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Partnerships Focused on Learning Equity: Ingka Group’s Shannon Custard

by Dani Johnson and Stacia Garr | October 25th, 2023

Shannon Custard—the Global Competence Development Manager at Ingka Group—is responsible for leading their global learning organization consisting of over 177,000 workers across 30+ countries globally. 

As they began the transition from a competence-based to a skills-based organization, Shannon wanted to focus first and foremost on frontline populations. They believe that frontline population learning equity is important and often neglected. So they focused on solving the skills problems for the frontline employees to then extrapolate to the corporate population. 

Through the process, they almost completely scrapped and redesigned their onboarding process to make sure the frontline team members had the skills necessary to be successful. When you help people reach success soon, it makes an impact. 

In this conversation, Shannon shares more about the process of transitioning to a skills-based organization, why the Ingka Group believes it’s important, and the impact it’s making on their frontline population. 

Why Ingka is building a skills-based organization

Historically, Ingka has used competency models for learning, growth, and development. However, Shannon notes that competency models aren’t flexible or specific enough to meet the demands of their workforce. Agility, precision, and adaptability are becoming more important. Because of this, they started moving toward becoming a skills-based organization.

It’s estimated that 15% of talent globally is being underutilized. Traditional methods of hiring and promoting are furthering that underutilization. The majority of Ingka Group’s 177,000 coworkers are frontline. Shannon believes they have many untapped skills. 

With a transition to a skills-based organization, their goal is to create an environment where their frontline coworkers can have boundless career opportunities. They can use their skills to identify new opportunities and roles. 

The vision and mission of IKEA is “Securing a better life for the many.” They’re curious about learning more about the people who work for them and how they can help them grow, develop, and stay for as long as they want. 

Defining skills across the organization

When Ingka started determining the scope of what they wanted to do, specifically with their skills library and taxonomy, they decided to focus on mapping skills for all job families across the organization at once. Their biggest driver tied back to equity around learning and development. They wanted everyone to have access to opportunities for growth. 

Mapping skills across a large organization is a substantial undertaking. So they decided to keep their skills high-level. They divided skills into job family level (level one), sub-families (level two), and job specific skills (level three). 

By staying high-level, they landed on skills that won’t change quickly. That gives them stability within their library. As they progress and move into a 2.0 version, they’ll focus on more granular skills. 

Mapping skills roles without technology 

They found a skill library that they planned to work with but quickly assessed that the 16,000 skills definitions it included would be too overwhelming. Secondly, the definitions for the skills were generic but technical. 

IKEA is intentional about the words they use because they have to be translated into numerous languages. They realized they needed to do the process differently. So they partnered with business leaders, subject matter experts, and a consultancy. 

They took the library of 16,000 skills and curated a condensed list for each business, Then they redefined the skills. Each business had the opportunity to validate and question the list. They recently finished their first version of the skills library and are about to start their sustainment process. They’ll meet with each job family and revalidate the skills and identify any granular skills they want to include. 

Ingka’s skills-based onboarding pilot

They wanted to test their library to see what could happen if they built a learning offer focused on skills. They see and know there’s a disparity in the work environments between frontline coworkers and service/corporate coworkers. Their learning opportunities—whether onboarding or skills development—were broad and technology-based. 

They decided to start testing the onboarding process in their customer fulfillment organization. They began the process of mapping and discussing the skills a new logistics hire would need to be successful. 

They tied that to key KPIs to see how quickly people could build the skills and integrate them into the work environment. They also wanted to see how it impacted retention and the overall experience. Once they identified the skills, they compared the current learning offer to the skills-based learning. They only kept one learning offer and redeveloped the rest of them. 

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Shannon Custard


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