You need to be forever curious to grow in IKEA: Anna Carin Mansson, Country HR Manager, IKEA, India
With over 403 stores in 49 countries and employing over 149,000 people (2017), IKEA is a household name as far as retail is concerned. The Swedish furniture retail company which opened its first store in India in Hyderabad last month, has employed 950 people directly and another 1,500 indirectly at its store. It plans to hire 15,000 in the coming years as it expands operations in India. Whilst for IKEA consumers, its furniture is synonymous for value for money, ever wondered what values does IKEA look for in its employees?
This is what Anna-Carin Månsson, the Country HR Manager for IKEA India, demystified for us in an exclusive conversation with People Matters. Anna, who has been with IKEA in different HR manager positions for about 23 years and has spent the last four years in India setting up IKEA, shares the Swedish retail giant’s plans for India, what defines the culture at IKEA, and what she looks for in a prospective employee while hiring.
You have spent over 20 years at IKEA since 1996. How has your journey been like and what as per you makes IKEA a great place to work?
For me, both in my role and also as a person, it’s really about the people- the people I meet every day in our stories, in different units, and also our consumers.
“So if you ask, what is it that makes our people so great to work with, it boils down to our vision and our values.”
IKEA has a vision to create a better everyday life. Coupled with that are our key values, which have been there for the past 75 years. We recruit people looking at these values. That means, working in IKEA anywhere in the world, you will find the same kind of humbleness, the same kind of drive for togetherness, the same kind of simplicity. And that’s what has made me enjoy working in IKEA all these years, at several different locations.
What are the three-four core values that define the culture at IKEA?
Coming back to the vision of creating a better everyday life for people, the first value we endorse is that of togetherness. We believe that it’s only together that we can achieve what we are achieving. It also means it doesn’t matter where you come from, whether you have a degree or not-we all believe in the same values. The next core value we stress on is simplicity. We try to keep things simple. We have a simple and flat structure at IKEA, a simple way of talking to each other, a simple way of behaving. Simplicity allows us to focus on our tasks, on the right things.
The third value we have at our core is cost consciousness. We want to be relevant for as many people as possible and we know many people do not have a lot of money to spend on furniture or home furnishing. So every time we create a product, we have to think about how we create value in a less costly way. Also in IKEA, we always go for the new and improved, so modern thinking, bringing in innovation, and thinking differently, is also at the core of our value.
What are some of the values you look for in a prospective hire while hiring for IKEA? Who as per you makes a best fit for IKEA?
We always start with recruiting by values. But the one thing I really look at is the person.
“As a person, does he dare to be authentic, to be himself? Does he dare to reflect and share his failures or things that have not gone so well. No human being is perfect, and during the interview process, we want to get to know you-who are you and what values do you come with?”
I feel many job interviews seem to be only about the things that have gone well but it is also interesting to understand the whole person.
What makes retail an attractive career choice for young people in India? What does it take to build a successful career in retail? What is IKEA’s draw for such people?
Retail in most countries is one of the biggest industries and with a possibility to create a lot of opportunities. In India, retail has a huge potential as a fantastic career opportunity. Also coming back to our values, we believe that everyone who comes onboard IKEA is equally important and is on our rolls-unlike many other companies in retail who go through vendors. We spend the same time and energy in onboarding everyone.
In IKEA, you really have the opportunity to make a career. Starting from Hyderabad, everyone here has a wonderful opportunity to make a career. They can move to another store, take another role, or move to another city or another country. We have so many examples of this happening over and over again in IKEA. And this will happen in India as well.
Did you face any India specific challenges in hiring and recruiting in India? What are IKEA’s expansion plans for India as far as the talent space is concerned?
“The challenge that we have met is really around diversity and inclusion. We really go all in on equality-we want to have a 50:50 ratio of men and women working in all functions and divisions across all levels.”
It’s big all over IKEA but we want to make it bigger and more prominent in India. The challenge is thus to get in touch with all the talented Indian women and make them apply for a job.
About 80% of people who apply are men-we happily take on the challenge to make it a 50:50 ratio. So far we have been achieving this-in Hyderabad store we have close to 48% women. We know it’s possible, as we have met so many talented women. In a couple of years, we will recruit 15,000 co-workers across India, with half of them being women employees. We will have stores and many different touch points for our consumers.
How is IKEA India creating an inclusive and diverse environment for its employees? Can you give us some examples of the policies being followed to create such an environment?
“I think first of all it’s about getting 50:50. Then the second step is to really create the right policies.”
Last year on International Women’s Day, we implemented a parental leave policy as we understood it is important in India. What we are saying that equal is equal, we have the same kind of policy for men and women. So a father who is the main caretaker of the child can avail the same kind of parental leave as a woman. It is our way of saying that we a family-friendly company.
In all our stores, we build day care centres from the very beginning which are fully equipped. So this policy is good not only for the IKEA mother as well as for the IKEA father.
Technology is changing the way we hire and work. How do you think technology will change the future of work at IKEA?
When it comes to the recruitment process, we will see more and more tools coming in. Of course, today more companies already have good platforms for candidate tracking, online assessment, which we have also implemented in India. More and more companies will make use of technology in the future.
But my view is that in the recruitment process, you can never ever take away the human interaction. Because it is also important for the candidate to understand the company and decided if he wants to work with it. Also with technology, the overall the coworker experience, as well as the customer experience I believe, will become more and more digitalized in the future.
For someone who is looking to grow in IKEA, what are the one or two things he/she should focus on? What is your piece of advice to these individuals?
First and foremost, again the focus should be on values. Values for us are at the core of everything. You need to lead and work by the IKEA values.
"And the second thing is to be forever curious-not only about discovering IKEA and all the opportunities it offers but also being curious about your own self."
We basically develop as a professional when we have developed as individuals. So always be very self-aware and build on your strengths.