Ramona Puia, People & Culture Manager, IKEA Romania: We want to be activists for social change and to inspire co-workers, customers and communities to become change makers for equality

In today’s post, Ramona Puia, People & Culture Manager at IKEA Romania, talks about what actions the company has been taking in diversity management.

Could you share with us some key milestones in the D&I journey of IKEA Romania?

In IKEA Romania we have been working for many years on our D&I agenda. Since the beginning, D&I practices have been embedded throughout our business operations. For instance, to raise competence all new co-workers undergo a D&I training, we ask our co-workers how included they feel by measuring the Inclusion Index and we empower all co-workers to be ambassadors for equality when interacting with each other and customers.

But we also chose specific topics to put even more focus on. We started with gender equality. We did a thorough assessment of the status of equal pay in our company, assessment of gender balance in all teams and functions and by introducing additional co-worker benefit that would help achieve more gender equality at home and at the workplace. While continuing our gender equality journey, we are now more than ever focusing on LGBT+ inclusion. We are working together with experts on the topic to raise our own competence while speaking out loudly in Romanian society for more LGBT+ inclusion. Raising the rainbow colour flag in front of our store last year was surely a key milestone for us.

What aspects of diversity management have the highest priority in your company?

We are focusing on three key movements when it comes to diversity management. Firstly, we focus on building a diverse and inclusive workforce. We aim to reflect the diversity of our markets and to create an inclusive work environment, where each one of us can be themselves. Secondly, equality throughout our business practices means that we integrate equality throughout the co-worker’s development journey and we include equality in our ways of working, policies, processes and when we interact with customers. And we want to be activists for social change and to inspire and enable co-workers, customers and communities to become change makers for equality.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by your sector in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge we face is still to ensure that we have gender balance in all teams. For instance, logistic teams are more male dominated while HR and Communication functions are more female oriented. And here, we are no exception in IKEA Romania.

What business benefits do you see as a result of increasing D&I?

Focusing on D&I over the years has benefitted our business in many ways. By creating an inclusive environment, we ensure that all co-workers can be fully themselves and thus be the best version of themselves at the workplace. This is surely the biggest benefit we see. This makes our co-workers happy and has a positive impact on our productivity. Also, raising awareness about D&I and increasing competence in this area, we can make sure that our co-workers can meet our diverse customer base in the best way. And of course, we are making sure to be an attractive employer for a greater talent pool. So, D&I makes perfect business sense in many ways.

Can you name three diversity challenges that companies have to pay attention to?

The biggest challenge that companies have to pay attention to is to avoid that D&I is the sole responsibility of one department. Diversity and inclusion practices need to be embedded in the entire business, it doesn’t only start and end with the recruitment process. Secondly, education around D&I doesn’t stop with one workshop. Increasing our competence on D&I needs to be a continuous effort. It is not only about learning about a specific dimension of diversity but also about challenging ourselves in our own believes. Through unconscious bias trainings we can at least all become aware of our own prejudices.

What do you do to convince your colleagues to see the value in diversity management, or even more to truly get them on board?

Luckily, we don’t have much convincing to do. We recruit our many co-workers and leaders primary based on values and then only we take their competence into account. In practice, this means that if we don’t see a candidate as a good cultural fit for us, we won’t continue with the recruitment process even though that person might have the most experience and competence in that field. Like this we ensure from the start that we only recruit people who share the same values and culture like us and for whom diversity and inclusion comes naturally.

Interview by Dana Oancea. Copyright Carta DIversitatii, all rights reserved.