Culture fit is a critically important element in LEGO’s hiring process, according to its local HR head, who said the company puts final candidates through a “top secret activity” to get them out of their comfort zones and assess their ability to think outside the box.
The activity, which involves LEGO bricks, quick thinking and “having some fun” helps determine how proactively candidates think and act and how adaptable and flexible they are, said Kimberly Burton, HR manager for LEGO Australia & New Zealand.
“You’ve got to be smart; we’ve got a lot of smart people working here,” she said.
“And you have to be willing to speak up; you have to be okay with challenging your leader because our leaders expect that and they want it.”
As part of the hiring process, she also said final candidates often do a presentation to a panel of LEGO employees to demonstrate subject matter expertise in the role they’re applying for.
“So sales individuals are normally very competitive and individually focused, for example, but in our sales teams we look for them to be more collaborative to partner and work with their teams, rather than undercutting others”
“There has to be a high work ethic. It sounds so cliché but we are a work hard, play hard organisation. We’re a high performance team; we expect a lot out of our employees but we want you to have fun while doing it.”
Burton said prospective LEGO employees also have to be willing to have fun as it is one of the company’s values: “They’ve got to have personality and a bit of a sparkle in the eye,” she said.
Barbara Walton, director of global recruitment for LEGO, said culture fit is “a very, very critical component” of the recruitment process and that the ability to collaborate is something else they look for in recruits.
The Danish-based company has inherited a number of characteristics specific to the country, such as a non-hierarchical structure – which translated into a very flat organisation in LEGO.
“So we look for people who are going to embrace the concepts around collaboration,” she said.
“We say ‘it’s not ego, it’s LEGO.’ So sales individuals are normally very competitive and individually focused, for example, but in our sales teams we look for them to be more collaborative to partner and work with their teams, rather than undercutting others.
“So it’s a different kind of sales person that we look for in order for them to be successful here. It’s all about bringing everybody together for the cause,” said Walton.
5 tips for improving culture fit
Kimberly Burton, HR manager for LEGO Australia & New Zealand, shares her five tips for improving culture fit:
- First, collectively decide on what your company culture is and which aspects are most important for success. Determine which the “global commonalities” are and what your own local idiosyncrasies are.
- Focusing on the job description isn’t enough. We include the hallmark frameworks (values, competencies, brand framework) of our company as a foundation for our job interviews.
- We include an activity unique to the LEGO brand. It’s top secret, but I can tell you it involves LEGO bricks, quick thinking and having some fun.
- Learn from your mistakes. Every HR professional has made a bad hire. Take the time to reflect where you went wrong and amend your process accordingly.
- Company culture can be just as hard to put your finger on as articulating why you have a bad feeling about a candidate. If you have a gut feeling about a candidate, trust that your feeling is right.
See the next issue of Inside HR magazine for the full story on LEGO and how it has built a culture of innovation.