A distinctive corporate culture

Ericsson is an excellent example of what Swedish industry has succeeded in accomplishing since the second half of the 1800s. Telephones, telephone switches and telephone exchanges were manufactured and found buyers throughout the world during that period. In our time Ericsson has become a world-leading supplier in the telecommunications field.

This success may be attributed to the cooperative work of many persons. There is and has been a special spirit in the company – an Ericsson culture that is characterized by the fact that people work hard and cooperate, and that the company is concerned about developing products.

Significant in this culture has been a common view on the part of managers and employees, and among company management and the employees' union organizations, with respect to what should be given priority. Employees have remained with the Company for a long time, and many of them have had remarkably long periods of employment. The receipt of the company's award for long and faithful service – in the form of a medal presented at special ceremonies arranged by the company – was highly prized.

When Ericsson celebrated its 75-years anniversary in 1951 around 500 plaques were presented to workers and office personnel from all the companies within the Ericsson group. In addition to this 700 employees who had worked more than 25 years received a gratuity of SEK 250, which in those days was a relatively large sum.
 
When Ericsson placed its large new main plant in service in Midsommarkransen, a suburb of Stockholm, in the early 1940s there was already a well-developed social welfare system in the company and the employees were organized in various unions that cooperated and negotiated with management's representatives on issues that arose. By then, occupational safety already existed in its modern form, with safety engineers, safety ombudsmen and a safety committee that included a doctor and employee advisor.

There was a new "Homemakers" insurance policy, issued by the Samarbete insurance company, with 190 policyholders in 1949. This special insurance for wives of the employees was discontinued in 1965. The welfare institutions also included the vocational school for apprentices and trainees. Connected with this company school, which had departments for electricity and mechanics, there was a home for students whose parents' residences were in remote locations. Classrooms for instruction in theoretical matters were located in Midsommargården.

Ericsson's Leisure Time Committee, which included representatives of the employees, was the organ that conducted cultural and social activities. The committee was responsible for the employee library, courses for employees, and the Children's Camp. In 1949, to take a single example, a total of 80 children spent two five-week periods at the camp. The children were able to get out into the country to enjoy sun and bathing. The company purchased property on the island of Resarö for this program.

Children's Day for the children of employees was also arranged every year. Children were also invited to the traditional post-holiday parties at which Christmas trees were stripped of their decorations. Mothers of small children were able to leave their offspring at day-care centers that the Company established in the Hägersten area adjacent to the plant.

There was also a fund to cover expenses of illnesses and funerals, as well as funds – the Assistance Fund and Relief Fund – for those with special needs. There were funds that the employees themselves had built up. In 1950, the accident insurance program was supplemented with special insurance covering back injuries, also underwritten by the Samarbete insurance company.

Health care and the company health department have long histories at Ericsson. The first health department was opened in 1917 and, gradually, a physiotherapist and a number of doctors were employed in addition to nurses. Preventive care became increasingly important and physical fitness programs were soon organized in the form of exercise facilities (halls and other premises) and through popular intra-group sports. A sports arena containing a football field, running tracks and other areas for track and field sports was constructed adjacent to the main plant.

A shop for the employees has been available since 1914. The first shop was established by a special food committee that was formed during the First World War to combat the acute shortage of food. The purpose of the shop was to sell quality goods at prices lower than were available in the market. Employees were able to purchase food, work clothes and similar items. It survived the end of the war and was taken over by the "Special Interest Office" (Intressekontoret), a special unit operated by the company. In 1951 the Metalworkers' Union took over the operation. Today the shop, nicknamed “the Cave” is run by an independent financial association, which the employees can join as members.

Midsommargården was the site of theatrical performances, lectures and training activities. Over the years, "L M Day", which was staged annually and whose name derived from "L M Ericsson", as the company was then known, became an ever-greater attraction. It was nearly always held at Gröna Lund amusement park and/or in the Skansen historical park, and featured professional artists offering all sorts of surprises and festivities for Ericsson employees.

Author: Text: Bill Sund

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