Working at Volvo

Sweden – where every voice is heard

Welcome to Sweden – a place with a unique style of management, where every voice counts. Here, Volvo Cars people tell their stories of leadership, Swedish-style.

BY LEO WILKINSON, APRIL 2017

Erik Israelsson

“Every voice counts”

There is a unique approach to life in Sweden. You can see it in the cars that Volvo makes. And if you’re a Volvo Cars employee you experience it every day at work. Because, despite having more than 30,000 employees around the world, Volvo still acts like a Swedish company.
 

That means it designs cars in a distinctive way, and it also means a distinctive style of management. “At Volvo every voice counts,” says Beatrice Simonsson, design engineer. “I can say to my manager, ‘I don’t agree with you, I think we should do it like this.’ But of course I can also say, ‘Sorry, I was wrong, we’ll do it your way.’
 

“I think it’s very positive that everyone is encouraged to speak up. The management teams are eager to hear your voice and they challenge you to have an opinion. There’s a hunger to innovate here and having an open dialogue helps us to find new solutions. This is what good leadership is about.”
 

Safety engineer Erik Israelsson agrees: “There’s an open approach, so you can build a decision from the bottom up. If you have a good idea you have the freedom to work together with your colleagues to perfect it. If you can present the right solution you will get the go-ahead from management. That’s a healthy way of working.”
 

Volvo grille and badge

“Having an open dialogue helps us to find new solutions. This is what good leadership is about”

BEATRICE SIMONSSON

Design engineer

Conny Blommé

“Creativity and innovation are encouraged”

“Volvo Cars – like many Swedish companies – has quite a ‘flat’ hierarchy that allows everyone in the team to contribute,” says Vito Di Fonzo, lead engineer, audio. “Managers tend to be happy to let people get on with their jobs. They allow everyone to express their opinion, and this encourages creativity and innovation. You don’t feel a need to keep challenging ideas to yourself.”
 

Sofia Wessman, senior manager, connectivity, agrees. “At Volvo Cars there’s a very Swedish way of talking to your managers,” she says. “They are like your friends. You don’t really think of them as your managers. I also feel that there is a willingness from top management to know what’s happening – they don’t want to be surrounded by people just saying ‘yes’. They are open to new ideas. That gives us an advantage in developing innovative ideas and technology.”
 

Conny Blommé, senior interior design manager, says: “The style of leadership at Volvo reflects Swedish culture. In Sweden there’s a long history of trusting people to resolve problems in their own way without supervising too much, and that has created a lot of ingenious solutions. In general, Scandinavian people try to avoid conflict and work towards a resolution. It encourages people to find new solutions in a creative way.”
 

“The style of leadership at Volvo reflects Swedish culture. It encourages people to find new solutions in a creative way”
 

CONNY BLOMMÉ
Senior interior design manager

       

“A role model for my team members”

Volvo’s continued innovation means getting the right people working well together. Maximilian Missoni, vice president, exterior design, says: “In Sweden there’s this idea of coming to a consensus before you take the next step. It takes a lot of effort, but it’s worth it. Everybody feels ‘it’s mine, I’m part of this, so I care’.”
 

Leadership also plays a crucial part in keeping people motivated. Henrik Svensson, manager, audio systems, explains: “Everything starts with people at Volvo and, as a manager, I am a role model for my team members. It’s my job to inspire them, support them and challenge them to do better.”
 

“As a company, we want to be among the leaders in every area, not only in the products we make, but also the way we do things. That’s what makes us different. That’s the Volvo way.”
 

Studio image of Henrik Svensson
Volvo on a small ferry

“As a manager, I am a role model for my team members. It’s my job to inspire them, support them and challenge them to do better.”

HENRIK SVENSSON

Manager, audio systems