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Global HR Impact

Dennis Alvarado MPS Global HR Impact

Dennis Alvarado, MPS ’18, spent two weeks this summer on Cornell’s Ithaca campus for a course in the Master of Professional Studies degree program, which is helping him drive outcomes on the job.

He is a managing director and global human resources executive with Nuveen — a TIAA subsidiary with 3,000 employees globally. Nuveen manages close to $1 trillion in assets. Fluent in English, Spanish and French, Alvarado is a natural in the international business setting.

He has been an HR practitioner for over 30 years.

“At this stage of my career, I realized that an academic foundation would build upon my work as an HR practitioner and deepen my HR strategy work. The MPS program based in New York City was a perfect match for my career needs.”

Alvarado has a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in economics and languages, an advanced diploma in coaching and professional development from New York University, and certificates of study in equal employment law, management and labor relations.

On the job, he yearned for a deeper understanding. “I was always curious about why we have HR, why we have unions, what are the legal implications of what I was executing on daily and how can statistical knowledge be better leveraged day to day. I found components of these aspects in the graduate studies.”

As a coach, Alvarado has focused his practice on developing diverse talent. Coaching diverse leaders has been one of the highlights of his professional career. He says that with such a strong focus on organizational diversity, it is important for all leaders, but particularly for diverse talent — to build credibility and trust.

Across the organization, you must develop a culture that benefits everyone; there is often a lot of focus on leaders at the top, he said. “It is a missed opportunity to not focus on your foundational employee base — the larger part of your organizational pyramid.”

“When you coach, train and develop employees … that will trickle up. You need to coach both leaders and employees to meet in the middle at some point. Your talent at the bottom will rise,” Alvarado said.

Previously, Alvarado served as a director and HR business partner with the global investment management firm BlackRock. He was responsible for providing HR leadership to the Latin America and Iberia regions, where he collaborated with senior leadership and management teams on both developing HR strategy and driving initiatives across the region.

He describes his time at BlackRock as the catalyst for wanting to learn more about the foundational aspects of HR. “When you are part of an organization like BlackRock with a driving culture and very smart, innovative people, you are challenged to remain current. I knew it was important to gain more of the formal knowledge underpinning the HR function. The Cornell ILR MPS program was exactly what I needed.”   

Before BlackRock, he was with HSBC and served as a vice president and senior HR business partner, supporting the Global Banking and Markets business in New York City and throughout 12 Latin American countries. Earlier positions included senior HR roles at NASDAQ OMX Group and Prudential Financial, where he spent several years in London supporting Europe and Latin America.

“I have spent the majority of my career in global organizations supporting global teams. In addition, I have learned the importance of considering the local-global paradigm. When organizations roll out global policies, it must be respectful of the local relationship to those policies. You have to be open and flexible to change course as the needs of those cultural differences arise.”

When integrating non-U.S. and U.S. businesses, the HR function has to be considered holistically. We review the components of the HR strategy — talent acquisition, compensation and culture — before executing on the strategy, he said. ”For example, a Latin America HR strategy around developing talent complements the corporate strategy, but it also takes into account the nuances of being in that local marketplace. Not doing so will lead to a negative outcome. ”

Technology and innovation have played critical roles in advancing the HR function. Organizations possess a great deal of confidential employee data; while it cannot be disseminated externally, it can be used in-house to help advantage change, he said. On one project, Alvarado helped create and implement an onboarding global strategy that improved time-to-hire by 30 percent and produced significant cost savings. 

Using HR analytics to evaluate and demonstrate worth within an organization is an important component of how HR adds value, he said. Facts do matter, whether its employee engagement or retention, it is important that we not only get the numbers right, but also fully understand their meaning and impact, Alvarado said.

“On a weekly basis, I sit with HR analytics to make decisions and recommendations on recruiting, hiring and who is leaving the organization. The data can even predict who is going to be attracted to the firm, how long they are going to stay, what kind of roles they will be successful in, and what their individual needs are in order to be successful. When we aggregate the data, we see patterns emerge that can then help us develop training programs, recruiting strategies and to build prototypes of the types of talent the organization needs. All of that happens through the use of data.”

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