Explore these real life diversity in the workplace examples to find out how Volvo Group is working with diversity and inclusion.
Volvo Group is one of more than fifty leading European companies in the industrial and technological sector that have signed on to the first pan-European commitment of its kind, promoting inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
To be committed to create the right environment and conditions for all employees to reach their full potential – that is the promise. The pledge, called #EmbraceDifference, states that diversity is not just about gender, race, sexual orientation or disability. It is about welcoming a full range of talents from across the entire spectrum of society.
#EmbraceDifference is an initiative by the European Round Table of Industrialists, a forum bringing together around 55 chief executives and chairpersons of major multinational companies. The pledge is summarized in six topics: An inclusive culture, inclusive leadership, aspiration and goal setting, clear responsibility, equal opportunities, and societal engagement and responsibility.
For more than a decade, Volvo Group has worked systematically to increase inclusion and improve the gender balance of the organization. With an ambitious target of 35 % female leaders by 2030, and a broad variety of initiatives designed to work towards that target, the Group is striving to move the needle towards increased gender equality, bit by bit on a daily basis.
“In the Volvo Group, we work actively to promote gender equality not only because it is ‘fair’ and ‘the right thing to do’, but because it is essential for our business performance. Equality is not a women's concern, it's a business concern.
Ensuring an inclusive culture and a diverse workforce will have a positive impact on our productivity, our efficiency and our ability to innovate. Increased gender equality will also strengthen employee engagement, enhance our ability to attract talents, and boost our reputation as a company. To reach this target, we need to consistently challenge inequality and address gender bias and stereotypes.
We need to create an inclusive culture, where everyone can contribute with the whole self. It is only when we #ChooseToChallenge the status quo and challenge with the right purpose and constructive attitude that we can create true change.,” says Diana Niu, Executive Vice President HR, Volvo Group.
We are more creative in diverse environments – that is one reason why diversity is so important in a workplace. And when everyone in a group feels safe to express their ideas, the group actually performs better.
People tend to trust people who are like themselves. And even if that bias is not meant to be hurtful, it causes an exclusive environment that inhibits creativity. At Volvo Group these questions are highly prioritized and discussed in workshops that are held on a regular basis and called Diversity & Inclusion Labs. The purpose of the Labs is to challenge the participants’ unconscious bias.
One of the Labs facilitator explains: “We work harder, think more and are more inspired in diverse environments. And, if we also feel included, we don’t hold back with our ideas or energy. Studies show that homogeneous teams have the impression that they are very efficient. But, in laboratory tests, mixed teams had far better results even though they had the impression that the process was not as smooth and less efficient.”
In most countries and industries, there are fewer women than men in the fields of engineering. This does not stop Mina Mirhendi, standardization engineer at Volvo Group, to aim for the top. “I feel that Volvo Group gives me this opportunity,” she says.
Mina moved to Gothenburg from Iran to study materials engineering and joined Volvo Group in 2017.
“Before I joined, my perception was that it is a high-tech company, and this has proven to be accurate. I’ve discovered that there is also a strong sense of teamwork, trust and mutual respect. Volvo Group gives its employees room to develop.”
Mina describes her job as very challenging, but she is ready to do what it takes to continue develop.
“One day, I would like to become an expert in my field of technology. To achieve this, I need to constantly improve my knowledge and be able to contribute ideas on what can be improved in my field,” she concludes.
Carrie Lively works as a Digitalization & IT Manager for Volvo Group Trucks in Hagerstown, North America. She loves her job and is equally passionate about diversity & inclusion. We asked her why: “Because one, I am a female and two, I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Many people don’t feel comfortable being their authentic selves because they may fear retribution at work.
They may feel like they don’t have the same opportunities to grow and develop in their careers because of their sexual orientation, and that makes me very sad. I can’t imagine working for an organization where I couldn’t come in and share about my personal life for fear of people judging me or looking down upon me.
Many people, especially young people, end up considering suicide because they think that’s an easier way out than coming out and that makes me very, very sad. But love is love; to me it should not matter what your sexual orientation or gender identity is, you’re still a human being, you’re still a person, you still have value to your organization and to society.
It’s time for the stereotypes to come down, it’s time for the hate to stop, and it’s time to recognize that it doesn’t matter who you love. You’re loving someone, and that’s the most important thing.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and working for Volvo Group, I feel physically safe, I feel emotionally safe. I’m co-chair for the V-Eagle North America network for Volvo Group. I always wanted to work for a company that is accepting of different pieces of diversity, that promotes inclusion, that has a family atmosphere, and I really feel like that is a large part of what we do here in Hagerstown.
Everyone wants to feel included, and they want to feel cared about. I think Volvo truly does care about individuals.”
Are you curious about what it is like to be a LGBT person at Volvo Group? Listen to Volvo Group employee Nathalie Fontaine’s eye opening Group Talk on openness, trust and respect. Group Talks is a learning tool provided by Volvo Group University to spread knowledge and inspiring stories shared by Volvo Group employees around the world, in a format inspired by the “TED Talk” experience.
Laurent Chauvin, vice president of Governance, has been with the company for 20 years. He feels that Volvo Group is a respectful and safe environment in which people can feel at ease about being themselves at work, including being open about their sexuality. In the company’s Code of Conduct it is clearly outlined that discrimination based on “who you are”, including your sexual orientation, is unacceptable.
“Feeling supported is key,” says Laurent and mentions V-EAGLE, Volvo Group’s global LGBTQ+ network established 15 years ago as a first in the industrial technology sector. The network provides support for employees and has developed a guide for managers with the intention of facilitating dialogue and improving understanding and workplace inclusion.
People’s private lives intersect with their professional ones on a daily basis. Being secretive about who you are creates distance between colleagues and can even affect productivity.
“When we start our week at the coffee machine with our colleagues, we all discuss our weekends and mention our families. After I came out to my team, they were relieved because not only did they feel that they knew me better, but they also felt they could now discuss their personal issues with me,” says Laurent. “In turn, both team spirit and efficiency were improved starting with me being open. Being transparent is empowering for everyone.”
Hiring a minimum of five per cent of employees with special abilities is Volvo Group Brazil’s priority – good for both the company’s business and the community.
Rafaela de Camargo who works at Volvo Group’s site in Curitiba is one of many employees who communicate using sign language. There to help her is a specially assigned employee who is fluent in Brazilian sign language and one of those responsible for assisting employees with special needs.
One of the more successful hires is Jose Claro Melo, a blind operator who uses his advanced sense of touch to find imperfections in paint and bodywork.
“They told me they were having trouble finding defects and they asked me to try it out and I did. Blind people are often restricted in job opportunities but at the Volvo Group I have gained widespread respect. This work has made me an example for other blind people,” he says.
“Just like Jose sees things that other people can’t see, deaf people are often able to concentrate better because they don’t hear distractions. It’s always hard to generalize, but the work they do is exceptional,” concludes the training manager.
What can a young employee teach an experienced manager? Reverse mentoring is, as the name suggests, a mentorship that reverses roles.
Maria Bergving and Joel Laestadius are one of seven pairs taking part in Volvo Group’s reverse mentoring pilot project. Though Maria Bergving is a member of the executive management team at Volvo Trucks and has far more professional experience, Joel Laestadius is the mentor.
The objective is to stimulate curiosity among leaders, encourage development and bridge generation gaps. The older person learns about digitalization, new ways to work and other things that interest the younger generation. The younger mentor has the opportunity to develop his network and share the senior person’s experience.
Joel Laestadius, who is involved in purchasing logistics services for the Volvo Group, is convinced that the two can learn a great deal from each other.
“Sharing knowledge does not have to take place from the top and down in an organization, it can also move in the other direction,” he says.