Volvo Car USA
Creating a Progressive Company Includes Expansive Benefits at Volvo

Creating a Progressive Company Includes Expansive Benefits, Volvo Says

May 4, 2021
“We aim to lead when it comes to how we treat our people and want to set a global standard as a progressive and responsible employer,” says Mikael Rampa, head of HR Americas, at Volvo Car USA.

On March 30, Volvo announced that all of its 40,000 employees, employed for a year or more, will be entitled to a six-month parental leave at 80% of their salary. Employees can take those weeks anytime during the first three years after the birth of their child.

To better understand the program, and the company's culture, IndustryWeek asked Volvo Car USA Head of HR Americas Mikael Rampa a few questions.

IW:  What were the challenges the company faced that led to the creation of the Family Bond?

MR: There wasn’t a problem. We simply introduced the Family Bond policy to make it clear that Volvo Cars is a modern and progressive company that promotes inclusion, flexibility and putting employees first. We support and encourage all parents to take their full leave time, where they can choose to receive 24 weeks of paid leave at 80% of their salary or 19 weeks of paid leave at 100% of their salary. It’s important for us to build a culture that supports equal opportunity for ALL parents to spend time with their child.

IW: What type of structure was created to study the issue, create the policy and then communicate it to the workforce? 

MR: We ran a pilot in Europe to study potential outcomes. We observed 37 employees (54% mothers and 46% fathers) who applied for the parental leave program. This gender-neutral and inclusive policy represented different family circumstances, was compliant with local legislation, and adaptable to personal needs. The findings demonstrated the need to break down cultural taboos, regularly reinforce our company’s support for the policy, and encourage open conversations.

We combined the results of this study with our culture and values, along with inspiration from national legislation in our home market of Sweden which offers generous parental leave arrangements, to create the Family Bond offering.

IW:  You chose to communicate the offering through peers and colleagues as well as regular channels. How did you structure this?

MR: Research from the past several decades found that the source of a message is just as important as the content of the message itself. We are generally more likely to engage or comply with messaging from sources we have known longer, work closely with and whom we interact with more frequently.

 As a result, we have enacted a number of internal and external strategies across various channels to communicate details on Family Bond to employees, such as a letter-writing campaign penned by Volvo Cars leaders and employees capturing personal stories of parenthood and the importance of taking parental leave.

IW:  How will you overcome the belief, particularly in the U.S., that taking this time off could jeopardize someone’s career.

MR:  We understand this is a culturally ingrained belief in the U.S. and part of the effort to overcome this perception is providing support and encouragement from leadership and peers. Volvo Cars is aiming to break the mold and showcase how companies can be leaders when it comes to shifting these preconceived notions.

We partnered with behavioral scientists to conduct a literature review that explored the science behind how to effectively communicate parental leave and how we can encourage participation for all employees. We took these findings and created a checklist to follow when sharing communications related to Family Bond, which includes:

  • Presenting 24 weeks as the default – with the ability to opt-out.
  • Providing certainty and removing approximating and hedging language like ‘up to’ or ‘may.’
  • Providing urgency and personal relevancy: their parental leave is due to be taken.
  • Connecting people and showcasing examples of others who have taken parental leave.
  • Considering different messengers like peers and colleagues.
  • Developing early, concrete plans with ‘whens,’ ‘wheres,’ and ‘hows.’
  •  Celebrating the opportunity to learn new skills and values.

We are also ensuring employees that when they return from parental leave, they will hold an equivalent position to what they had when stepping away for this much-deserved time with families. We believe this is simply the right thing to do for our employees.

IW:   How will you overcome the issue of the cultural role of fathers vs. mothers?

MR: With the introduction of Family Bond, we hope to drive equality, diversity and inclusion in our workplace. It is critical that we foster a culture that supports equal parenting opportunities for all. When employees who are parents feel supported to balance work and family demands, it brings us closer to minimizing the gender gap, while allowing everyone to thrive in their careers.  

We understand other global companies do not offer any paid leave to new parents or exclude certain groups like fathers. As a family-oriented company, Volvo Cars wanted to address this issue and set a new global standard by creating a more inclusive and supportive policy applicable to all employees who are parents – including adoptive, permanent foster care and surrogates, in addition to non-birth parents and same-sex couples.

 We are increasing efforts to make parental leave feel more personal for fathers in particular by using language that emphasizes the benefit is equally applicable to all, backed by stories from other Volvo employees who participated in the program.

IW:  Can you talk about the overall DEI strategy?

MR: Volvo Cars has always been a human-centric company. For us, diversity is about embracing different backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. We aim to lead when it comes to how we treat our people and want to set a global standard as a progressive and responsible employer. Diverse, modern and flexible working practices will help us achieve this.

The Family Bond policy is an example of how we are living our core values and will help us retain and attract the best talent in the world. We know our people make the difference, as they are at the forefront of creating the next generation of premium cars for our customers, and we want to bring out the best in them. We are proud to have a diverse global workforce where everyone is respected and able to contribute to our industry-leading work.

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Sr. Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Email: [email protected]

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Senior Editor Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today. 

Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. 

She is the author of  Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. 

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