“Feedback may be hard to take at times, but you’ve just got to flip the switch and understand that you should never stop learning or have areas where you can’t improve.”- Kimberly J. Burton, People Partner, HR Director and Human Resources Business Partner at LEGO Group, speaks to us about developing a career in HR Leadership.
As part of our commitment to supporting candidates to develop fulfilling careers, we’ve invited some HR Leaders to share the secrets of their success.
This week, we had a great conversation with Kimberly J. Burton at LEGO Group, who began her HR career as a Candidate Development Specialist for Yale University. She moved to the LEGO Group in 2008, taking on a role as an HR Consultant before advancing to HR Partner in 2010, and being promoted to Senior HR Business Partner in 2014. She then progressed to her current role, combining this with a role as Senior Onboarding Manager for Western Europe from 2016-2017.
Can you tell us how you got into HR and why?
My career in HR was borne out of my BA in Psychology, and not really knowing what to do with it. I spent five years in the banking industry, but I knew I was going to go back to school to get a Master’s degree at some point. I became immersed in business and running my own branch of the bank, and I realized that the marriage of psychology and business was basically an Industrial Organizational Psychology degree. Working with the cultures of companies and leadership and development of talent sounded great, so that’s what I did.
I moved to the East Coast of the US and got my Master’s degree. I was working in the recruitment area of Yale University at the time, doing an internship which turned into a full-time role after I graduated. It was a good opportunity, but academia is quite slow.
I was then headhunted for a Business Partner role at LEGO after an external head-hunter found my resumé online. It’s an amazing company to work for. By the time I joined, they were on the upward swing of things and seeing tremendous success, but more than that, they were always open to me taking on more. There was no real limit on the positions I took that meant I couldn’t try something new—at LEGO, you have plenty of creativity and opportunity to do what’s best for the business you support. They’ve always had a really good model for a Business Partner role, and I feel like I can just bring myself to work, the same person that I am at home.
The only thing that’s been a constant at LEGO since I’ve been there is change; it’s never stopped changing. I started in an area of the business called Consumer Education and Direct, which covered our direct-to-consumer businesses and educational programmes. I later supported North America’s direct-to-consumer market specifically, and handled a lot of the hiring of store managers. It felt very entrepreneurial and end-to-end.
After doing that for a few years, I took an opportunity in Australia and New Zealand, where they’d never had a HR Business Partner onsite before, and it was an incredible, life-changing experience. It was a very different model from the US, and really good exposure in terms of seeing how operations, marketing, and supply chain worked together to run an entire market.
Once that opportunity had run its course, I decided to move to London to support Marketing and Consumer Experiences. That later became what was called Digital Consumer Engagement, and was a great organization. A year later, we went through another massive change, and I was moved to a role supporting the global LEGO Retail organisation. It’s just been amazing learning in an end-to-end value chain business. The Head of LEGO retail fully expects me to help run the business with him, the Senior Director of Finance, and the strategic team, so that’s been a huge learning opportunity. I’m extending myself even further into understanding the business, but also contributing in ways that aren’t straightforward HR things, yet have an impact on people and their motivation and satisfaction overall.
Can you tell me about the challenges that you’re seeing across the HR sector?
From an HR perspective, for us, it’s just being behind digitally. We don’t have the access to data and insight we would like. There is data out there, but it’s all very manual, and could be vastly improved to give us so much more insight into actions that we’re taking. We have a lot of investment coming into our IT infrastructure, and we’ll see some good traction on that in the next few years.
Digital progress is also important because it’s a key attraction tool. The way that you integrate the digital into your business and the employee experience is crucial. We have an amazing physical product, and we always want to be centre stage, but we’ve neglected to understand the importance of integrating digital resources in different ways that don’t take attention off of the physical product, but maximise the way we get it out there.
What career advice would you offer to someone either working towards a career like yours, or someone just getting started in their HR career?
I think you always have to be hungry to learn, and accept that you do not ever know everything. I’m constantly reading and listening to so many things that inspire me to do things differently.
It’s about embracing the growth mindset; you’ve got to be able to take on feedback, you’ve got to be curious about the business, and you’ve got to see where it will take you. Feedback may be hard to take at times, but you’ve just got to flip the switch and understand that you should never stop learning or have areas where you can’t improve. Don’t take it personally, just get curious and dig in—it’s so much more fun that way.
Kimberly has been working as part of the LEGO Group since 2008, and currently provides HR Business Partnering and strategic support for all HR aspects within the LEGO Education division LEGO Group.
If you are interested in having a confidential conversation about your career or would like support growing your team, please get in touch today.