Carl Törnström, Sales Project Manager at Volvo Penta, describes his largest learning’s from the second common week with the graduate group in China.
It was really nice meeting the graduate group again. From the outset it was noticeable that the participants took up where we’d left off during the first common week in Gothenburg. Besides seeing the other graduates during the previous week I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know some of them better. Partly through a common project that was given to us from Corporate Strategy, but also from my job rotation at Volvo CE in the US.
Since the Graduate Program enables a lot of job rotations and the graduates therefore frequently switch job location, it’s important to maintain contact with the other graduates and the relationship becomes very close.
The week started in Beijing. Initially we got a business update from Eric Labat, President of GTSM APAC, on Volvo Trucks´ business in China. It was really interesting and inspiring to hear about the Volvo Group’s potential opportunities in China. The presentation also gave good insights into the major differences between the various markets. Another thing that was interesting to hear about was how the Volvo Group is currently working to change the mind-set of Chinese customers from a focus on cost to a focus on the total cost of ownership. This is being done by offering consultancy services and training in sustainable transports. At the end of the day this leads to the customer gaining an even better understanding of Volvo’s offering. As a result the Volvo Group contributes to a more environment friendly society while increasing market acceptance of premium brands.
In addition to the business update, we also listened to an intriguing presentation by Jasmine Huang, Vice President HR VCIC, about the Chinese labor market. In China, where growth is considerable and demand for competent labor is large, the labor market is vastly different compared with other countries. Within the Chinese labor market, it is really hard to attract top talent. Unlike Sweden, the large global private companies in China are not perceived as the most desired employers; instead the communist party or large state-owned enterprises are preferred. Meanwhile, Volvo HR China received about 3,000 applications for each trainee position, which really made the applicant selection process tricky.
On top of these two presentations, the week contained several presentations and workshops about how to conduct effective meetings, cross-cultural communications and diversity and inclusive leadership. Multiple guest speakers talked about cultural differences, but the most interesting part was when the differences emerged in interaction. During the week, we had several interesting and educational discussions. I learned that it is impossible to thoroughly understand and know all of the world´s cultures which initially made me frustrated. Then I realized that knowing exactly all the differences are not the most important part but rather being open and having the right attitude towards the differences. I think that it is really important to have learned this lesson which is a must for a future leader. With this mindset, a leader is able to create bridges across cultural gaps as well as effective collaborations between Volvo’s various departments.
We spent the last days of the week in Shanghai. I’ve previously lived one year in Shanghai and it was really nice going back. During the last day, we were invited to Volvo CE’s production facility for excavators. The other graduates and I were very impressed by the facility and the highly competent staff. I think there are a lot of preconceptions about Chinese production facilities and I felt it was healthy to get my conceptions proven wrong. During the visit we also got insights into the production facility’s development since the start and Volvo CE’s dual branding strategy on the Chinese and the global market.
Throughout the program, all graduates, parallel with the job rotations, worked on projects for Volvo Group Corporate Strategy. At the end of the week, two of the project groups made their final presentation. One of these groups was my group so I got to experience some nerves. However, the presentations went well and it was nice to see that even though we’re new to the Volvo Group, we can still contribute with our ideas and knowledge.
To sum up the week, it was extremely worthwhile. I felt I’ve developed a lot this past six months since I joined the Volvo Group. I´ve also noticed that the same goes for my graduate colleagues. During the week, you could truly experience that the questions and discussions were on a totally different level compared with the first common week. It was obvious that a lot of the Program’s goals and purposes are being fulfilled.
Miller Liu and William Ma are two domestic graduates who were great ambassadors for their country and showed us the true face of Chinese hospitality. Besides the official schedule of the week they offered, for those who wanted, the possibility to try out some interesting dishes from the Chinese cuisine, such as: scorpions, cow’s heel, chicken feet in mustard and duck’s face. We also had the chance to try some more easily digestible and tasty dishes like Beijing duck and Shanghai dumplings. In addition, Miller and William guided us to some famous historical landmarks and other sightseeing spots.
After this common week, the graduates will continue to work hard on their various rotations. My plan is to visit China again so that I can learn more about Volvo Penta’s market unit in China, Chinese culture and the Chinese market. I’m really looking forward to this experience. A sub-target during my visit has also been to develop my Chinese and enhance my Chinese business vocabulary.