Student team developed the stability of IKEA Oy’s employees

‘We wanted to gain a better understanding of why employees leave this job.’
Opiskelijoiden yritysprojektin tiimi, IKEA Oy
Katriina and Totti (at the forefront) studied the reasons for the termination of employment.

Totti Ikäheimonen and Katriina Korhonen, students from the new Master's Programme in People Management and Organizational Development at Aalto University, were able to carry out qualitative research in a customised student business project at the School of Business. The aim of the project was to study ways to decrease employee turnover in the Logistics and IKEA FOOD departments around Finnish IKEA Oy.

At the customer's request, the project team conducted 12 thematic interviews for employees who left different IKEA Oy stores during the last three months. To support the interviews, the students carried out a comprehensive literature review and a preliminary study in which they analysed the initial survey data received from IKEA Oy. Finally, they presented the data they processed at the final seminar to the IKEA Oy’s Management Group and prepared a written report on the progress and outcomes of the study. 

Four development areas

The key findings focused on the development of four areas in improving IKEA Oy's employment experience: improving initial training, developing the structure of the workforce, utilising diverse backgrounds on different career paths, and involving employees in decision-making and management emerged as the most important recommendations for the customer. The interviews also emphasised taking into account the backgrounds and life situations of different people as well as the individual needs of employees, which requires more flexibility from the employer and more service-oriented personnel management.

The project team was led by Professor Marjo-Riitta Diehl from the Department of Management Studies. She said that the project was launched under favourable circumstances, as the assignment had been thoroughly thought out at IKEA Oy, and the students received good materials and support from them already in the first meeting. ‘The topic was interesting, challenging and really relevant for many Finnish companies – we got a lot out of it. It was also a pleasure to see how eager the company was to learn about the results of the project and the recommendations arising from it. The students' work will clearly have an impact, and that is the best possible reward for the project!’ 

Important information to improve the employee experience

The aim of the study was to increase understanding of what matters to IKEA Oy’s employees, what needs different employee groups have, and what they want from their employer. The employee experience consists not only of the employee's experience of their own work, but also of individual experience of the company's culture, operating methods, and practices as well as relationships between customers and the organisation.

‘The project was very important to IKEA Oy, as we want to better understand the employee experience, especially as regards the reasons for the termination of employment. We wanted to gain a better understanding than before of why employees leave our company. Information about what we could have done differently to prevent leaving will help us in our ongoing development work. The study gave us a detailed view of the reasons and clear development proposals,’ says Micaela Frigren, Co-worker Relations Manager, People & Culture.

‘Katriina and Totti managed to tap into the minds of IKEA Oy’s employees through interviews and produce a clear and streamlined report on their needs as well as recommendations for future developments. Our cooperation went smoothly, and the practical nature of the end result was a positive surprise. The research results will be used to build the employer image of IKEA Oy and to develop recruitment practices and management. Our goal is to reduce staff turnover and keep skilled employees working for us.’

From the students’ perspective, the project was also very rewarding and offered practical experience in consulting which allowed the students to utilise what they had learned during courses. ‘I was impressed with how well Katriina and Totti were able to use and apply very demanding theory for solving practical problems and to communicate their ideas clearly in a consultative presentation,’ says Marjo-Riitta Diehl.  

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