Alexander Ulrich joined IKEA Germany in August 2021 as “Leadership & Competence Manager”. With his department he manages the entire range of HR and leadership development. In this Talenthelden-Talk, he shares insights and know-how about his area of responsibility and “people development” in general.

Talenthelden-Talk: Alexander Ulrich

Talenthelden: Alexander, you are quite ‘new’ in your role as Leadership & Competence Manager at IKEA. What exactly do you do?

Alexander: My job is to strategically align our department with IKEA’s goals, to provide the right mix of proven and innovative measures of HR and leadership development, and of course to support each team member on their individual development journey.

Talenthelden: How would you define “innovative” in the context of personnel development and what differentiates it from “classic” measures?

Alexander: By “classic” I mean that HR departments offer full-day trainings and is (or is made) responsible for the learning success. This is, for sure, an outdated and too one-sided approach. Innovative measures take into account the different “moments of need“. It aligns learning with the different needs and employees (hybrid formats, one size fits one) and actively demands that learners and leadership take responsibility for their learning and development process.

What is the focus of IKEA's HR development and why?

Alexander: One of our current focuses is structured and effective succession planning. The retail industry is changing, and so are business models and role profiles. Combined with demographic change, we are therefore realigning our succession planning and strategy.

Talenthelden: What advice would you give other companies when it comes to developing their leadership? What skills should they invest in today to be successful tomorrow?

Alexander: I think it depends very much on the “maturity of the leadership culture” in the respective company. Having said that, I would not give a general or blanket recommendation. It is important that there is an awareness of the status quo and that a clear vision exists of how both − managers and employees − can be effective in the future. Usually this process can be managed very effectively by management and HR.

Talenthelden: What are you doing for your personal development?

Alexander: A big milestone was my training as a systemic coach, which I completed a few years ago. I have learned a lot − both professionally and personally, and it has had a lasting impact on me. On a daily base, I like to use the possibilities provided by social media and digital learning platforms. I am currently also completing a part-time training to become an HR Business Partner. And last but not least, it’s conversations and encounters with a wide variety of people (professional as well private) that give me decisive impulses for reflection.

What are your top 3 tips that you would give colleagues in other companies?

  1. People development is not an isolated department, but embedded in HR. Harness this power, but also ensure clear responsibilities in roles.
  2. Take an outside-in AND an inside-out perspective: How can HR development be the innovation driver in your company?
  3. True to Steve Jobs: Stay hungry, stay foolish!
Thank you Alexander for your time. We will follow your journey on how you are accompanying the transformation at IKEA and are already looking forward to a future conversation. As you said yourself: “It is the conversations and encounters with the most diverse people that provide decisive impulses for reflection.”


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