IKEA wins prize for employment diversity

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Home furnishings retail giant IKEA has won the annual prize awarded by the state to recognize ethnic diversity in the workplace. At its IKEA Furuset store on Oslo’s northeast side, fully 62 percent of the employees have minority background.

Among them is Sanjay Lakhanpal, an engineer from India who told newspaper Dagsavisen that he faced a very tough job market when he first arrived in Norway in 1995. This improved after he learned Norwegian and he started working part-time at IKEA in 2004. He since has climbed the career ladder at IKEA, long a popular employer in Norway, and now is assistant sales manager in the busy kitchen remodeling department, where he’s thriving.

Employees at IKEA Furuset represent 57 nationalities and Abdiwill Muhamud agreed with Lakhanpal that most are proud to work with people from so many different cultures. For Carl Janzen, chief of IKEA Norge, it’s also good business.

“Ethnic diversity can be seen as a problem,” Janzen told Audun Lysbakken, the government minister in charge of integration issues who handed out the prize. “For us, it’s a criterion for success.” Previous winners have included Coca-Cola Norge, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and ice cream maker Hennig-Olsen.

Views and News staff