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IKEA: Taste the Future 

IKEA: Taste the Future 

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IKEA is inviting ‘people with imagination’ for a job interview over experimental 3D-printed meatballs as part of a new data and technology recruitment campaign. During 2022 the brand will open more than 150 technology and innovation roles across Europe. We spoke to Karen Rivoire, Global Employer Brand Leader at IKEA, about this unique recruitment process. 

Hiring and retaining talent is growing increasingly difficult. This is partially due to the Great Resignation and the latest effects of the pandemic, either way, now, it is the employees’ market. In light of this, IKEA has deployed a unique recruitment strategy, using 3D printed meatballs to harness the imagination of applications, and slowly make that transition into technology.  

The importance of building a diverse and sustainable workforce with a high level of digital skills is of paramount importance for any organisation hoping to improve its competitive edge and secure long-term growth. As part of its ambitious new Taste the Future’ recruitment campaign, IKEA is on the hunt for the best data and technology talent across Europe. 

In line with the company’s commitment to becoming more sustainable, IKEA is inviting candidates to taste its new plant-based 3D printed Swedish meatballs as part of the interview experience. IKEA hopes to entice a diverse range of digital professionals, with social science skills and skills in data science, software development, cybersecurity and engineering, through a unique job interview process, using the 3D printed meatballs to show how important people with imagination really are.  

We spoke to Karen Rivoire, Global Employer Brand Leader at IKEA, more about this unique recruitment process and the company’s sustainability efforts… 

Can you tell us about your career journey so far? 

 The first word that jumped to mind was hybrid. I’ve always worked across product development, people, strategy, tech, sustainability and innovation. Before IKEA, the biggest chunk of my career was with Unilever. They recruited me to work on employer branding because I had a product development and marketing background. So here I am, 20 years later. I just love the complexity of different human systems and trying to work with innovative ideas to create a better world and I think IKEA is a great home base to do that.  

Can you tell us about the ‘Taste the Future’ campaign? 

We wanted to invite people with imagination – who share our values – to create the future of life at home and we wanted it to be as simple as possible. That’s why we chose the iconic meatball, as a metaphor for people. We wanted to show up as a life-at-home business with people in the forefront, rather than only talking about technology. We didn’t want to pretend to be a tech company, but we do want people to start associating IKEA with technology. 

IKEA’s meatballs are iconic and the brand is well-known for them. Why has the company chosen to use them as part of the recruitment process? 

We really wanted to surprise people and that’s why this 3D printed meatball idea came up. We wanted people to think differently and be surprised because we know how hard the market is. The most humane tech people are getting a lot of attention and are literally spoilt for choice. So, we had to speak to people in a different way to be able to stand out in the job market. 

There are many tech jobs to fill now and it can be difficult for employers to find and hire talent. What has prompted IKEA taken such a unique approach to recruitment? 

IKEA is associated with many things but not with technology. That’s why we wanted to surprise people but also build on the foundations of what we do so well, which is sustainability. The meatball is iconic and we believe in people as well, so through our culture and values, we are unique. We used the meatball as a metaphor for people’s imagination rather than trying to battle on a tech stack. We really wanted to talk about people first and we wanted to show life at home as opportunity and a problem worth solving – which all relates back to the meatball, the planet and food.   

How will the 3D meatballs utilise the applicants’ imagination and relate to IKEA’s future vision and technology? 

The 3D printed meatballs are a metaphor for people’s imagination. We wanted to surprise people with an iconic IKEA product like the meatball without meat and add a tech twist. People don’t associate IKEA with technology so we wanted to do it in a way that’s unique to IKEA and our passion for being different as a leader in life at home. We also wanted to talk about people and their imagination not just technology. 

Regarding the meatballs, how does the process work for applicants and what can they [the applicants] expect? 

It’s going to be a normal recruitment process with a meatball twist at the end. So, towards the last phase of interviews, some candidates are going to taste one or two 3D printed meatballs. Just before the ‘grandparent interview’, there will be the possibility for certain roles and certain candidates to taste. 

How dependent is the future of recruitment on creative ideas like the 3D printed meatballs? 

At IKEA we always try to find better ways to do things and look at the world differently. We’re looking for people who share our values and have imagination. People, especially in technology, need to have that willingness to solve problems connected to people’s lives. It’s not just about finding the best algorithm to optimise efficiency, it really is how our products, in the future, are going to impact lives. We want people who have imagination and can make sense of this world and people who make the world better.  

The 3D printed meatball is a great conversation starter, so we want people to start thinking about how to have better homes and better lives. We want people to express themselves and think differently, then we give them the space through the interview process and after hopefully they join our team. We’ve always wanted to create those conditions so people can explore, makes sense of the world and be heard with their innovative ideas. 

IKEA, as a brand, places an emphasis on sustainability. How has this been integrated into the company’s business strategy and what wider impact does it have on the business’ growth? 

 One of the reasons I joined IKEA was because sustainability is such an integral part of the strategy. We have a strategy called ‘Three Roads Forward’, we’re trying to be affordable, sustainable and accessible. It really is integrated into the way we work. We plan to be people, planet, positive by 2030.  

We also have an integrated value chain. We have our own product development, so we can have an impact on the different stages in the value chain. This, combined with our size, means we can do a lot of good, bring a lot of change to society and beyond. We have a great impact through that value chain and our scale, but also, we have a huge responsibility and we try to take seriously, so that’s where imagination and values come in – it’s people who make IKEA better.  

Every business is digitalising, but what’s next for IKEA? How important is technology for achieving the company’s future goals? 

One of our commitments is to be leaders in life at home. At home, we really want to continue strengthening our culture, with a strong focus on this people element. As I said earlier, we are fascinated by the dreams and dilemmas of people (co-workers, customers and citizens) and how they live – that is the core of our business. We will continue that commitment and technology will enable us to get an even deeper understanding of people’s dreams and dilemmas. So, we need people who are representative of society as well. This campaign is making sure we’re reaching out and building relationships with people from all walks of life.

What advice would you give to other C-level members who want to improve and streamline their recruitment process? 

Recruitment is strategic. It’s part of a broader process of attracting and retaining talent so it shouldn’t be seen as something that’s stand alone. Too often businesses have put it into a talent acquisition space. But for us, it really is a learning process, for ourselves and the candidates.  

Also make sure you’re true to who you are. We’re lucky at IKEA in that we value meaningful work and culture. We’ve done a lot of research into that and a better life at home and at work is an integral part of our business.  

How we do business is important, as well as getting a good balance between parts of the process that are automated and what parts of the process remain human. We believe in deep human connection and creativity. As people look at automating HR more, don’t forget the humanity behind it all by keeping humans in the loop. 

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