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David Reyes – LATAM Airlines Group

An HR manager is giving people—and their careers—wings

As far as David Reyes is concerned, the most important part of an aircraft isn’t its wings, cabin or even engines—it’s the people behind the scenes: the pilots, flight attendants and the hundreds of others ensuring the aviation experience is smooth for passengers.

Reyes has been piloting the human resources end of aviation companies for over a decade. In January 2011, he started his career at the cost-efficient airline, Volaris, which serves Mexico, the United States and Central America. After eight and a half years, he was hired at LATAM Airlines Group as the HR manager of Mexico and Central America.

David Reyes | Human Resources Manager of Mexico and Central America | LATAM Airlines Group

David Reyes | Human Resources Manager of Mexico and Central America | LATAM Airlines Group

In this role, he’s helping recruit the best talent for all available positions—but that’s just the first step. He also wants to ensure that those in leadership positions are guiding and supporting their teams. He explains that, at LATAM Airlines Group, surveys are implemented to measure organizational health and leadership. These are in addition to the surveys established by Mexican law.

“These surveys allow team members to evaluate their direct supervisor or leader and the company—and assist us in seeing that the leaders are properly positioned and, if they need help or more training, we can provide that,” Reyes says.

Surveys uplift leadership and others

Although Reyes and his team prefer that all leaders receive glowing evaluations, they take immediate action if the survey indicates that one is struggling in any way.

He and his team create an action plan that includes group talks with and without that particular supervisor or manager. They also determine what caused the issues and how they can be resolved, such as through increased training. They even review working conditions and infrastructure to see what needs to be improved—and to see if the problem is a result not of the leader’s skills but rather the work atmosphere or resources available.

Reyes continually checks and validates the databases as well to make certain that people are evaluating the correct leader. He follows up on responses, analyzes survey answers and presents these results, positive and negative, to leadership at all levels in the Mexican and Central American part of the company.

David Reyes | Human Resources Manager of Mexico and Central America | LATAM Airlines Group

This, in turn, helps them work collaboratively to develop improvement plans, including figuring out what’s functioning well when the survey results are positive. This includes setting key performance indicators such as accountability, coordination and control as well as innovation and learning—and then communicating these to the leaders and their teams.

“These surveys are the best performance measurement of those in leadership positions—how closely they comply with company strategy, how they work and how they communicate with their team,” Reyes explains.

This is particularly important because Reyes believes that team members who are comfortable with their leaders often meet and even exceed their goals.

Diversity in the ground and air

Reyes is paying just as much attention to the teams as to who’s leading them. He’s currently helping the airline’s Mexican and Central American arm reach its goal of having team members with disabilities make up a minimum of 5 percent of its workforce.

“We want to be a company without labels; the only thing we put labels on are suitcases,” he says. “No matter who you are, you are welcome to work with us.”

However, this effort isn’t just about recruiting and hiring those with disabilities, he explains. He meets with executives and directors to discuss how to make recruiting efforts as disability-candidate friendly as possible. For example, when posting about a vacancy, he and his team mention that it is open to people with disabilities; during recruitment, they follow an equitable process for all candidates.

David Reyes | Human Resources Manager of Mexico and Central America | LATAM Airlines Group

Reyes also spends a significant amount of time reviewing the company’s infrastructure to see if it is feasible and accommodating for those with disabilities. This helps “create a workplace and environment in which they are not only comfortable but in which they can excel once they are here,” he says.

Part of the effort is expanding the catalog of benefits for all employees. In 2022, Reyes and his partners all over the world created a Wellness Platform, which allows team members to be aware and knowledgeable about the benefits available in each country; these include discounts in stores, gyms, restaurants and hotels. The platform also provides physical and mental exercises specific to different age groups alongside resources that fit everyone’s needs, like financial tips or meditation.

They also launched “Conociendonos,” a section in the company’s intranet where people are selected to answer five questions that help them share with coworkers who they are at work—and outside the office. A Travel Club was also created, which allows team members to share their experiences around travel thanks to LATAM Airlines.

“We want all our employees to be excited about coming to work and about whom they’re working alongside,” Reyes says. “That’s why we’re constantly thinking of new initiatives that reduce psychosocial risks for the company and keep employees happy and engaged.”

Career lift-off

Of his time so far at LATAM Airlines, Reyes says he’s loved the job since he was invited to apply in 2019. Of course, it hasn’t been easy flying as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived shortly after he was selected for the role.

Aviation was strongly affected, so the company reduced wages and its workforce. It also halted its operations in Mexico for a couple of months and focused its efforts on humanitarian flights and vaccines.

Throughout this time, Reyes and others worked closely with the external counsel of Mercer Marsh Beneficios, a benefits consulting and insurance brokerage with a global network. He says those at the firm help him and his team handle labor matters like life insurance. He adds that they also provide LATAM with a single source for managing costs, risks and employee benefits.

David Reyes | Human Resources Manager of Mexico and Central America | LATAM Airlines Group

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“They are more than our brokers, they are our strategic advisors and help us negotiate with insurance companies to get the best results, better costs and benefits—basically more coverage at the best price possible,” Reyes says.

Having such benefits in place was important for those employees who remained and for the new employees coming in when LATAM Airlines started rehiring in 2021. By 2022, Reyes was implementing new employee projects across the company, such as the Wellness Program.

“The world of aviation has always interested and excited me,” he says. “I’m glad I get to come to work every day and help the airlines and its team excel in what they do and advance their careers.”

View this feature in the Vol. III 2023 Edition here.

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