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18 May 2022

“We knew we had to do something – we didn’t want to wait” – IKEA Poland’s work finding jobs for their displaced Ukrainian neighbours


What can businesses do to help the growing number of people experiencing forced displacement from their homes around the world? This is a question Ingka Group has been asking itself for many years, with global initiatives such as Skills for Employment finding ways to reach out and offer training and employment to people who need it most. Now, with ever increasing number of people forcibly displaced globally, Ingka Group is extending its effort to connect, communicate, recruit, and support those in need to make a new life in secure jobs.

Poland has been one of the first countries to prepare and act. Hiring Displaced Talent – a new framework Ingka Group has been supporting employment inclusivity for a long time. The Skills for Employment scheme, which began in 2016, has supported more than 1,400 refugees in 24 countries to gain new skills and work experience, either with Ingka or other companies.

Now we are extending our reach and reinforcing our commitment to inclusive growth with a new framework called Hiring Forcibly Displaced Talent,” says Alejandra Piñol, who is responsible for Talent at Ingka Group.

While Skills for Employment focuses on preparing people to work, the main purpose of the new framework is to establish a new pathway to IKEA recruitment that considers the specific and complex needs of the forcibly displaced candidates. The framework was built upon the idea that those candidates bring their skills from other places and are ready to work – it is just a matter of getting a new opportunity and support to restart.

Every country is implementing this framework according to their local reality and needs. We spoke with Maja Martyniuk-Wojcieszczuk, Senior Recruiter, about how IKEA Poland is bringing it to life.

“We need to help people make new lives”

When the war in Ukraine began, we saw increasing numbers of people arriving in Poland,” says Maja. “We knew, as a people, as well as an organisation, that we wanted to give them a safe place to be, and we wanted to give them jobs.

Poland was one of the first countries to open its borders. The team had to work fast and learn as they went along. They began preparing straight away. “We began discussing how to prepare ourselves. We did not know exactly how to do this, but we were brave enough to face the challenges – we didn’t want to wait. We knew we had to do it and help those people right now.

A new approach to recruitment

The recruitment team started to notice an increase in Ukrainian applicants. Maja explains: “The application form has a section where you can provide additional information. We started seeing people writing ‘Please help me I’m from Ukraine and need a job.’ We knew the process for hiring new co-workers would have to be different. It would have to combine the human approach with a business approach. The human approach as always would be predominant, but for obvious reasons the situation of displaced people is different.

She says the first step was to create a communication process in the Ukrainian language. Then they translated all documents and forms, but they had to solve the problem of how to contact them in their own language. “So, we came up with the idea to reach out to all our co-workers and asked if anyone spoke Ukrainian and would like to help,” says Maja. “We are lucky that we already have co-workers from Ukraine at IKEA Poland, and they wanted to help, even though they were not part of the People & Culture team.

The co-workers began working with the recruitment team to understand the standard processes and find ways to adapt them. There were also considerations of paperwork and documentation, as well as how to meet the emotional needs of candidates as well as co-workers talking with them. “When you are talking to refugees you have to be ready that some stories will be difficult,” says Maja.

“I’m so far away from home – this is my way of helping

Anastasiia is one of the Ukrainian co-workers helping the recruitment team alongside her job in the Food department at IKEA Janki Store, in Warsaw. She says: “I have family in Ukraine who cannot leave. I am so far away from home. I cannot help people there directly, so this is my way of helping. I feel I can actually make an impact.

Anastasiia received training in the standard recruitment process and worked with the team to develop ideas for adapting the process for our Ukrainian neighbours. “We decided to translate the job ads and automated emails into Ukrainian and add a section asking what their preferred language is so they could be comfortable in the process,” she says. “None of us has been in this situation before so working together is the best way to find a new way.

One of the main differences she has noticed is that Ukrainian applicants do not necessarily know IKEA. “There is only one fairly new store in Kyiv and it is not so well-known. When I speak with them, I can tell them how it is a pretty cool job, a stable job, in a company with amazing values.

She hopes this will increase the appeal. “Once we start hiring people, they will start telling other people that they should apply too.

Now she spends one day a week outside of her usual schedule with the Food department, interviewing potential candidates and looking at their applications. “It is also an opportunity for me personally to gain experience in an area I was always interested in. I am soon going to be starting an HR course to fulfil my own interests.

Looking to the future

There are now eight displaced co-workers with a job in IKEA Poland. Co-workers are supporting the new arrivals with a buddy system and mentoring in connection to the new framework. IKEA works with external agencies and NGOs to make sure applicants receive what they need.

Maja says it is important to remember the future is uncertain. “We do not know when the war ends and how long our new co-workers will spend in Poland. It is ok not to know everything. The important thing is to support people for as long as they need us and set an example to other companies to not be afraid to welcome refugees.

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