Thursday 13 December 2018

'We don't shout about it' - IKEA 'humbly confident' being one of Ireland's best workplaces

Aoife McCarthy, HR Manager at IKEA Dublin
Aoife McCarthy, HR Manager at IKEA Dublin
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

The latest firm to be recognised for promoting diversity in the workplace in addition to providing employees with a range of enviable perks may be surprising to some - but the company has embraced this culture for years.

IKEA is the one of the latest new signatories to the Diversity Charter Ireland, and the act is a "powerful statement" of the home furnishing retailer's commitment to a culture they've cultivated over the last number of years, according to IKEA Dublin HR manager Aoife McCarthy.

"We're so proud that we've done it. It reflects our commitment to ensuring that we support a culture that is characterised by respect and appreciation for everyone’s diversity, celebrating people coming to work and being themselves completely," she told Independent.ie.

IKEA joins another 53 signatories in Ireland, who along with the national charters in 20 EU countries, have committed to the European Commission-supported Diversity Charter.

The companies involved in the seven-point plan have dedicated to building awareness and sharing best practice around the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

But the signing of the charter in store by Ireland Market Manager, IKEA Ireland, Claudia Marshall, is not merely a tick boxing exercise for the company.

"We celebrated IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia) and we raised the rainbow flag and it was a message that we stood for diversity. On the day, employees shared some of their stories of how IKEA supported their journey," said Ms McCarthy.

"One young man has only been with us for around six months, and he shared how the initial on-boarding process and the encouragement from his manager really helped him to be himself. It actually sped up the process of him feeling comfortable enough to come out.

"What we say about our culture is the truth. We may not shout about it all the time, we're just focused on living that day-to-day. We're quite humbly confident."

Over 20 countries are represented among IKEA’s workforce in its Ballymun store and Carrickmines Order and Collection Point, work environments were co-workers are recognised for their diverse talents and encouraged to embrace their uniqueness.

Read more: 'Gender quotas make a difference' - IMF chief Christine Lagarde on workplace diversity

IKEA has celebrated other global events including Human Rights Day and International Women’s Day, priding itself on gender equality.

Of the 700 co-workers in the Republic of Ireland, 53pc are female, while 65pc of those in senior management positions within IKEA Ireland are women.

The figures are benchmarked against a global 50/50 strategy with the retailer also committed to achieving gender equality in all positions, equal opportunities and equal pay by 2020.

"We also think about women who have been on maternity leave and are re-entering the workforce. When those employees come back, we give the benefit of 12 weeks fully paid but they only have to work 50pc of their hours," said Ms McCarthy.

"Coming out of that bubble with your new baby can be so difficult so our benefit is around not underestimating how challenging that can be. It takes time to adjust to your new norm."

Further benefits for parents working at IKEA are a day off for when their child starts school, and a full two weeks off paid for fathers "to encourage special time with their new child".

But all employees - from business entrepreneurs to tattoo artists - are put through unconscious bias training in their orientation, identifying barriers to inclusion and how to tackle those challenges.

In addition to that diversity-driven work environment, they can avail of learning and development programmes, highly subsidised meals and are rewarded with gift cards for special events and Christmas gifts like Kindle and Nutribullets. IKEA also offers stability.

"We only offer permanent contracts, it's so very often in the marketplace that employees don't get that. We are very committed to our employees, they are our greatest asset and we cannot run our business without them."

IKEA Ireland are gearing up for their 10 year celebration and many co-workers still employed at the retailer joined before the store even opened.

The company is currently hiring, with vacancies in the areas of Sales, IKEA Food, Visual Merchandiser, Interior Designer and Logistics.

"We're looking for a positive attitude, and obviously core competency, with a good awareness of diversity. We're also looking for potential at the earliest opportunity so we can nurture that for cross functional career opportunities."

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