The IKEA way

There is no doubt that this is a blatant attempt to take advantage of the interest in Sweden that has been caused by the Euro 2012 football game against England.

For a couple of years I worked for IKEA. I won't declare what my role was, or where I was based as that won't be of interest to you. And that's the whole message of this blog.

It doesn't matter where in the world you work for IKEA as they have one blueprint for all co-workers. You may have noticed this if you have been in more than one of their stores as a shopper. Everything looks the same: the layout, the stock, the prices, the queues.

If you go backstage you'll find that things get a little bit weird but not before things get exciting.

What sort of person would be interested in working for a company that gives all staff sizable Christmas presents. By this, I mean gas barbecues, bicycles and red-letter day vouchers.

Would you want to work for a company that ensures that all co-workers get access to free unlimited coffee, tea, hot chocolate and fruit. And toast. Simple pleasures taken care of.

There is complete transparency within the company regarding roles and salary. Each store has a list of all staff, what they are contracted to do and how much they are paid. This list is on the notice board.

Let's balance this with the following.

No matter where you work in the company, you have to wear the same uniform. I have met with senior managers who wore the same outfit as the newest and lowliest member of staff. Even backroom staff in the call centres had to wear the same uniform. It means that you feel part of the IKEA family.

If you fancy promotion, all you have to do is demonstrate that you have the ability to take on more responsibility successfully. And read Ingvar Kamprad's 20 point plan for success for IKEA. And then write a thesis that regurgitates all that Ingvar Kamprad believes in.

There is a fine line between achieving fairness for all and achieving oppression for all. I'm still not sure where I think IKEA are in relation to this line. They allow for many types of individual expression. You won't see a traditional corporate image but you will see tattoos, piercings and flamboyant hair design. I am perhaps a little more conservative in my tastes so it felt weird to me.

They embrace the idea of family very well but they don't embrace the idea of organised religion, hence their reluctance to honour any religious holidays at all.

IKEA have created a homogeneous mix of employees that draws from all parts of society. They then allow for freedom of expression whilst imposing certain doctrines. In return you are treated fairly and equally by a transparent set of HR rules. And to get promoted you have to do the written equivalent of a chant or creed.

For a company that doesn't recognise religion, then behaves in a semi-religious way, you have to wonder what is their ultimate aim?

Remember, in the UK they ran an advert in the 1990s getting us to "chuck out the Chintz", only to fill their stores 10 years later with chintz.

That, I suppose, is the IKEA way.