The Value of Unity During Tough Times in My Home Country of Venezuela
By: María Gabriela Niño, Director, Human Resources, Global Business Services, Herbalife Nutrition
My career in human resources is incredibly rewarding—every day I get the opportunity to work alongside colleagues who share a commitment to our employees and distributors. But it has not always been easy, especially when forces beyond your control can impact the safety and wellbeing of your employees.
For nearly seven years, I was Herbalife Nutrition’s Human Resources Director responsible for offices in Venezuela, Colombia, and Central American countries.
I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, the same city where our office is based at. Venezuela is a country in the midst of political and economic crisis. But despite everything taking place outside our offices, I was determined to ensure every employee was supported, motivated, and cared for under my lead.
Facing Adversity as a Team
In 2017, political demonstrations were a common occurrence in Venezuela. On many occasions, shootings, tear gas bombs, and street fires could be seen and heard near our offices.
In order to ensure every employee was safe, our management team installed a strict security protocol. When riots broke out, we moved employees to a safe place, turned off the air conditioning to avoid gas from getting into our offices, and turned off the lights to pretend we were closed. We then assessed the situation to determine if we would continue working or if we had to coordinate a safe exit from our location.
During those riots, getting our employees safely home sometimes took a long time, but my HR team and local management team always stayed until the last employee left, at times putting their own safety at risk. Only when we were sure every employee had arrived home safely would we leave the office.
Providing a Safe Space for Our Venezuelan Employees
Thankfully, even on the hardest days, none of our employees were endangered. As Venezuelan citizens, we experienced extreme shortages of food, clean water, medical supplies, and even electricity.
Despite all this, we managed to look ahead, focus on future projects, and feel productive and valued. The office became a safe space from the chaos outside. People could see smiling faces, and we always made sure our kitchen had clean water and was stocked with Formula 1 shakes and snacks, to ensure our employees stayed nourished and well fed.
With the help of my colleagues, we generated an atmosphere of trust and empathy, which resulted in 100 percent attendance, even on the worst days. People told me they came to work because our office had become a special place—a haven where they felt motivated, safe, inspired, and happy.
Looking Back at My Experiences and Now Looking Forward
On November 2018, I transitioned from my role in Venezuela to my current role as Human Resources Director for Global Business Services America (GBS), in Guadalajara, Mexico. I’m still responsible for Venezuela, but I also supervise the GBS HR team in Mexico that supports the GBS operations based in Guadalajara for Mexico, Central and South America and the U.S.
My experience in Venezuela enabled me to grow as a leader. As a proud Venezuelan, I admire my people’s extraordinary level of resilience, empathy, and ability to turn problems into opportunities.
It is during tough times when you learn what really matters. For me, servant leadership and trustful communication have always been my professional foundation, but this experience reminded me just how much you can rely on your team if you value them first and empower them to work together.
Strength in Unity and Valuing Each Other
My experiences in Venezuela, and now in GBS, have reinforced my conviction: human talent is irreplaceable. It’s not like hardware, where you can go to the store and buy the exact piece to replace a missing part. Everyone is valuable and adds something unique to the team.
So, if you work with a team, try to create a sense of belonging and a culture of support. When people feel valued by the company and feel supported by people they work with, they want to do their best as part of a team.
And when tough times come – and they will – learn to value each other. Appreciate, recognize, and empower one another. Because even amidst turmoil and external forces, your team will give you the strength to move forward.