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Finding the right home can be tricky—whether it’s a physical space or the community around you, it can take years to get a good fit. At Meritage Homes, a leader in the home-building industry, “home” is the key word. It’s what drives success for the company, and it’s what continues to attract executives like Regina Rivera, a director of Meritage’s human resources department.
At Meritage, Rivera knew she had found her place. Today, she uses her expertise in coaching, employee relations, and talent management to foster that sense of home—one of support and belonging—for everyone else at the company.
“The culture here is just amazing,” Rivera says. “I’m incredibly fortunate to work with a group of HR professionals who value each other, laugh together, and poke fun at each other while still having each other’s backs.”
Even during college at St. John’s University, Rivera knew that she wanted to work in HR. “I just fell in love with the concept of business and psychology,” Rivera remembers. “It was an opportunity for me to practice and realize my passion for working with and helping others.”
Rivera’s affinity for HR was only strengthened by her experiences as an INROADS intern at AXA Financial. INROADS is a national nonprofit that helps talented minority students find paid internships in their desired fields of study. “It was an amazing experience,” Rivera says. “I just knew I wanted to continue to work in that field. Actually, my first HR job at Citigroup literally started the day after I graduated.”
In the years since, Rivera has developed a wide-ranging perspective on the HR function, landing positions at Sears, Wyndham Vacation Ownership, and PulteGroup before coming to Meritage Homes. “That’s the great thing about human resources—it transcends industries,” Rivera offers. “I’ve been fortunate to work in five different industries across my career, and to have had leaders who have encouraged me to learn about different parts of the business. It’s not enough to be a functional expert in HR—I need to be able to support every corporate function, and work with all levels of the organization.
As Rivera sees it, being an expert on HR-related policies and procedures is just the “entry ticket to come in and play the game.” If an HR professional wants to be a true business partner, she says, they need to understand the “business of the business.” “What’s keeping your leaders up at night? What are the roadblocks they’re facing? Whether or not you think those problems are HR issues, you have to ask yourself those questions and help the leaders strategize solutions,” she says.
“One of the beautiful things about HR and home building is that they’re both about relationship management.”
About four years ago, a slightly different question was on Rivera’s mind. She was ready for a change, ready to elevate to a different kind of work, and was seeking to understand how she could work closer with professionals on their engagement and career development. When she interviewed at Meritage and the chief HR officer told her that the CEO wanted his legacy to be his people, “it just gave me goose bumps,” Rivera says, fondly. “I thought, ‘This is where I want to be.’ When you know that there is executive-level support, then there are going to be resources in place, a commitment, and an embrace of what that HR function can do.”
As a director of HR at Meritage, Rivera has worked to become a “one-stop-shopping resource” for her people. As Rivera puts it, people come for help and to bounce ideas off her because they know that she has a vested interest in their success and that her sole goal is to help them be a better version of themselves.
Meritage’s executive talent development and internship programs have become her passion, Rivera says. Such programs are a critical means of filling in the talent gap created by the fallout of the 2008 housing market crash, she explains. But more importantly, they allow Rivera to tap into the employees’ potential and follow along with their journeys as they grow and evolve.
“One of the beautiful things about HR and home building is that they’re both about relationship management,” Rivera notes. “And it’s not just about treating others the way you want to be treated, because I think at times we accept less than we should for ourselves. Rather, it’s about treating others the way you want your loved ones to be treated—your mom, spouse, or kids. Tough decisions have to be made, but you can still keep in mind that those decisions are impacting real people.” Operating this way keeps Rivera focused and grounded on what really matters.