Maribel Hines Helps Talent Find Its Voice

Maribel Hines, VP of Talent and Organization Development, Universal Music Group

Slow-cooked carnitas was a main staple of family barbecues in Coahuila. Every Sunday, Maribel Hines and her four younger siblings climbed into their parents’ vehicle to make the five-minute drive from Eagle Pass, Texas, to their grandparents’ home in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, where the carne asada sizzled late into the night.

Hines’s father owned a small construction business, and her mother worked in a dentist’s office. They weren’t particularly wealthy but worked hard and set inspiring examples for their children. Hines didn’t mind when her father presented her with a large piece of cardboard instead of the chalkboard that she had requested when she was 10 years old. It worked just as well for the lessons that Hines—playing “teacher,” and already acting on her desire to help others— taught her brothers and sisters.

As she grew, Hines also developed a healthy curiosity about the rest of the world and a desire to explore new places. She applied to several out-of-state colleges but believed that no matter where she traveled and what she learned, she would always return home to Texas. Naturally, that assumption changed when she met her husband while attending the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she also was introduced to the world of human resources and discovered an instant passion for employee development.

Fast forward a few years through Hines’s work—in employee training at Herbalife, talent acquisition and development at Red Bull, and organization development at Warner Bros.—and her marriage to her college sweetheart and birth of their three boys. Today Hines is vice president of talent and organization development at Universal Music Group (UMG)—the parent company of such iconic record labels as Motown Records, Capitol Records, Def Jam Recordings, Republic Records, Interscope, and many others—and her passion for encouraging others has only grown with her span of responsibility. “It’s a wonderful challenge to consistently apply that passion and connection,” she says, explaining that her purview covers North American development of UMG’s 7,500 global employees.

When she was hired in 2012, UMG hadn’t had a specific position responsible for employee development for over a decade, but people were yearning for it. At the same time, some supervisors were skeptical about development and feared that as employees became more equipped, they would have less incentive to stick around. “To shift that mind-set, I chose to start with low hanging fruit,” she says.

“It was important to realize that I couldn’t change everything overnight.”

UMG is a massive organization made up of individual labels, music publishing, and other businesses that function as their own companies with their own management teams, cultures, and unique sets of expectations. Hines went to work on building a culture of development that would span the entire company. Her goal was to create a culture of growth, education, and unity, and the best place to start was with what she did best: employee development programs.

Hines has been widely recognized in the HR field for creating development programs, one of which is called “LEAD,” a high-potential development opportunity for directors and VPs—rising stars from across the organization. Participants are nominated and selected based on particular criteria and, if they accept, are assembled into cohorts of between sixteen and twenty members. Cohorts go through a six-month experience that begins by getting to know one another and, more importantly, themselves. Individuals are then paired with executive coaches from outside UMG, as well as mentors within the company. Each month the cohort gathers to share and hear from guest speakers from both in and outside the industry, and engage in conversations about leadership in an interactive think-tank setting.

The biggest feeling of fulfillment is knowing at the end of the day that I made a difference in someone’s life by sharing ideas, advice, or simply though our relationship.

Maribel Hines

The whole program culminates in analysis of mini, MBA-style case studies about actual business challenges at UMG. The brightest minds tackle some of the toughest challenges and present their recommendations to UMG leadership, including their CEO. “The goal of the LEAD program is to strengthen and refine leadership skills and provide insights for how they can make a broader impact as leaders in their respective organizations,” says Hines. “Out of the roughly forty people who were in our first two cohorts, twenty-two have already been promoted or had their responsibilities increased, and that growth is a real measure of success.”

The Universal Music Women’s Network (UMWN) is another place where Hines has a significant measure of success. An employee-run resource group within the company, UMWN began with two women based out of the Santa Monica office. Three years ago they asked Hines to support and guide the development of an experience that would create opportunities for women to get together, talk about relevant issues, learn from, and support each other. Thanks to her behind-the-scenes support and guidance, UMWN has now grown to more than five hundred members and four chapters, each run by a small governing board that decides which speakers, topics, and experiences will be presented at monthly gatherings. These boards are intentionally diverse—Hines is proud that each has at least one Latina member—and have been a meaningful way for employees with natural abilities to build confidence and leadership skills.

Another development program that expands on natural leaderships is called “CONNECT,” and is an opportunity for proven employees with bright futures who don’t yet have a significant scope of responsibility. Participants are matched with mentors who coach and encourage growth because, “as a company we must always have an eye on developing a diverse group of talent,” says Hines, who was excited to choose a young Latina as her own mentee. “One-on-one relationships are an important way to do that, and when you’ve built trust with someone and they regularly seek you out, it’s incredibly rewarding.”

Relationships like these are not only essential priorities for Hines but also for UMG as a whole. “Relationships must be consciously built,” Hines says. “Which is why it’s so important to intentionally nurture, model, and make sure that every employee recognizes their own potential and speaks up with their own voice.” That empowerment is a necessary fertilizer for growing talent, just as self-awareness is a necessary step on the journey of development, and both are required for an individual to take initiative. “No matter who you are, what you aspire to be, or what your passion is, you can’t afford to wait to be tapped on the shoulder,” Hines says. “Take initiative. Change it, fix it, improve it; don’t wait to be asked.”

Hines learned to follow her own advice from a young age. “Mija,” said her mother in the Wal-Mart parking lot. “If you’re not careful with your plans, you might find yourself feeling stuck.” It was a poignant observation after being rung up by a young cashier who was pregnant, flustered, and probably full of untapped potential. “What do you want to do with your life that you can be proud of? Go out into the world and do it,” her parents would say. 

That wisdom has stuck with Hines throughout her career. As full-time professional, a PhD candidate, an adjunct professor, a devoted wife and mother, and a proud Latina, Hines’s desire to give back has been sanctioned by her past and reinforced by her present. “The biggest feeling of fulfillment is knowing at the end of the day that I made a difference in someone’s life by sharing ideas, advice, or simply though our relationship,” she says. She may not make her presentations on cardboard chalkboards anymore, but Hines’s natural-born passion for empowering those who raise their hands is as strong as it was on the road to Coahuila.