It was electrifying to see how the Swedish OEM challenged both workshop and service personnel from around the globe to demonstrate teamwork and problem-solving ability in a competitive environment, but it was even more inspiring to experience just what the event did to those involved.
There was genuine pride in people’s eyes as an excited local Volvo team welcomed them at the company’s head office in Gothenburg. Having gone through a strenuous selection process – competing with some 18,000 Volvo staff globally – the finalists were treated to a blue (Volvo stuck with the corporate colour scheme) carpet entry that would have suited a Hollywood movie premiere.
Lining the carpet were key executives like Volvo Trucks President, Claes Nilsson, clapping and cheering as if Sweden had just won the football World Cup. I can only imagine how it must’ve felt to carry the Australian flag down the narrow walkway, blinded by a flood of flashlights and shadowed by a full-fledged TV crew. Just experiencing it all from a distance was priceless.
When talking to Claes, he also made sure I didn’t use the term mechanic to refer to Volvo workshop staff, but said technician instead. To him, it’s important that Volvo’s corporate vision to be an inclusive and value-adding business is also reflected on a linguistic and behavioural level.
For some it may be nothing but a side note, but to me, Claes’ comment showcased exactly what the event was all about – appreciation for those getting their hands dirty every day to represent the Volvo brand at the very frontline. The investment the company has made to invite the 32 best teams from around the world to Sweden must have been enormous, but as a team building exercise, I am sure it will pay off – not to mention the positive effect competing must have had on everyone’s skillset.
Rumour has it that Volvo even had to assist some staff getting a passport organised in the lead-up to the final, as they had never left their home country before. For them, travelling all the way to Sweden and being treated like a movie star would have been a dream come true. To me, it was a powerful reminder that culture cannot be imposed and that the simple act of paying positive attention to people can make all the difference to the success of a business. Why? Because customers will never love a company until the employees love it first, as business coach Simon Sinek once put it. I couldn’t agree more.