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People & Culture 25 January 2023

Reskilling and Upskilling retail industry workers: how Ingka Group plans to crack the code with EU´s Pact for Skills

The world of work is changing – faster than ever before. This is a major challenge for a company like Ingka Group (IKEA Retail) with over 170,000 co-workers across 31 countries working in the fast-paced retail sector. To meet the challenge, Ingka Group has been working to support Democratic Learning by enabling the continuous development of co-workers.

Now, as part of the company’s commitment to retail skill building, Ingka Group has joined the EU’s Pact for Skills with a focus on retail.

To learn more, we recently sat down with Shannon Custard, Group Competence Development Manager at Ingka Group, to discuss how retailers are approaching reskilling and upskilling and how to crack the difficult code of bringing learning to the many in retail. “This is one of the biggest challenges the retail industry is facing today. We see, like many others, that retail roles are changing and will also require new skill development both now and, in the future,” she says.

What is the EU’s Pact for Skills?

The EU Pact for Skills is a platform set up by the European Commission which aims to support public and private organisations to maximise the impact of their investment in upskilling and reskilling. Ingka Group is fully supportive of the Pact’s key principle to promote a culture of lifelong learning and will be part of the skills partnership for the retail ecosystem.

We are excited to join and work together with other members of the Pact to see how we can maximise the impact of upskilling and reskilling in the retail sector. In addition, as part of the 2023 European Year of Skills we are interested to see how we can more closely engage with other organisations, social partners and policy makers to help develop a more holistic environment regarding skills in the future.

What challenges do you see today in the industry around skills? 

One concerning trend that I see today, is there are few examples where retail co-workers are being prioritised when it comes to skills. Recent research by Gartner TalentNeuron on Skills and Occupations Demands found that the demand for retail sales workers, retail supervisors, and customer service representatives within the sales and business development functions grew across the US, Canada, Germany and India in Q322.  And yet, when searching for organisations who have tested skills for retail employees you will find yourself with very few results.

As a retail employer I am worried that we are leaving some of our biggest groups without the development support they will need for the future. Not to mention the challenge of prioritising space for retail co-workers to learn and develop in addition to their daily responsibilities. This is something we want to help change, both through our commitment to the EU Pact for Skills, but also through working with other retail organisations to identify solutions and approaches to support this talent group.

What is Ingka Group’s approach to providing skills for the many?

Last year, we launched a new People Strategy where one of the commitments is supporting Democratic Learning for our co-workers. Our skill framework and approach are direct enablers of this movement and, as part of a larger HR transformation, we determined to map high-level functional skills and career paths to all roles globally. This approach allows us to secure that when launched everyone can build their skills for their current and future role, no matter what their assignment or level. This new approach will be rolled out later this year in select countries.

What does Ingka Group mean when it says Democratic Learning?

For Ingka, Democratic Learning means that we will enable all our co-workers to have access to relevant and personalised learning.  We want to encourage everyone within Ingka to be curious and learn new skills for their role and interests today, and their future.

How will Ingka secure equality and accessibility to learning for co-workers in the future?

In addition to our internal learning offers, we also invested in Rosetta Stone and LinkedIn Learning last year. These platforms allow us to develop learning offers for specific skill needs within Ingka, but also give our co-workers the ability to choose topics, skills and languages that they are interested in learning more about.

We also see that skills are a big piece of enabling accessibility and equality for everyone as they create more clarity for our co-workers on what is needed for their role. In addition, by mapping skills to all roles globally instead of just one or two job families, we are able to prioritise our goodsflow (logistics) and sales co-workers from the start versus waiting for pilots within corporate functions to be completed.

How will these changes impact the co-worker experience?

The shift to skills will have many positive impacts for our co-workers. The new onboarding offer will be less focused on formal learning elements, which are often challenging to prioritise when also trying to support customers, and move to more interactive and social learning elements.  We will also introduce more bite-sized modules, structured learning activities and experiences, and check-ins with their onboarding buddy focused on the skills needed to perform in their role.

In addition, we are working to map our learning and knowledge elements to skills which will enable our co-workers to easily access relevant and personalised content for their role or personal growth plan. The goal of all of this is to secure that in the future our co-workers feel more confident, engaged, and choose to stay with IKEA longer.

What are the future plans for skills within Ingka Group?

Our immediate focus is launching the skills library and framework and beginning to test its functionality and performance.  At the same time, we are also focused on testing and measuring the performance of skill-based onboarding in our pilot retail stores and warehouses as we see this as a way to secure that all co-workers feel supported and confident for their role today and for their future with IKEA.

As we are just at the beginning of this journey, our goal is to learn new things, make some mistakes, and adjust along the way – and we want to collaborate and work with others, especially in retail, to see how we can do this better for everyone.

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