The pandemic has been quite disruptive for the women workforce across industries. Balancing the responsibilities towards home, work, family and themselves posed a stiff challenge and was a common reason for them dropping out of the workforce.
Given the Indian situation where women workforce participation is still quite low and with the belief that ‘Equality is a fundamental human right’ and organisations have the responsibility to enable more gender-equal workplaces, IKEA India, part of Ingka Group, is committed to having a 50/50 gender balance across all levels of the organisation. In 2020, IKEA received the UN Women WEP award both at India and Asia Pacific levels for promoting gender equality in the workplace.
Today more than 60% of the senior leaders and close to 48% of IKEA India workers across all units are women. This assumes significance as India is one of its identified growth markets. IKEA opened its first big-format IKEA India store in Hyderabad in 2018, the Navi Mumbai store in December 2020, and recently launched its first city format store in India at Mumbai’s Worli. The company launched its IKEA app in India earlier this year and has an e-commerce presence in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, and Vadodara. Sourcing from India for 35+ years with close to 50 suppliers, it is working with over 45,000 direct employees and 400,000 people in the extended supply chain in India to produce for IKEA stores worldwide. IKEA also works with Indian social entrepreneurs, engaging 1,500+ women artisans to produce unique limited-edition products for its global stores.
People Matters spoke to Parineeta Cecil Lakra, Country People and Culture Manager, IKEA India on the company’s approach towards gender parity in their workplace and the new world of work in the retail sector.
With a strong experience of over 15 years in human resources, a majority of which has been in the retail industry, Lakra has been a part of IKEA India’s start up journey since 2014, contributing to and delivering to the People Strategy, set up of the People and Culture function, developing and growing teams, and furthering the People Agenda for IKEA India year on year.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
On IKEA India's approach towards gender parity in their workplace
At IKEA, we believe that Equality is a fundamental human right and we are committed to having a 50/50 gender balance across all levels of the organisation.
Today more than 60 % of our senior leaders and close to 48% of our co-workers across all units are women. IKEA Worli has 51% women coworkers. To be a truly gender-inclusive workplace, we need to enable a level playing field.
We have been working with a multi-dimensional approach to have an equal platform for our coworkers from recruitment, to equal development opportunities to equal benefits – like a unique six months’ parental policy in IKEA India for both men and women, to internal development and culminating in commitment to have Equal Pay.
When it comes to being made to choose between taking care of your child or working for our women employees, we tackled this by providing our employees with a daycare centre at our stores.
IKEA's strategy for retention/safeguarding employees during the pandemic and in times ahead
Our biggest brand ambassadors are our coworkers. When it comes to hiring as well, we are consistent in our commitment to gender equality, and all our messaging aligns with this. And when you level the playing field by providing equal opportunities for both men and women, you will attract and retain employees. For example, we don’t believe in the contrasting concepts of paternity leave or maternity leave. We have parental leave. So, if you are a man or a woman, you are both eligible for 6 months of leave to look after your child. Whether you are a single parent or have adopted a baby, we believe that you are equally eligible for this benefit.
We also want to provide our coworkers with a safe workspace. One of our key values is ‘togetherness’ and we aim to ensure every coworker feels like they belong at IKEA. From a COVID-19 standpoint, we have ensured all our coworkers and their families have access to vaccination. In a physical setting, they are provided with PPE kits, hand sanitisers, and overall adherence to protocols. We also have a shuttle service to ensure both men and women at the workplace can travel safely from home to work and back.
We are very committed to how our workforce develops. We also keep a close eye on how our employees, both men and women, are developing in coaching, mentoring, and training programmes to see where we can help them improve and where we can further their strengths. We have cancelled training and leadership initiatives if we don’t have an equal number of women. Because it is not just about hiring, but also implementing equality across all levels.
On The New World of Work in the Retail Sector
The pandemic has affected us all in the last two years and the retail sector has been going through different phases of ups and downs. We are slowly seeing signs of recovery in the economy. However, there is still uncertainty and the need to remain careful and agile in the coming time, keeping the safety of our coworkers and customers as our highest priority.
The retail sector accounts for 10% of India’s total GDP. The pandemic had impacted this sector in its initial stages owing to restrictions, however over time, with retailers finding new channels, especially online to reach customers, the sector saw an uptick.
According to a recent report by NASSCOM, the Indian retail sector is likely to generate 2.5 crore new jobs by 2030. IKEA has been expanding its digital footprint and with its ambitious omnichannel expansion plans in the coming years, will create more jobs. By 2030, we will employ over 10,000 coworkers across all Ingka units in India, with 50:50 gender diversity across all levels.
On Employee Wellbeing
We are embracing emotional wellbeing for our coworkers, as we recognise its importance. From a coworker wellbeing perspective, we have partnered with wellbeing partners to provide them as well as their families access to counsellors and therapists, which is supported by the organisation.
An important campaign to mention is our global campaign called ‘Are you okay?’ where we trained ourselves as coworkers to look out for signals among coworkers, support each other and ask them the simple question, “are you okay?” This was also met with appreciation as coworkers shared that this communication allowed them to open up and express when they weren’t doing okay.
IKEA India's Expansion plans
We have one more City Centre Store which will open in Mumbai during FY22. The third big-format IKEA store will open in Nagasandra, Bengaluru during FY22. In parallel, we are also exploring other potential cities that we can enter with an omnichannel approach to meet 200 million people by 2025.