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Case Study IKEA

IKEA is a Swedish multinational which sells a wide range of products including, among other things, ready-to-assemble furniture and accessories.

Why did IKEA approach Language Partners?
IKEA is committed to welcome people with a refugee background in their stores, to support them in their integration in the Dutch labour market. In a special program IKEA offers skills development training for the participants of the so-called ‘Skills for Employment’ program. In order to create an inclusive work environment IKEA wanted to offer both newcomers as well as the IKEA co-workers a training to support them in understanding intercultural differences.

What was the question for Language Partners?
The question for Language Partners was how to organise effective training for varying levels of fluency, as well as how to accommodate a program that took place in varying locations with different groups over the period of a year.

Anyone moving to the Netherlands will be exposed to Dutch culture, and depending on their background, this can create a wide range of stressors. Our demonstrated history of introducing people to Dutch culture as well as our ability to foster awareness, discussion, and collaboration make us the right people for the job.

Which training format did IKEA choose and why?
IKEA chose our four-hour cultural awareness training, with some minor adjustments for fluency levels. This training was the right fit due to the needs of IKEA, as well as constraints such as time, budget, and both the size and number of groups engaged.

What was the objective with the chosen training format?
The objective of the cultural awareness training was to increase collaboration between newcomers and managers and mentors. This also included the objective of creating awareness and starting discussions about behaviour between the participants.

What skills did the participants want to develop?
The knowledge and cognitive skills of participants were developed. General communication skills were enhanced. Additionally, their ability to recognise cultural differences while understanding their own internal processes was increased. The curiosity and ability/willingness to discuss cultural barriers was engaged. Furthermore, the participants were coached on to regonise the positive intent behind actions in intercultural settings.

How were preparations made? How did the teams prepare for the training programme?
Preparations for this engagement began with an intake interview with IKEA and Refugee Talent Hub. Based on this intake, the program’s foundation was established. Throughout the engagement, the process was reviewed and adjusted based on the needs of participants. Typically, Language Partners involves the participants in the intake process, but due to language barriers and limited access to laptops, they were not asked to prepare anything for their training.

What was the result of the training? What changed in the office/at work?
At the end of the training our participants were able to raise questions with management, contributing to the needed opening of dialogue. Each group had gained awareness of some cultural drivers of behaviour and were able to start focusing on the positive intent, rather than the barriers. The newcomers expressed that they felt listened too and understood.


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Paul Van Zanten
Paul is an American intercultural communications professional living in the Netherlands and connecting with his Dutch roots. With a passion for travel, as well as gaining new perspectives and experiences, Paul aims to further his growth, as well as that of others at Language Partners.

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