Cierra Gross Is Revolutionizing HR By Putting Employees First

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Cierra Gross - OnStar - She Knows Tech

Source: Courtesy of Cierra Gross

Cierra Gross is reimagining the future of Human Resources. The HR specialist left corporate America to use her expertise for good — to empower employees from the outside. Gross is the founder and CEO of Caged Bird HR, the first platform to offer independent HR support to individual employees across the U.S.

Founded in 2022, Gross’ company is shifting how we think about HR by putting employees first. It offers various HR services, providing a safe space to address workplace challenges without organizational bias. CBHR consultants help employees understand their rights and equip them with the knowledge to advocate for themselves in the workplace. From handling discrimination claims to negotiating salaries, they allow employees to navigate these complex issues from a place of support.

“We decentralize where and how employees can get HR support. Our vast data set enhances that service,” Gross explains. The company draws from a uniquely comprehensive data set focused on employee experience, which “provides invaluable insights into the employee experience, allowing us to identify trends, make recommendations to address systemic issues and reduce attrition.”

Workplace Trauma

The founder’s journey inspired Caged Bird HR. Gross started in corporate, working in HR at ExxonMobil and Google. “People ask, what was the inspiration behind Caged Bird HR? There was no inspiration. It was a matter of survival,” she says. “When I was leaving corporate America, I had experienced my own workplace trauma that sent me into clinical depression for the first time in my life.”

Gross recognized that she needed a change. She credited her father — “a technologist, entrepreneur and an African American historian” — for instilling a strong foundation in her from a young age. Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, she watched her father single-handedly run his own computer business. “Him being an entrepreneur, I learned a lot of lessons about how business works,” she says.

Because of her father, Gross understood more about technology than most. He also made sure that Gross and her brother understood their roots. “We were taught about African American history and American history,” Gross says. I now recognize that what was an annoying history lesson to me was him trying to protect brilliant Black minds from the ravaging impacts of white supremacy.”

Cierra Gross - OnStar - She Knows Tech

Source: Courtesy of Cierra Gross / other

Caged Bird HR

Having this foundation helped guide Gross’ next evolution. Leaving corporate behind, she decided to meditate on her next move. This was going to be her “Eat Pray Love moment,” she says. “But in true Black girl fashion, I was like, I can’t just exist for a year. I have to be producing something.”

That’s when inspiration struck. As a career HR professional, Gross was equipped to support people going through what she experienced in the workplace. “I was like, I’m sure somebody has gone through what I’ve been through, but they don’t know how to maneuver the situation on their own,” she says.

Drawing inspiration from Maya Angelou’s seminal autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to name her new venture, Gross booked her first client, and the rest is history. “I never took my sabbatical,” she laughs. “It kind of took a life of its own.”

Though she faced complex challenges, Gross broke through and discovered her calling. “To be able to wake up every day and support people — to say that that’s my job has been nothing short of a blessing,” she says.

Growing the Business

Gross says the reception that Caged Bird HR has received so far has been overwhelming in the best way possible.

“The pace of how fast we’ve scaled the business reflects the true need for this service in the marketplace.”

Everything she learned from her father — from running a business to protecting Black excellence — set her up for her journey as an entrepreneur. “Growing up, when I would say, ‘I don’t know how to do that,’ my dad would always say, ‘Well, you know how to read, don’t you?’” she says. “I didn’t know how to build and scale a business, but I knew how to figure it out.”

Life of an Entrepreneur

None of this is easy, of course. Gross admits that work-life balance isn’t really a thing in this phase of life. “I work all day every day,” she says. “I work even when I’m not supposed to be working.”

“I’m willing to forego pouring into myself in this season to pour into others. Often, on entrepreneurial journeys, it’s about instant gratification. That’s just not the reality of it,” she shares. “If you can sacrifice for a short period, you will reap the rewards in the long run. I think people don’t hear that enough.”