For Andrea Kane, ending up in human resources was a happy accident. When she was first accepted into the industrial and labor relations ILR School at Cornell University, she intended to become a lawyer. However, since the curriculum was also catered to other career tracks, she was able to learn more about various industries, and she found a home in HR. Thanks to summer internships, she was able to work with top companies as they navigated people-related crises, and she knew it was the right spot for her.
She was right: her impressive resume includes gigs at PepsiCo, NBC, ADT, Belkin, and many others. For the past three years, she’s been the chief human resources officer for Cinch Home Services, where she directs the talent management process, internal training, employee development, and more.
Kane spent time chatting with The Ladders to discuss everything from managing company-wide projects to finding that infamous work and life balance as an executive:
What are the trends you see within your industry currently?
The biggest trend right now—and one I don’t see going away anytime soon—is the importance of flexibility. Employees, and potential candidates, have seen the dramatic shift the world has made to virtual work and the ability to do so has elevated the importance of flexibility in a significant way. People are looking for remote options, flexibility in their hours, and the ability to take time off for personal life when needed.
Another shift I think we would benefit from, though I don’t foresee it necessarily happening, is the move to a four-day workweek. Many people are already working 10+ hour days, so this wouldn’t necessarily impact the 40-hour workweek as we know it. It would provide additional flexibility to those who need it most.
How would you describe your company culture?
Our associates in a recent survey described Cinch as a fast-paced, challenging, but fun environment that emphasizes and values innovation. As such, employees at all levels are encouraged to share new ideas.
What can a job applicant do to catch your attention? What stands out the most to you?
I like seeing that a candidate has done their homework. This means a thoughtful, well-written cover letter that demonstrates not only an understanding of the company but also their potential role and what they bring to the table. Especially in this current market, where many are looking for work, candidates need to make the extra effort to make sure they stand out from the crowd. This doesn’t always mean having the best fit in terms of experience. Still, it does mean considering how your experience and skills translate to the position you’re applying for, even if you have to get creative in how you make that connection.
What’s the most challenging part of being a leader/manager? What’s the best part?
When it comes to leading from an HR perspective, the most challenging obstacle is when employees do not accept open and honest feedback. This kind of denial often stunts their growth and limits their opportunities.
Helping people achieve their fullest potential is the greatest satisfaction of all for me. As we all know, it’s never easy to get where you want to go, but if you put the time, dedication, and importance on it, you will get there.
What’s your advice for tackling big projects at a company-wide level?
In any company, to handle a major project, the group must be proactive in their planning and determine the outcome they are striving to achieve. This means developing a game plan from the start that outlines clear roles, responsibilities, deliverables and milestones. If the entire team understands the desired outcomes, who is responsible for what part of the project, what resources are being made available to succeed, etc., then there is a much higher chance of having the project go smoothly.
How do you keep your staff motivated? How do you motivate yourself?
For both myself and my team, I’ve found that prioritization, and even more importantly, the ability to reprioritize (and deprioritize), is key to remaining motivated. When tasks pile up, or when unexpected matters pop up from one moment to the next as they tend to do in the HR field, one must be able to take a step back and reevaluate which tasks are immediately essential and which are less urgent. When we can de-prioritize as needed, it helps keep the feeling of being overwhelmed at bay.
Adjusting to unexpected situations is a common reality in HR, and being able to consider the importance and expediency of the tasks on your plate is a vital skill not only for myself as a manager but also for my team. The tendency I’ve seen over the years is for tasks to just pile on top of one another, rather than any being taken off. Leaders must understand that they can’t expect their teams to get an entire day or week or month of work done while also handling the inevitable fire drills that pop up over that course of time.
How do you find a balance between work and life demands?
Work and life balance are deeply intertwined; there is no way to have a 50/50 balance all the time. This means that some days personal life matters come into to play during your work time and vice versa, in the end it comes to a balance. One way I’ve learned to manage this balance is to build in scheduled break times to take care of personal items. Here is another area where prioritization and reprioritization are important.
It’s also key for a company to encourage a culture of transparency when it comes to work and life balance. When employees can be open about needing time to handle personal things, it takes the stress out of the situation. Overall, at Cinch, we aim to create a transparent culture where people feel free to talk openly about the flexibility they need outside of work without losing sight of their job goals and the company as a whole.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a POC in this industry?
I am fortunate to be in a position where I can rewrite the script. Being in a place of influence means that I’ve always felt like I have the agency to change where it is needed.
How do you feel about the current climate in America right now regarding race? Is it changing your work culture?
Rather than changing our work culture, I think the current climate has simply brought a heightened awareness of the situation. As the CHRO, it’s always been important to me to operate with a diverse and inclusive mindset, and that concept is now more prominent than ever.
I believe that when a company values diverse perspectives and varying points of view, they will inevitably foster a workforce whose demographics are diverse as well. It’s beyond race, gender, sexuality, religious beliefs or other identifying factors, and it’s more about simply being mindful of those around us, treating one another as human beings and individuals regardless of what “category” anyone may fall in, and genuinely valuing and inviting diverse perspectives. For us, this was one of our top-rated Engagement survey scores this year.
Critical to this culture, however, is that it begins from the top. Our entire C-Suite level not only verbalizes but also actualizes this message of welcoming and encouraging people and ideas from all over because the best ideas can come from anyone and anywhere—it’s part of our DNA.