Meet the Experts: Yolanda Talamo, Chief People Officer at Heineken on The Role of HR

Gaining insights from industry leaders and their experiences is a fundamental aspect of the Master of Science in Human Resource Management program at FIU Business. Professor Christopher Altizer interviewed Yolanda Talamo, chief people officer at Heineken, who graciously shared valuable insights, which are presented below.

“I graduated as a psychologist in Caracas, Venezuela, and I got my first job at Procter & Gamble there. I started in the marketing area and did that for about four and a half years. Then I changed to human resources, and Procter & Gamble sent me to Cincinnati in the U.S. I ended up working 18 and a half years in the company, with various roles in different regions and global positions. It was an incredible experience and training ground.

After leaving P&G, I joined South African Breweries as the head of human resources for the Latin American region. I moved to Miami for this role, which allowed me to reconnect with my Latin American roots. After working with them for about four and a half years, an acquisition took place, and I decided not to continue with the new company. That's when I moved to Heineken.

At Heineken, I took on a similar role reporting to the regional president of the Americas. However, this position had a broader set of responsibilities, overseeing the entire Americas region. It was an exciting continuation in the same industry but with a different company, culture, and presence in various countries. At Heineken, I had the opportunity to work with every country in the Americas region. After becoming chief people officer, I relocated to Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The field of HR has evolved significantly over time. It has moved from being seen as an administrative and personnel function to a more strategic and comprehensive role within organizations.

HR professionals now play a crucial role in various areas, including talent management, inclusion and diversity, engagement, performance management, crisis management, and cost discussions.

The HR function, or as I prefer to call it, the "people function," requires you to be a good listener, show empathy, drive engagement, and offer support. We must be part of the winning team: making the right decisions, planning for the future, and courageously executing those plans.

It is about striking a balance between understanding the business and driving expertise within HR.

To be effective in HR, professionals need to develop skills and experiences in key areas such as:

  • listening strategies
  • talent management
  • performance management
  • compensation
  • culture-building

There is a need for both generalists and specialists within the HR function, and individuals can explore different paths based on their strengths and passions.

For those entering or working in the HR field, it is an exciting time with tremendous opportunities.

HR professionals are at the center of driving organizational success, especially considering the current landscape with new ways of working and evolving employee needs.

Embracing this moment, preparing oneself, and being exposed to different experiences and challenges will better equip HR professionals for their roles and future endeavors.”

If you’re passionate about becoming an expert in the field of human resource management, you can learn more about FIU's Master of Science in Human Resource Management by visiting the program page.