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InnerCircle 2022: Burlington Stores’ CHRO on driving success in the first 12 months

Employers 06.22.2022 3 MIN

Leading a corporate people strategy is a monumental task, and coming into the job during a period of on-going social and economic upheaval presents its own unique set of challenges. At InnerCircle 2022, Michael Allison, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Burlington Stores, explained how he balanced establishing a blueprint to navigate tumultuous times while learning the ins and outs of a new company culture.

From June 8–10, HR leaders from across Corporate America gathered at the InnerCircle conference to discuss key strategies for maximizing potential at their companies. In a fireside chat, Michael Allison, EVP & Chief Administrative Officer, Burlington Stores, explored key tactics—like scheduling “skip-level meetings” with employees that report to his direct reports and scheduling dedicated time to really get to know his CEO and their motivations—that helped him drive success in his first 12 months as the leader of Burlington’s people strategy. 

During his session, Michael stressed the importance of emotional intelligence and patience in affecting corporate change. For him, this has meant starting with an emphasis on empathy and introducing changes over time, so as not to overwhelm the workforce.

Michael discussed his efforts to translate the challenges employees were facing into a systematic rollout of positive change. These shifts aimed to help his workforce maximize their individual and collective potential. Michael used his personal capital with the CEO and board to invest in the greater good of the company and its diverse workforce. “DEI shouldn’t be sitting next to the processes—it needs to be woven into everything we do,” Michael said, as he discussed Burlington Stores’ efforts in the field.

For more on DEI and supporting your diverse workforce, check out our guide on what’s missing from your DEI mission.


Key Takeaways

  • CHROs should aim to be a partner for everyone in the organization—not just certain levels or functions.
  • Put in the time to cultivate strong partnerships for the long run. Don’t settle for quick successes.
  • Get to know your company and your employees personally in order to make your own, informed opinions.
  • Create an environment where people feel comfortable enough to give you real feedback. If they’re treating you with kid gloves, it’s a disservice to everyone involved.
  • When you’re new, take the time to figure your company out. Don’t rush into decisions before you’ve had the chance to learn.
  • Treat employees the same, regardless of their performance or how much they’re bringing in financially for the company. High performers should be held to the same behavioral and cultural standards as everyone else at the organization.


DEI shouldn’t be sitting next to the processes—it needs to be woven into everything we do.” 

—Michael Allison


Come in, learn from people, have fun, laugh…You want to be the person, when they see you walking down the hallway, they light up” 

—Michael Allison


Creating a supportive and emotionally intelligent environment was critical to Michael’s strategies for Burlington Stores’ company culture. The changes Michael made were well received, precipitating his quick promotion to Chief Administrative Officer with an expanded mandate. Michael’s session highlighted the driving force behind the ascendency of the “People Officer” role—keeping the focus, especially during times of change, on the people.

The conversation on creating a strong company culture continued in other InnerCircle sessions. For more, check out the InnerCircle website. Contact us with questions.