Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Paola Martinez Talks Employee Engagement, Her Best Mistake, & More

Meet Paola Martinez, VP of People Operations at Jobsity, which helps companies scale their software development operations by connecting them with the top 3% of nearshore developers. As VP of People Operations, Martinez works to refine and enhance onboarding, employee branding, compensation analysis, talent management and culture. Martinez brings 15 years of HR experience to his role, including transforming HR departments and leading the effort to build HR strategy beyond payroll and basic personnel management in previous roles at international companies.

Paola Martinez

How did you get your start in the field?  

I got started in the field when I decided to switch universities from Ecuador to Argentina. At my school in Ecuador, I was a Psychology major but when I went to Buenos Aires, I was able to switch to a Human Resources major, which was never available in Ecuador. There, I was able to learn the business side of Human Resources. My college professors were HR Managers from the top national and international companies. They presented us with their day-to-day problems, so I was able to learn HR beyond the books and lectures. When I graduated, I returned to Ecuador and started working as an Organizational Development Analyst for General Motors. I continued my career in that function until 2015 when I started my first Management position at KFC and oversaw all HR functions.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?  

I have always been very fond of Dave Ulrich. His book Human Resources Champion has always been a valuable guide because it’s focused on how HR can be a real strategic partner for the business and win a seat at the top management level. 

Also, I have worked closely with, and throughout my entire career, the Lominger Architect Suite. I am very fond of their competency and talent management methodologies. Many years ago, I was certified by Michelle Weiztman and her team on the Lominger Architect, and I have been able to adapt it to many companies, industries, and countries.  

What’s your best mistake and what did you learn from it? 

I have learned from two very specific mistakes. The first one occurred early on in my career when I started to work with line managers and incorrectly assumed that they were on board with HR activities and processes. The Plant Director clearly told me: “We are here to build and sell cars, anything else that is not part of those two roles has to be discussed and a specific time allocated”. From that point on, I learned that everything I wanted to do had to be previously agreed upon with management and built together.

My second mistake was when I started to work at KFC. In Ecuador KFC is a group, it has 22 brands. Each brand has a different type of service, culture, and employee profile. I worked as Corporate HR Manager and I applied all the same processes and activities in all the brands not taking into consideration the audience. I had to quickly adapt and start customizing all of our programs to each type of brand taking into account each of their needs. 

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?  

My favorite part of working in the industry is being able to talk to people from different countries and hear about different experiences and realities. The industry also allows and needs lots of creativity. Traditional HR methods do not work for all employees in this industry. We must be creative and think outside the box, putting ourselves in the shoes of our developers.

I really do not have a least favorite, but if I have to pinpoint something, I could probably say that not being together in an office and being able to have meetings in person, talk in the cafeteria or just have an impromptu meeting. In those types of environments, relationships are formed and problems resolved quickly.

It sounds like through your experience you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here.  

The most important process that we have to work on at Jobsity is Employee Engagement. When we talk about employee engagement, we are talking about the strength of the intellectual and emotional conviction employees feel towards their work, team, and organization. We have to continue measuring employee engagement through our ENPS (Employee Net Promoter Score). Our main goal is to continuously improve our score and increase our Ambassadors. 

We are also working on an employee engagement strategy in the form of a pyramid, where we are creating activities and processes for each level of the pyramid

How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?  

I believe that it has to be the other way around, we as HR have to prove our value to the organization and the company leaders. We have to earn that spot at the table. The way we earn that spot is by demonstrating our value with numbers. All of our objectives have to be marked clearly with KPIs and metrics. Also, our value is clearly seen in the relationships we cultivate with our internal customers. We have to be accessible to all employees and make them feel heard and welcome, while still remaining impartial because we are a part company/part employee. This is better described by David Ulrich HR Roles.

  • Strategic Partner is about the alignment of HR activities and initiatives within the global business strategy and it is the joint responsibility of HR Management and HR Business Partners.
  • Change agent is about supporting change and transition of the business in the human capital area of the organization. The role of Human Resources is to support change activities in the effort area and ensure the capacity for the changes.
  • Administrative Expert is about ensuring the maximum possible quality of delivered services at the lowest possible costs to the organization.
  • Employee Champion is the employee advocate who knows what employees need and HRM should know about it. The employee advocate is able to take care of the interests of employees and to protect them during the change processes of the organization.

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends? 

I believe that the industry will continue to expand worldwide. With the pandemic, all borders were eliminated, and remote working became the norm. This norm was very successful and catapulted many businesses, like ours. Many businesses found the need to dabble in digital transformation and this requires developers to reinforce their IT teams.

Latin American workers have characterized themselves as hard workers and responsible, always going the extra mile. They will continue to be an excellent workforce and their capabilities are competitive worldwide. My hope is that in the future, Latin American talent from different functions, not only IT, can expand their careers globally with great success.

What are you most proud of? 

I am quite proud of my career. I have been able to work in very interesting companies with great bosses. I have had the opportunity to work in different industries: telecommunications, publicity, IT, financial services, plant production, fast food, vehicles, and construction among others. This has broadened my horizons and has also made me very adaptable to many situations. Right now, with my current role in Jobsity, I feel that I am at the pinnacle of my career, and I am very proud of being part of this great company that has a great future ahead.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession? 

For people who want to become a software engineer/developer, I would recommend that they start practicing, doing internships, and helping friends and family at the start of their career. That way they will gain professional experience and not be considered so “junior” after graduation. 

Also, it is very important for people entering the profession and for remote global workers in general to speak different languages. One foreign language in the future will be very common, if one wants to stand out, one should be fluent in a minimum of three languages. 

Anything else you’d like to add? We can talk about anything you’d like to discuss here

Within my HR team, we have begun to make some interesting changes since my arrival. First, we have created two COEs (Centers of Expertise), one for Organizational Development and another for Compensation and Benefits. We are bringing two experts in these fields into the company. With the team in full motion, we will be working on our engagement strategy focused on remote workers, aligning culture and values throughout all of the HR processes, and reinforcing our employee experience.