IKEA is using virtual reality for onboarding and training


A qualified guess is that everybody knows IKEA, and with good reason. IKEA is the world’s largest furniture retailer and holds 415 stores placed throughout 49 countries.

What most people associate IKEA with is their successful and widely loved cost-friendly furniture concept, but do not underestimate what makes the wheels spin and what also anchors the success of IKEA. IKEA has approximately 160.000 employees and they all play a huge part of the success, reinventing and stabilizing the business.

The retail industry, though, has a generally high employee turnover, which can be a challenge. IKEA is no exception. IKEA must be on top of their game to ensure efficient and competence-boosting onboarding and offer proper training and education to employees, or co-workers as they say at IKEA. In addition, IKEA wants to ensure that talented workers are introduced to the many opportunities IKEA has to offer within their large organization.

But how can IKEA use Virtual Reality for onboarding and training their co-workers, and should they even?

The opportunity recognized by IKEA

As IKEA reached out to Virsabi we started to explore how, when and why IKEA could benefit from integrating VR in their Talent development approach. At an ideation workshop several training scenarios where discussed and held up against what the different technologies as Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality have to offer to enhance training in ways more traditional methods can’t.

IKEA saw a great opportunity for releasing a VR-experience at their Talent Focus Week in March 2018, an annual event executed across their many stores putting attention towards HR subjects. Even though the VR-experience aimed at educating co-workers during the Talent Focus Week, it is also meant to be used for introducing what it’s like to work at IKEA when onboarding new IKEA co-workers.

The VR-experience was delivered in 18 different languages. It met cultural differences and different learning methods and at the same time, it sought to unite the co-workers to feel as a part of a big global family that is keen on helping each co-worker in reaching the next level.

From a business perspective IKEA also wished to use VR technologies to develop their co-worker’s capabilities in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Objective of the VR-experience

One of the scenarios dear to IKEA was to educate their coworkers by creating awareness about different job functions and how leaders are inspired by the IKEA Key Values in their jobs.

The objective of the VR-experience was to enable co-workers to experience one of the many IKEA environments in IKEA’s value chain and experience a leadership role. One aspect of being a good leader at IKEA is how you practice leadership inspired by IKEA’s 8 key values. Examples of some of the key values are; “Togetherness” & “Simplicity”.

Around real IKEA environments in 360-degree video

To give an authentic presentation of what it is like to be a leader at IKEA, we went to IKEA in Taastrup, Denmark and recorded 360-degree videos of leaders in the environment they were responsible for. In the VR-experience the co-workers can go into two environments “Sales”, where you meet Sidsel and “Logistics”, where you meet Rafael through 360-degree videos. In the films Sidsel and Rafael explain how and why they became leaders and how they practice the IKEA key values.  

Interacting gamification of the IKEA values

To support the education of what the IKEA values are, we also built an environment in the VR-experience where the co-worker can interact with the IKEA key values. The interaction has been formed as a game, and at the same time we have built in a layer that makes the coworker reflect on their own practice and job function in regards to the IKEA key values.

Integrated sales training

Another interactive element we made for the VR-experience was implementing an educational “iPad-teacher” in the sales environment. The virtual iPad communicates about how co-workers use the IKEA I-sell application, which is an important tool for the co-workers in Sales.

Sneak peek of the experience

Below you can see an early version of the VR-experience. It was produced to create awareness about the VR-project internally among the stakeholders at IKEA.

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Go behind the scenes and hear the IKEA team talk about the WHY

IKEA had experiences using virtual and augmented reality technologies for sales and marketing with the app IKEA Places, though IKEA hadn’t used VR internally to educate before. So, IKEA wanted to be very transparent about what VR is and why IKEA was planning on using it for education. They therefor choose to make a “Behind the Scenes” video for the many co-workers to see before the Talent Focus Week.

In the video you will meet many of the IKEA people who has been a part of the VR-project. They are talking about  why  they are interested in exploring the potential of VR when it comes to educating and inspiring their coworkers. In the video the technology VR also gets briefly explained to reduce the “fear of the unknown” as VR still is a fairly new technology for many people.

Below you can watch a “Behind the Scenes” video IKEA had made to promote the VR-experience internally.

IKEA's take on our collaboration and production

Paolo Formenti,  Employer Brand Digital Communication Manager, was the Employer Brand Lead on the VR-project. Paolo was a keystone in the development process and has been closely following the creation of the VR-experience. Looking back on our first VR-journey he has the following comment on the corporation with Virsabi and the value the VR-experience has had for IKEA:

"We were looking to do an activity that would showcase IKEA as a modern futuristic employer, so what better technology to use than VR! We were not interested in this passing off as a pure gimmick, so we needed to approach a partner with experience in using the technology in a value-driven manner. We contacted Virsabi having seen their work with other global brands and their focus on learning and development using VR.

Our first step was to educate and inform our HR leadership, selling in the value of VR. We scheduled a "showcase" meeting. Virsabi brought all their "toys" with them to our offices including a great factor of enthusiasm and knowledge. A meeting of this type helped us start an ideation process keeping the right decision makers onboard the project and working with a culture of simplicity and togetherness.

It was great to work with a partner who worked with us in such a transparent and hands-on manner. Virsabi invested a lot of time and energy in getting under the skin of what it's like to work at IKEA, exploring different IKEA locations and getting a true feel of the different IKEA co-worker functions and environments.

Virsabi supported us at the launch of the Talent Focus Week event by helping us "sell-in" the experience to co-workers as well as capturing their enthusiasm and feedback.

We certainly look forward to working with Virsabi again on delivering further value through the candidate lifecycle by using VR, from awareness to development."

Executing the VR-experience

As Paolo Formenti mentioned in his comment above, Virsabi joined the Talent Focus Week at the main office in Hubbult, Sweden, for the release of the VR-experience. As the VR-experience is designed to be handled without an instructor or trainer we mainly observed the reactions of the coworkers trying out the experience. The reactions all pointed in one direction and that was excitement!  

Top 3 best rated experience in 2018

The pictures give an indication of the atmosphere and reactions. With a small sneak peek into the internal evaluation of the Talent Focus Week showed that the VR-experience was in top 3 of best rated experiences at the Talent Focus Week, which makes a little proud smile appear on the virsabian faces?  

We are ambitious at Virsabi!

At Virsabi we have big ambitions for our projects and our collaboration with our customers. Based on our first project for the IKEA Talent Focus week we are now in an evaluation process with IKEA to collect learning on both the process and the product. We very much value this initiative as the learnings collected shall serve as stepping stones for producing even better VR-process and products for our customers.  

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Virsabi is a company that explores the intersection of creativity and technologies and is one of the first Virtual – and Augmented Reality dedicated companies offering both business advisory work and technical development for the utilization of Virtual Production, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality and other new visualization technologies.

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