In 2015, Hewlett-Packard Inc. was split into HPE, focused on large business clients, and HP Inc., which would
continue making personal computers
and printers. Despite a stagnant PC
market, HP Inc. has maintained its
status as the No. 1 PC maker and
consistently posted sales gains for
the last eight quarters. However, its
strong market position has also given
competitors reason to try to lure HP’s
executives to their own ranks—that’s
where Margarita Blanco comes in.
Blanco, HP’s director of executive
compensation, joined HP as an HR
management associate in 2010,
completing an 18-month HR leadership
rotational program to gain exposure to
different areas of HR and the business
in the U.S. and Asia Pacific. She later
led HP’s global market competitiveness
group, conducting benchmarking and
analysis of executive-salary structures
and executive leveling for jobs impacted
by organizational-design changes.
Today, Blanco—a native of
Colombia and a graduate of Cornell
University’s School of Industrial and
Labor Relations—leads efforts to
attract and retain talented executives
at HP by shaping its executive-
compensation strategy to ensure it’s
competitive with industry peers. She is
HP’s executive-comp expert, keeping
a close eye on market trends and
advising managers on how to keep
employees productive and engaged.
Blanco enjoys “using strong
analysis of internal and external data
points to support some of the complex
problems, such as retention or
By “complex hires,” Blanco means
executive-level candidates whose current
jobs have compensation structures that
differ from HP’s. In such cases, Blanco
must ensure that HP’s offer takes
those differences into account and is
financially attractive to the candidate,
and that he or she understands the long-
term incentives and bonuses available.
“It’s important to provide them
a total view of all the different
compensation components,” she says.
“Sometimes, just a snapshot is not very
HP’s enviable market position,
along with the intensifying war for top
talent, has put the onus on HR to help it
hold on to top-performing employees.
In response, Blanco led “Project
Upside,” focused on retaining and
reenergizing HP’s top talent. The effort
included structured retention and
career conversations among employees
and their managers and a special
focused on equity. She outlined the
program parameters for the broader
company and engaged with each HR
leadership team member to identify the
appropriate reward recipients based on
a set of key criteria.
Prior to the conversations, each
manager was provided talking points
to guide the discussion, set the context
and ensure employees understood their
critical role in HP’s success. Managers
were coached to listen carefully and
identify employee concerns, such as a
desire for greater career progression,
mentoring opportunities or work/
life balance. The managers completed
a formal retention letter for each
employee and implemented “retention
actions” based on the conversations.
Blanco also developed a
comprehensive tracking process
to ensure all conversations were
completed, risks identified and tailored
retention actions implemented.
“The managers were very excited
to have these conversations and were
over whelmed by some of the responses
from employees,” says Blanco.
One of the important “lessons
learned” from Project Upside, she says,
is that providing guidance to managers
for what could be difficult conversations
made the process more productive.
“This underlined the importance of
having some structure,” says Blanco.
The program was successfully
delivered to 500-plus employees in a
timely fashion, says Elaine Beddome,
HP’s global head of total rewards and
Blanco’s direct supervisor.
Like many companies, HP has
shifted its performance-management
process away from performance ratings
in favor of ongoing feedback and
career conversations among managers
and employees throughout the year.
However, managers can find the new
process—called the Annual Review
Cycle—daunting, particularly when
it comes to allocating rewards and
justifying decisions without the use of a
ratings scale as a guide.
Enter Blanco. She developed a
support model for executive-rewards
planning to back the new approach. To
work around limitations within HP’s
existing HR systems and tools, she
created a comprehensive offline process
to ensure visibility for executives across
total-target compensation. She also
created tools to guide managers in their
equity-awards planning. Blanco met
with all HR leadership team members to
ensure they understood the process.
The support model shows managers
the sum of base salary, target bonus
and equity awards for a given employee
and how it compares to the market in
order to help managers make better
decisions on compensation.
In nominating Blanco, Beddome
cites comments from Blanco’s
colleagues and direct reports, such as
“Margarita never hesitates to roll up
The Comp Explainer
her sleeves to get things done on time”
and “She’s very responsive and action-
oriented, and I appreciate her problem-
solving and collaborative approach.”
“Margarita’s ability to engage,
communicate and influence the senior
leadership and board … is evidence of
her expertise and how well-respected
and valued her judgement is across the
organization,” says Beddome.
—Andrew R. McIlvaine
Director, Executive Compensation
HP Inc., Palo Alto, Calif.
Greatest HR Achievement:
Developing a new support
model to guide managers in
making compensation decisions
after a revamped performance-management process did away
with ratings scales.
Greatest HR Challenge: Helping
attract and retain sought-after
talent in a tightening labor
Margarita Blanco helps executives understand why
working at HP Inc. is a good deal for them.