Who I am: Kathryn Kendall

23 Oct 2017 By Marianne Calnan

Chief people officer at Benefex

Kathryn Kendall

I can’t stand small talk. I’m very direct and thrive on getting things done, so I struggle with networking. It takes me back to my acting days because you know most people are striving to get something from someone else.

Technology must be used with caution. Employers need to think about employee experience in everything they do, and technology can make that experience become secondary. HR needs to fully understand the employee experience.

I once drove my car into the side of my office. I thought no one had seen because it was very early in the morning, but my then-boss had witnessed every second of it.

Great business leaders have a clear vision of where the organisation needs to go, and are able to articulate that vision to employees so that they understand the part they have to play in delivering it.

I wanted to be a vet when I was a child and, later, a singing vet. I still sing professionally from time to time, as well as in church, because I’m so passionate about it. I never thought I’d have a career in HR.

One of my best learning experiences was my worst job. Staff were treated as numbers, and decisions were very short-termist. The company had a hierarchical blame culture, making for a very miserable working environment. It’s the only job I’ve had that made me not want to get up in the morning. But I now think of it as a learning experience and springboard into everything I’ve done since – it showed me that if you get the workplace culture right, everything else follows.

HR is still so fascinating to me – it blends my love of both maths and English because it requires creative problem-solving. That’s why I fell in love with it.

I hate the phrase ‘work-life balance’, because life isn’t about balancing the two, it’s about integrating them. I want to be an example of it being possible to have children and a high-level job; of course you need an employer that encourages that, but I’d like it to be the rule rather than the exception. My family responsibilities don’t switch off when I’m working, and vice versa.


Kathryn Kendall began her career as a singer and actress, before joining the business world as the University of Portsmouth’s faculty secretary. She went on to work at insurance intermediary BDML Connect as an HR assistant, and at Candyking as head of HR and business support. Kendall joined reward and benefits provider Benefex in 2014, becoming chief people officer in November 2016.

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