How IKEA ensures a gender-balanced workforce

The Swedish company has just launched its second store in Mumbai and intends to remain an employer that promotes equal participation and opportunities

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IKEA, the world’s leading Swedish home furnishings retailer, has opened its first City Store at Worli, Mumbai, today. This is the retailer’s second store in the city, the other one being a larger format store in Navi Mumbai.

Internationally renowned for promoting equal participation of both genders, the IKEA Worli store is no different. A good 51 per cent of the store’s 170-strong workforce comprises women.

“For us at IKEA, gender balance is part of our DNA. It was one of the bigger challenges in the Indian retail space — a challenge we decided to take head on. Currently, women’s participation in our Indian workforce stands at 46 per cent. We have 60 per cent women in our management team as well,” Lakra shares proudly.

Women employees at IKEA, are involved across all levels of operations —from forklift operators to the CFO of the Indian team, women contribute significantly to the development of the Company.

Lakra asserts that the Company did not acquire special talent merely to bump their DE&I numbers.

Women ambassadors

“Our biggest ambassadors are our women co-workers themselves. When we put up job ads, we ensure that we get across the message about our commitment to providing a gender- balanced workforce. A large chunk of the candidates are inquisitive about this particular initiative. They are drawn by the stories of success they hear directly from the women in the workforce, and are eager to get on board,” shares Lakra.

Equal opportunities

She further adds, “One doesn’t have to do anything different to attract women talent for the company. One has to just ensure that equal opportunities are provided to them. If the playground is equal, one is sure to be able to attract and retain diverse talent.”

Equal participation

“Recruitment is just the starting point in creating and maintaining a gender-balanced workforce,” Lakra asserts. She says that the management has to be really diligent in taking the right measures to maintain equal participation of men and women in the workforce.

For instance, she recalls how IKEA had to cancel multiple training and mentoring opportunities when the balance in gender participation was observed to be disturbed.

Physical and emotional safety

Another commitment that the company is making is of providing a ‘safe’ space for their employees. This includes physical safety as well as a sense of emotional and mental safety at the workplace. She informs that IKEA provides safe commute options to its employees and also ensures that COVID-19 protocols are diligently followed.

With emotional wellbeing of the employees being amongst its top priorities, special initiatives — such as collaborating with mental health and well-being partners — has been taken by IKEA India. “We have counsellors and therapists on our panel to support our co-workers and their families”.

That is not all, throughout the pandemic, IKEA provided online sports activities, in a bid to keep the employees engaged and physically fit. Further, healthy nutritional food is available for the co-workers at the IKEA restaurants in the workplace,” Lakra reveals.

The Worli store will remain open every day from 10.30 a.m. to 9.30 pm.

With the city store format, IKEA can open smaller stores utilising limited and confined urban spaces available. Customers will be able to shop the entire IKEA range (8000-9000 products) facilitated by a well-integrated digital and physical shopping experience.

The store will host three-room sets and inspirations focused on small-space living, space-saving hacks and other needs of urban homes.

Peter Betzel, CEO & chief sustainability officer (CSO), IKEA India, says, “Today marks a major milestone as we add a new customer meeting point in Mumbai, our first omnichannel market for IKEA in India. This omnichannel store format enables us to make home furnishing even more accessible. We remain invested and committed to India and stand by our vision to create a better everyday life for its people.”

The establishment of the new store is just an initiation of the retail leader’s aggressive expansion plan in the Indian space.

“IKEA is heavily committed to attaining a larger presence in the Indian retail market. In the summer of 2022, we plan to open a city store in Bangalore, followed by another one in the city the same year. We also plan to set up two larger format stores in Noida and Gurgaon in the near future”, shares Parineeta Cecil Lakra, country people & culture manager, IKEA India, with HRKatha.

Lakra informs that the Company’s existing employee strength in India stands at 2000 at the moment. “We have a small team for local sourcing, a team dedicated for retail operation and one dedicated for business operation,” she informs.

She also reveals that the Company plans to expand its workforce significantly in the upcoming years. In fact, it expects its employee strength to grow to 10,000 by 2030.

By FY22, IKEA India’s workforce is expected to reach a headcount of 2,700 to 3,000.

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