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Suite Talk: IKEA MD swears by the Swedish-inspired 'fika' for team building

The Swedish-style coffee break gets employees to take a few minutes away from their desks and meetings to just catch up, affirms Christian Rojkjaer, managing director, IKEA Southeast Asia.

Tell us a little bit about your journey with IKEA.

I have been working for the Kamprad family (that founded IKEA) since 2000, having held various positions in different countries. In 2009, I joined IKEA Southeast Asia.

On that note, how big is the team you are leading?

We are a team of nearly 4000 people working across four countries – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Our people work in our IKEA stores, IKEA-anchored shopping centres as well as in service offices that support the stores and centres.

Are there some key priorities you’d like to highlight for this year?

Our first priority is customer-focused growth. We will grow our business by making it as easy as possible for everybody to access our products and create a better everyday life at home. We do this by expanding our shopping channels such as e-commerce as well as keeping our prices low and offering a fun and inspirational day out.

However, growth is also costly. And we believe in maintaining our prices, so this brings us to our second priority – working smarter. We are currently putting a programme in place to accelerate our productivity and grow our competency.

What has been your proudest moment so far with IKEA?

There is a lot to be proud of in 2017 alone. We launched e-commerce in Singapore; opened a new IKEA store in Johor Bahru; doubled our output of solar energy; introduced a one-month paternity leave policy; expanded and improved two shopping centres anchored by IKEA; and opened MyTOWN shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur.
I love to see action. I love to get to a “yes”, but I can also be impatient and too direct.
However, I think my proudest moment comes during our daily morning “fika.” We introduced this Swedish-style coffee break, where we all take a few minutes away from our desks and meetings to just catch up. To see our team together, talking with passion about our business – it makes me proud of the company that we, as a team, have created here in Southeast Asia.

On a personal level, how would you define your leadership style?

Demanding – on myself, but also on everybody around me. I love to see action. I love to get to a “yes”, but I can also be impatient and too direct. That being said, I also love to work as part of a team to see all the good ideas that others can come up with. That is why I’m the kind of leader who believes a lot in the power of the team.

In your opinion, how does HR play a part in meeting business goals?

People responsibility cannot be delegated to HR, but HR needs to have an opinion about the business and define the best ways to support it. HR, therefore, plays an important role in owning the processes and tools the business needs – but we are all responsible for ourselves and our departments.

Everyone needs to play a part in recruiting, developing and engaging the people in our team, as well as planning for our own succession.

We also want HR to ensure that everybody in the organisation has personal leadership growth, which we feel is a very large enabler for us to meet our goals.

On the other hand, what is the one thing HR can do away with?

Everything! In an ideal world, many tasks performed by HR today would be taken care of by individual managers. But, of course, HR must support with value-adding services that enable the individual manager to fully take on these responsibilities as part of her or his role.


How do you think the role of C-suite will change in the next five years?

In the future, I believe there will be far fewer emperor-style leaders who will manage from the top. Instead, I think we will see more leaders listening deeply and carefully to their teams and acting more as facilitators, taking team-based decisions.

How can HR collaborate with other teams in meeting business goals?

First of all, HR must have a very good understanding of the business, the departments and the people it is supporting. It is the ultimate support function – allowing individuals in the organisation to excel in the business and contribute their best abilities.

Three qualities that define a good leader, in your opinion?

  • A leader who develops the business and creates results.
  • A leader who never lets him/herself be the limitation of how much the company can achieve.
  • A leader who understands that everything is about the company, its co-workers and the customers – never about him/herself.

With that said, what do you think is the one thing IKEA staff appreciate about the work culture at IKEA?

The thing many people appreciate the most here is the feeling we get of being part of a family, working as a team. We call it “togetherness” at IKEA. At least, that is what I appreciate the most!

Photo / Provided

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