Ikea India sets sights on diverse ethnicity – Times of India

MUMBAI: What happens when an organisation has achieved the task of creating a gender-balanced workforce? Does it rest on its laurels? No! It begins on a journey to get diversity in ethnicity. That’s exactly what Ikea, which now has more women (over 60%) as leaders than men in India, has set out to do.
The global furniture retailer wants its stores — in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru and an upcoming one in Delhi — to reflect the market it operates in, that is, take into consideration the ethnicity of the population around. Thus, the store would also reflect the customers that walk in.
Globally, half of the company’s co-workers are women. In India, Ikea is close to achieving a gender balance with women forming 48% of its total co-worker population.
In an exclusive interaction with TOI, Ulrika Biesert, global people & culture head at Ingka Group, the parent company of Ikea, said, “Worldwide, I see that we have more women in the pipeline for the future. That’s why I will say, we now need to have growth for men as well.”
However, Ikea continues to keep 50:50 gender diversity as every leader’s goal. Biesert explained that if the company does not constantly monitor and work on it, it has a tendency to fade away. “Now I can see that gender balance is happening by itself,” said Biesert. She added that the company now needs to “win in ethnicity and race”.
Parineeta Cecil Lakra, country people & culture manager at Ikea India, said, “At Ikea India, we define ethnicity in a different manner. We aim to contribute to the development of our primary market areas to build our pipeline of leaders. Currently, 70% of our co-workers have been recruited from localities around our Ikea stores. In the future, we aim to develop leaders and grow talent from these primary market areas, keeping our global EDI (equity, diversity & inclusion) goals in mind. It’ll be slow and steady, but we will ensure that we have a good pipeline so that the teams in the future reflect the markets that we are part of.”
In India, Ikea plans to take the total co-worker strength from the current 3,000 to 10,000 by 2030. Globally, Ikea has over 1.7 lakh co-workers. Under ‘Bloom’, 100 co-workers at the beginning of their career, from a diverse background, go through a fast-track programme to eventually become market managers within three years.
EDI is not a new topic for Ikea, which started on this journey 20 years ago when there were hardly any women in managerial positions. “When we started to expand for more women, there was resistance partly on ‘aren’t we recruiting based on competence any more?’ That just disappeared and the culture became richer. Having only one group is not the best working environment. We want our co-workers to thrive in that work environment,” said Biesert, who admits it’s not an easy task.
“When you have more people from different backgrounds, there might be more tensions. But I believe that it’s good that the tension creates something better for us, as long as we dare to have courageous conversations. If you’re suppressing things, it will not be good. But if we have a climate where one can dare to speak up — which we’re really encouraging — and we work with psychological safety so that people can dare to speak up,” said Biesert.
Among the programmes specifically designed for India, Ikea is offering people the flexibility to work part time. The company has seen a lot of uptake from women for such programmes as also students who want to work on weekends. Ikea has a 5-day work week.

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