Volvo's HR Practices - Focus on Job Enrichment

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Case Details:

Case Code : HROB062
Case Length : 13 Pages
Period : 1973 - 1999
Pub Date : 2004
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Volvo Car Corporation
Industry : Auto and Ancillaries
Countries : Sweden

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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The HR Problem

Volvo was among Sweden's leading employers with employees numbering 41,000 in company-owned plants. Its dealer network provided employment to an additional 10,000 people as of 1973. An additional 15,000 people were employed through Volvo's sub-contractors. Volvo's products were marketed in 120 countries with 75% of its total production exported mainly to other European countries and the US...

The Job Enrichment Experiments

The changes in the organization structure facilitated easier implementation of job enrichment concepts. Volvo's efforts involved both employees and the management. The management decided to experiment with five job enrichment measures - job rotation, management-employee councils, small work groups, change implementation and employee-oriented facilities - at its manufacturing facilities.

Job Rotation
Job rotation involved shifting around of jobs among workers according to a pre-determined plan. Each employee within a group was offered a job, which was different both physically and psychologically from his/her previous job...

The New HR Initiatives

Volvo introduced three new HR programs in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These were Match Project, Full Rulle (Full Speed Ahead) and Dialog.

The first was introduced in 1983. It aimed at achieving five HR objectives, which were:

• Training new recruits intensively.
• Disseminating organizational objectives to all employees in the company.
• Framing rules and regulations for employees to establish discipline...

The Uddevalla Plant

Uddevalla offered the best work environment for employees. Developing staff competence was deemed vital by Volvo to build quality cars as well as to achieve the organizational objectives of improving productivity, flexibility and efficiency. Also, operations had to be scaled up as Kalmar could accommodate only 600 employees, which was not sufficient. Employee representatives were involved in the plant's planning group, which had a team of researchers with diverse backgrounds ranging from engineering to psychology...

End of the Socio-Technical Approach?

While Volvo was going ahead with its human-centric approach, the external market forces in the automotive industry were changing. This forced the company to take serious measures, which stopped the progress of its job enrichment initiatives. In the early 1990s, with the declining demand for cars in the global market, it was no longer feasible for Volvo to continue operating in relatively smaller facilities like Kalmar and Uddevalla...


Exhibit I: The Volvo Way
Exhibit II: Volvo Kalmar Assembly Plant
Exhibit III: The Uddevalla Plant


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