IKEA’S PLAN to hire staff for its second store in Thailand a year ahead of its opening could be considered a kind of “over-investment”, the company’s regional recruitment leader has acknowledged.
Thomas Spjuth Eriksson, regional head of recruitment and talent management for Ikea Southeast Asia, told reporters the major furniture retailer would hold a job fair from January 27 to 29 to recruit the first batch of 80 workers for the Bang Yai branch, which is due to open early next year.
“Yes, we know it’s over-investment,” he said.
But Eriksson explained that |the first 80 team leaders and full-time employees, who would work |for different departments includ-|ing sales, logistics, food and be-|verage, and customer service, |would be trained early to ensure they could take care of their colleagues who would be hired in a second recruitment programme planned |for July.
Ikea plans to hire another 200 workers, mostly part-timers, in the second batch.
Ikea currently employs 450 people at its 44,000-square-metre Bang Na branch, and plans to hire another 300 for its 50,278sqm Bang Yai store in Nonthaburi.
Another reason for the early recruitment is the tight job market, as the Thai retail industry has rapidly expanded over the past couple of years.
“It will be tough. That’s why we start early. We’re OK if we can get 60 [people from the first job fair]. We can catch up later,” Eriksson said.
First integrated outlet
Furthermore, Ikea would like to tap into the ideas and knowledge of the newly hired staff to make sure their new store’s set-up is relevant to the local environment.
The three-storey Bang Yai branch will be the first Ikea store in the world that will be integrated with |a shopping mall – CentralPlaza WestGate – with a total of six entrances and exits, Eriksson |added.
He said the most difficult positions to fill would be for its communication and interior design department, which comprises visual-merchandise, interior-design and graphics staff.
“We need to train them a lot even if they come from other retailers, because we are unique in concept and style,” he said.
It is also a “tricky” task to find qualified people for the 10 management positions who will report directly to the store manager, such as logistics and customer-service managers. Currently, Ikea has four or five expatriates for these managerial positions at Ikea Bangna, at which a Thai woman, Benjawan Omark, is the store manager.
Eriksson cited Benjawan as a showcase of Ikea’s policy to allow fast career advancement for talents. Starting out as a translator five years ago, she moved up through the ranks to become head of Ikea’s first store in Thailand.
Ikea is looking for candidates who share its values, which include simplicity, always looking for better ideas, an interest in home furnishing, and willingness to serve and go the extra mile for customers.
Ikea had a staff turnover of 17-18 per cent last year, its best-ever annual rate, down from 60 per cent in 2013, thanks to several initiatives. These included an introductory programme for newly employed staff, and changes to its salary and benefit scheme to narrow the gap between full-timers and part-timers.
Eriksson said the company had recognised that the first three months of a new employee’s experience were of crucial importance. If new staff are unhappy during that period, they leave.
Besides hiring for the new branch, Ikea is also expanding its service and purchasing offices in Thailand. Eriksson said the company had found a referral programme – whereby it pays staff who re-|commend new workers – an effec-tive tool to help it fill job positions here. Forty per cent of the staff recruited last year for its Bang Na branch were from the referral |programme.