NAME: Margaret Lazo
TITLE: Chief Human Resources Officer
COMPANY: Univision Communications
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Lazo has brought a contemporary, innovative and structured approach to HR, creating a focus on data-driven decisions, process consistency and a fresh total rewards philosophy to ensure equitable pay and benefits for employees.
QUOTABLE: “I see myself as a player-coach. There are things I do for the leadership team, the CEO, for the business to help drive the strategic agenda of where we’re going, and put programs and processes in place to help achieve those goals. The coaching part is the most fun.”
Univision’s Margaret Lazo didn’t always want to be a human resources professional. While in college, she interned at CNN and fancied a career as a producer.
But a suggestion from an early mentor helped steer her into a career that has been the passion of her life. “It was the early days of cable, a new frontier,” Lazo said of her CNN internship. “After the internship ended, I could either take a PA [production assistant] job or do something else.”
The St. John’s University (N.Y.) communications major chose something else.
At the advice of an early mentor, who said she seemed to have a knack for personnel management (what they called human resources back then), Lazo decided to go down that path, first in the retail business at Macy’s.
“Seven years later, I got a call from a recruiter about a job at WNBC in New York,” she said.
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That started what was to be a 16-year run at NBC, through offices in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. At NBC, Lazo served as executive vice president of human resources for the cable & broadcast entertainment and digital properties, senior VP of HR for Telemundo Communications Group and VP of HR for the NBC Owned Television Stations division.
Managing Media Change
During her tenure, she played a key role during a period marked by high growth in cable networks, digital investment and transformation, the company’s strategic entry into the Spanish-language market, and significant change for the broadcast businesses.
Lazo later moved to GE Capital, where as human resources leader for the North American Commercial Lending and Leasing business, she spent a lot of time outside of the U.S. looking at different businesses. In 2012, she worked on selling off a large part of GE Capital’s portfolio.
“You don’t necessarily take a job thinking that inside of four years you’re going to be selling yourself out of a job,” Lazo said. “But it was a great experience. I look at everything as an opportunity to learn. The tough stuff makes you stronger.”
When her GE stint was over, Lazo started to put out some feelers for what she would do next, and got a phone call to talk to some former colleagues at NBC who were now working at Univision — in particular, then-Univision CEO Randy Falco. Falco had been network president and chief operating officer at NBCUniversal Television Group and headed up online pioneer AOL before moving to Univision in 2011.
“You do leave a piece of your heart and soul in the business,” Lazo said. “It’s exciting; it’s fast-moving.”
Returning to Univision also meant eventually reuniting with another former colleague, CEO Vincent Sadusky. Sadusky, who was named Univision CEO in June, was chief financial officer at Telemundo when Lazo was at the broadcaster.
Lazo said that although she and Sadusky hadn’t worked together in 15 years before he came to Univision, it was good from both perspectives to have a history and a sense of what the other wants.
“Univision is America’s Hispanic superbrand and at the core of our leadership position is our world-class team with unrivaled media expertise,” Sadusky said. “Margaret has a clear and deep understanding that how we treat, compensate and listen to our employees continues to make Univision an employer of choice, a stronger competitor and a powerful advocate for the communities we serve.”
Sadusky came at a time of turmoil for Univision and broadcasting in general, as declining viewership has hurt ad revenue and forced layoffs at many companies. Univision was no different, and in July it laid off about 240 workers, roughly 6% of its 4,000 employees. It is what every HR manager dreads, but it’s also a situation where impacted workers need those professionals the most.
Prepping for the Worst
While it was a difficult time, Lazo said she was confident the programs Univision had put in place in the past prepared workers for the worst.
“I am a big believer that the investments we make in employees in their professional development serve them not only here with us, but anywhere else they go,” she said. “I have benefited from that personally, and I do believe to provide that to your employees is incredibly helpful.”
It’s essential that employees impacted by layoffs be treated with respect and dignity, she added.
“That speaks volumes about a company, in how you handle people in a tough situation as they leave,” she said. “It also sends a message to the remaining workforce that it is about respect and a dignified transition, and making sure that we are constantly thinking about having our employees be best prepared to handle the challenges that come ahead, and encourage them to have fresh, contemporary skill sets and to be intellectually curious, and to think of how they can broaden their experience within the organization so that they can continue to do well and compete and grow, whether it’s here or somewhere else.”
Fortunately, Lazo has also been able to use her hiring skills. Univision has begun refilling the ranks, and was seeking to add more than 200 positions in sales, local TV and digital in the fourth quarter.
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