountability and teamwork.”
Mr. James, who was the executive behind this year's decision by Blackstone to extend paid maternity leave to 16 weeks from 12, said that change was “more the icing on the cake.”
“The first thing we try to do is have this be a great place to work for people who are serious about their careers,” Mr. James said.
“Each individual here has to feel that they make a difference themselves.”
Part of that involves emphasizing teamwork and each unit within the firm has team-building activities that range from internal mentoring to a course on “communicating with impact,” to a variety of volunteer and sporting events, including a triathlon, a Team in Training race to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and charity basketball tournaments, all featured along with other corporate events on the company's Instagram feed.