"I learn a lot from our younger people"
Tania Espíndola, HRBP Regional Sr. Manager, oversees this area for the entire Northern Region. Today, she shares her vision of the current role played by Human Resources and her approach to team management.
Tania Espíndola, HRBP Regional Sr. Manager, has been working at Tecpetrol since 2018. Today, she’s in charge of the Human Resources area across the entire Northern Region, which includes Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador. Based in Mexico City, her team is spread out, which conditions the role she plays, and she also has to take into account each country’s own particularities and regulations. These factors mean prioritize she prioritizes building close relationships with her team, one of the hallmarks of her leadership. The mother of eight-year old Alonso, Tania balances the demands of her job with the ability to enjoy free time with her family to the full. She says of her work that, “It's about a joint effort to build the place where we want to be,” a comment on which she expands in this interview.
What does your daily work consist of?
The Human Resources sector is split into different areas, such as personnel administration, talent attraction, training, and compensation. Here, in the Northern Region, I can safely say that we’re experts in handling all of these areas, including aspects such as performance evaluation, and identifying those individuals with high potential so that we can take all the actions required. In Mexico, we deal with the issue of labor relations, so I’m in constant communication with the authorities and trade union organizations. Although I have some of the local delegates on my team, I deal with certain issues in person because of their sensitivity, or because they could have an impact on the business. My team members are extremely well prepared and it’s important for them to have the freedom to act, learn and have their own experience on the front line, but there are certain things that I manage myself.
How do you define the impact of human resources on results?
We manage the people who make business results possible. Inasmuch as each person feels heard within the company, they will make their contribution in a positive way. In situations that depend on HR, the key is to focus and channel your energy into whatever is up to each person, without being distracted by other issues, such as when we have to handle all the life changes that expatriates have to deal with. As long as you don’t minimize situations, people tend to feel part of the process, and in the end this is reflected in their actions.
Do you think there has been an evolution in HR as a whole?
Yes, indeed, as the role of Human Resources has changed a great deal. Today, it’s on us to act quickly, be aware of what’s going on and be close to people. A leader must be close not only to their team but also to the people to whom they provide a service. I talk about this constantly with my team: we’re facilitators, we have to always be looking for ways to help, and when we have to say ‘no’ to someone, find the best way of conveying that message.
You take action in specific situations, but also propose initiatives...
I think the +d program (more diversity) is wonderful. I find it very enriching to see how it’s grown and how it’s being handled in this new stage. Today, at Tecpetrol, we are far more agile when it comes to resolving issues, and we use the results of opinion and pulse surveys to help us develop different actions. This also takes us out of our routine administrative work and is how we get involved and start to understand what’s happening with people. We work in harmony with the Allies of Change, the people in each of the work teams who collaborate with us about how people are feeling and what they think, as it’s all about making a joint effort to build the place where we want to be.
How do you notice that change?
Well, these are things that people used not to talk about before, and all we knew was that we were working with different cultures. Today, these are subjects of conversation, and we’re fully aware that we have to understand different ways of thinking, even of living. I remember, when I arrived at Tecpetrol in 2018, being quite struck by the fact that people told me, ‘That’s how we do things around here.’ So I said, OK, but we can do them differently. They were very taken up by the culture of the organization, very structured, and that’s all fine. I am a faithful believer in the rules, I know they’re important, but there were things that could be updated and little by little we did it. Today, I no longer hear that comment, because there’s been a very strong change in management, in culture, even in leadership style. Today, each boss has to take charge of their teams and we are allies for them and work together. There’s a different work dynamic now, where the proposals you make to change something are listened to. This has happened over the last five years at Tecpetrol.
So, what’s still left on the to do list?
We’ve still got many things to work on, but I’m always hearing comments and remarks, even in meetings at department level, that are very gratifying, and that’s something that didn’t happen before.
What did you personally learn from this change in diversity?
The truth is that, just because we’re in Human Resources, we don't know everything and it comes as a surprise to see how much you can learn from a diversity approach. When I talk to younger people, I learn a lot about how they see things now... and I'm not that old! I listen to them and understand that they have another way of thinking: they want things quickly, so if you’re going to give them a course, it should be as soon as possible. This means handling requests quickly and paying attention to how we behave. Sometimes, they make a simple comment that perhaps our generation didn’t see things like that, but we are increasingly sensitive, for example, to microaggressions, so we held a workshop on this topic.
What would you say is your leadership brand?
I try to be as close to the team as possible, to understand each person’s own context, because trust is forged through that closeness. I want my team to trust me to know whatever situation they’re going through in each of the projects. I also like to be a good example, having consistency between what you say and what you do. That is a mark for my work and in my personal life.