Learning the workplace politics and surviving with common sense

I personally feel that I achieved respect among the IKEA Com&In group during my internship, which is the highest compliment I see that can be achieved at work: receiving acknowledgement from work that your peers consider as well done. What I have learned is that one has to simply execute ones work without expecting any gratitude: when everybody is busy, deadlines are squeezing people into corners, and there are usually problems where there should not be any. In a case like this, staying calm but figuring out either alternative solutions or finding a solution to a problem is the main thing in order to stay in schedule. For example, during my last day at IKEA, I was helping a visual merchandiser to build a large communication podium to a department that was about to start a widely advertised campaign the following morning, Despite careful plans, arrived goods, finalized layouts, and correct timing, the actual display furniture had not landed to the store, which caused a fundamental problem for building a display. By knowing the products and quickly negotiating with the team what was the main focus on the campaign, we were able to use actual goods from the storage and built an alternative podium to provide a sales site for the advertised goods. This was a perfect example of how important it is within a company to know how the politics of a company – in this case, the chain of logistics, storage, visuals, and communication works together in order to achieve quick results.  

It is not enough to be fast, inventive, and capable of solving problems: the most important way to survive in a work climate is to figure out, how to communicate with individuals and stay neutral between people, which is surviving with common sense - surprisingly difficult in a real life.

Posted on August 6, 2017 .

Working in a professional setting

My internship turned out to be the best of my work experiences during the past 20 years, simply based on the professional setting; namely, the interning happening In a company where the wellbeing of an employee is highly important, working is fun and rewarding, no matter how busy you are. Experiencing weekly meetings where each team member told about their focus, the supervisor listened to problems and pointed out the fires that needed exhausting, professionalism was the main reason why everything works like a well-oiled machine.

The backbone of everything functioning comes down to the fact that despite everybody knowing their responsibilities, all employees are basically on the same “level”at IKEA when it comes to executing the work and helping the customer. Focus being  on results and everybody working towards a general outcome, with bonus waiting when succeeding, works simply better than individual incentives. 

When the personal competition between individuals is being removed by providing general bonus from a good outcome, professional atmosphere is perhaps easier to achieve and develop further in a company: enhancing the quality and results, instead of the fastest possible execution, as well as the fact, that designers and people building for example visual merchandising displays have more time to think about what they are doing pays off, resulting as well planned and highly executed visuals- people can see the difference.

In a professional environment, even tight execution pace and deadlines can be achieved in a fun environment with balanced and reasonable demands and support of a team.

In a professional environment, even tight execution pace and deadlines can be achieved in a fun environment with balanced and reasonable demands and support of a team.

 

 

Posted on August 6, 2017 .

Swinging the carefully planned

All campaigns, layouts, goods provided, and visuals that connect with the campaign are carefully planned basically six months prior launch-date. In reality, some campaigns do get only two month’s head-time, which does not only give headache to the final visual step, but causes pressure in logistics, warehouse functions, communication (the advertising part), and all steps that are related with a campaign – starting physically from the fact, that the department at least has to have space to build a communications area for the advertised product.

On my last day at work, he round-work shift turned into building a communications area that was an example of “something went wrong in the chain”- reality: the drawings were made on time, the space was reserved in the department floor, but the autumn goods and the actual furniture for the communications podium were not there, and the empty space had to be filled to match the upcoming ad-campaigns. This was highly unusual, but VM Eedith and myself simply ended up building a communications area from what we could find from the storage, using actual items for sale as part of the building material, and filling platforms with color-coordinated and newest items available in the department, from storage to finished in three hours.

Posted on July 30, 2017 .

Networking within the family

Leaving this week from IKEA was like leaving a family, this is how much I have enjoyed my time with the communications and interior design, visual merchandising team. The core people I have worked with have consisted of four visual merchandisers, two carpenters, communications manager, activity leader, interior design manager, and the group manager. With the varying scopes of work that these people have executed, my internship time has been very interesting and different as well. With tight schedules, I have been able to provide help as “round-worker”, meaning I jump when there is fire: I have helped with painting the walls, physically assembling lighting and racking, tracking goods from the supply chain and storage, assembled the goods, provided customer service (clients always ask you something when you are 8 ft above them on a ladder), built “rooms” based on small images only, sewn curtains, and taped decals that are all related with different job descriptions within the Com&In group.

Round-work has meant also that I have gotten to know the people I have worked with, and as their feedback, some connected with me personally on facebook and LinkedIn, offering to help me to find a spot within IKEA when I graduate next spring. This is the beauty of a company like IKEA: people who have stayed within the company for years, really know other people from IKEAs around the world, and they always ask internally for recommendations when hiring new people. Sadly, I had to leave my internship this week but at least I have good memories and connections left from it: here is a picture of a picnic they arranged for me during the last week with five of my co-workers getting there after work, just to say goodbye to me. Sniff!

Posted on July 30, 2017 .

Middle of the summer means busy decorating

Many people , instead of traveling abroad during the summer, spend their vacation in the homeland in Finland. This summer, which has been exceptionally wet and record-cold (lower temperatures have been measured only in 1936), people have turned their beach-saved energy to decorating, looking for answers from IKEA. Accordingly, the oldest tablescapes needed refreshing, and I was lucky to get two settings done this week. The other one was a refreshing of a branding area where the dishes are simply not selling, so I created a bright-colored setting in a hope of making the dishes noticed, and the other one was a simple but functional tablescape to the dining table section, featuring actually the same table that was located in the branding area-entrance, but with more sophisticated twist was added with the elegance of the blue Stockholm-series and its industrial lighting.

Before and after lisebo-setting for dining-table section.

Before and after lisebo-setting for dining-table section.

Before and after branding-area refreshment to get the upper floor entrance area's dishes to move!

Before and after branding-area refreshment to get the upper floor entrance area's dishes to move!

Posted on July 21, 2017 .

July 21 ends a hectic visual merchandising week

This week, I was fortunate to work independently due to lack of staff - the European traditional vacation month of July is really hitting on as everyone is trying to get their vacation time spent prior August and the catalog-launching weeks. My largest task that took a day and a half was to combine two areas of limited edition -goods, that is STUNSIG collection for this summer, as it has sold well with its t-shirts, but has barely moved the decoration pillows in the series. Not only combining all items from an activity podium to a staircase-landing area goods by their different nature, but also the actual physical dilemma of manually carrying all items to the staircase landing and combining settings, turned out to be a challenging part of the task! Overall, I was though pretty happy with the result.

Only the t-shirts outside the picture, on the left, were left from the STUNSIG-limited edition collection, and the staircase landing needed desperate updating.

Only the t-shirts outside the picture, on the left, were left from the STUNSIG-limited edition collection, and the staircase landing needed desperate updating.

The rest of the STUNSIG-collection was placed on the rug department, and the decoration pillows and sheet-pillow package, as well as the rug were not exactly flying out of the shelves.

The rest of the STUNSIG-collection was placed on the rug department, and the decoration pillows and sheet-pillow package, as well as the rug were not exactly flying out of the shelves.

I combined the podium items from the rug department: re-applied the removable washing machine sticker, brought the washing cabinet to the staircase landing reconstructing the "laundry", displayed the decorational pillows from the sold-out bag handles, placed sheets, as well as the rug in their own locations, generating a grouped but whole collection-showing display to the rest of the STUNSIG.

I combined the podium items from the rug department: re-applied the removable washing machine sticker, brought the washing cabinet to the staircase landing reconstructing the "laundry", displayed the decorational pillows from the sold-out bag handles, placed sheets, as well as the rug in their own locations, generating a grouped but whole collection-showing display to the rest of the STUNSIG.

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Posted on July 21, 2017 .

July 12 is it just pots and pans

Today I actually got to refresh my first solo merchandise display. With not exactly exciting target: pots and pans, especially frying pans had to be refreshed after experiencing a total loss caused by the customers - here is a question: how does a customer get into 10ft without a ladder? Answer: I would like to see it on a safety camera.

Joking aside, the 4-tier shelving at the pots and pans is officially planned so, that the first two rows display repetition of the item, third row should be interesting and appealing for the customer, making the customer to notice the item, and the fourth row is again repeating the item in bulk. Under the four tiers, the fifth shelf actually only displays one unit of the merchandise with a price tag and info, being the actual sample that the customer is invited to touch. When organization is correct, the item are then sold in bins or on pallets under this sample self.

Before: one item has been sold out completely on the frying pan section during the weekend and the existing rest of the display is also mixed up. Just to be sure, the location is pointed to me by another visual merchandiser at IKEA Espoo.

Before: one item has been sold out completely on the frying pan section during the weekend and the existing rest of the display is also mixed up. Just to be sure, the location is pointed to me by another visual merchandiser at IKEA Espoo.

After: new item is displayed, this time in a combo with greese spatter lid that happened to be newly available, so I had a chance to build repetition to the pattern using that. Interest is created to the setting with red rolled placemats filled with frying tool sets. To the middle of the long shelf on the right, I regrouped and cleaned the previous display and placed grilling tongs upright between the selves just to create some visual interest, pulling the customer closer.

Admittedly, I did not accurately follow the rule of IKEA with two identical top rows as I did place the red placemats with kitchen tools already on the second shelf as well, but I have seen this sometimes in other shelves and the curiosity to add color simply won.

Posted on July 12, 2017 .

July 11 Store lighting really has a bright meaning in Visual Merchandising

This week, I have been a part of two-woman team changing the department lighting for the newly adjusted  areas in Livingroom that includes sofas, armchairs, side tables, and tv-shelving/livingroom storage areas. With changed layout and completely different racking and display systems, adjusting the store lighting accordingly plays an important part. For example, a modular shelving system with approx 30 different door colors and patterns to choose from really depends on clearly lightened samples when it comes to client's decision making. Including actual  spot lights that highlight price signs or info spots, the basic lighting that is generated with boxed led rod lights is hung from the ceiling grid system.

Second, the metal boxed rod-lights are placed up to the grid. Sometimes two people are needed in tight places for placing them right.

Second, the metal boxed rod-lights are placed up to the grid. Sometimes two people are needed in tight places for placing them right.

Firstly, a designer has created lighting plan according to layout changes and new/additional displays.

Firstly, a designer has created lighting plan according to layout changes and new/additional displays.

Third, the jungle of cords, plugs, and outlets is being hidden and connected as clean and safe as possible.

Third, the jungle of cords, plugs, and outlets is being hidden and connected as clean and safe as possible.

Fourth, you just continue to climb up and down according to the layout, which in this case took three days.

Fourth, you just continue to climb up and down according to the layout, which in this case took three days.

Posted on July 11, 2017 .

What does the ComIn internship include

I am fortunate to intern within the department of ComIn, that includes Visual merchandising, Communications, and actual Interior design units. This means, helping as a filler for anything urgent needed is pretty much what my internship witholds.

I am interning within ComIn that includes Communications, Interior design, and Visual merchandising teams.

I am interning within ComIn that includes Communications, Interior design, and Visual merchandising teams.

Communications covers all visual communications: signage; walkways, pricing, shelf info, walkway guidance, sales promotional printing materials, you name it. While the Interior design department naturally builds all displayed room settings, it also takes care of the interior-related functions in spaces for the customers (restaurant, bistro, first-aid rooms, bathrooms), for example lighting, seasonal vignettes, seating, etc. Third part of the department, Visual merchandising, takes care of all short-term and seasonal subjects, starting from displaying basically all items for sale to decorating seasonal podiums, and physically building the racking, sales spot locations prior displaying the items.

Due to seasonal weight of IKEA sales highlighting to the end of the summer as the yearly catalog comes out in the end of August, all refreshed and new podiums and displays have to be finished prior the publication of the catalog. Thus, my internship was already projected to concentrate heavily on helping the Visual merchandising team with building the completely new display sites that are deadlined to finish by the first week of August. This is also what the first four weeks indeed included in June. 

Posted on July 7, 2017 .

Interning at IKEA Espoo, Finland

Internship at IKEA Espoo, Finland's oldest IKEA during June 5 - July 27, 2017 is what this blog is about. This internship is something that pretty much describes some of my dreams coming through: not exactly working at IKEA, but at least interning there is a start for hopefully something that develops into an actual job in the future.

IKEA Espoo was established 1996 and just celebrated its 20th birthday. Espoo is by its layout smallest, but still the most succesful IKEA in Finland.

IKEA Espoo was established 1996 and just celebrated its 20th birthday. Espoo is by its layout smallest, but still the most succesful IKEA in Finland.

Ikea has a policy for unpaid internships. First I thought it is a shame, but already after the first week of interning, I realized that the gained knowledge of the successful home furnishing and interior design store's functions is something that you can't learn from books, really. Additionally to the information that accumulates during the internship, food is provided during the internship from the excellent staff restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and of course, the very important Finnish coffee breaks.

I agreed to work 30 hours/week, Monday-Thursday from 7am to 3pm daily during 8 weeks, totaling to 240 hours.

Posted on July 7, 2017 .