Lars Olav Grøvik
Tekna’s new president Lars Olav Grøvik believes that we’re facing enormous changes in the future world of work. Photo: Knut Neerland and Anne Grete Nordal

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– A simple country boy from Sunnmøre

Written by Anne Grete Nordal June 21 2021

When Tekna’s newly elected president Lars Olav Grøvik was going to introduce himself to the delegates at the annual ‘R-meeting’, he called himself «a simple country boy from Sunnmøre» who’s passionate about volunteer service, The Norwegian Model and the green shift.

Recently, Lars Olav Grøvik has been unusually busy; not only did this jovial man from Sunnmøre have to get ready for Tekna’s ‘R-meeting’ as a presidential candidate, because of his role as company union representative, he has also been heavily involved in reorganizing his company, Equinor. In the middle of all this activity, he turned 60 at the end of May, something that quite naturally had to be celebrated – while following COVID restrictions. And on top of it all, he’s been doing a top-to-bottom remodel of his house in Bergen.

– There’s so much I’d like to do and get done, but the calendar and the fact that there’s only 24 hours in a day don’t allow it, he says.

Born in true Ivar Aasen country in the village of Liadal in Ørsta, Sunnmøre, nynorsk is Lars Olav Grøvik’s first language (Editor’s note: something the article’s author can’t follow up).

Volunteer service from the day he was born

The new Tekna president states that he’s never forgotten the story of the Norwegian welfare state’s beginnings and growth, and that its ideals have formed both him as an individual and his values. He also believes strongly in volunteerism/dugnad, The Norwegian Model and the green shift.

– I’m the child of parents who were affected by how poor Norway was before World War II, and I got firsthand accounts of how hard the 1930s were from them and other people living in our rural area.

– For example, hearing about how the Norwegian military was brought in to fight striking workers in 1931 in what’s called Menstadslaget made a strong impression on me.

He says that he was born with not only a sense of volunteerism and dugnad but also a belief in defending The Norwegian Model in the workplace.

– Long ago people had to help each other because there were no laws in place to take care of them. I also learned the importance of creating values while at the same time maintaining what created those values. Without this you can’t achieve any positive development, says Grøvik.

Wants to understand connections

He explains that although his parents were both intelligent, they didn’t have the opportunity to pursue higher education. So the idea that he’d pursue higher education himself wasn’t taken for granted. He chose to study geology at the University of Bergen because he wanted to understand how the Earth was formed.

Lars Olav Grøvik claims that he was born curious and wanted to study geology in order to find out how the Earth was formed. Photo: Knut Neerland and Anne Grete Nordal

– I was born curious. I’ve always wanted to find out how the world works, and I have a wide range of interests. Economic and technical history both interest me – I enjoy finding out why things have turned out the way they have and am passionate about impacting their further development, he says.

Today Lars Olav Grøvik works as a Data Management Advisor at Equinor in Bergen. After a long career in the oil industry, he’s concerned about the enormous changes that have to be made in the future – the green shift. By doing this he hopes to reassure anyone who might believe that he’s stuck in the past, or is what he calls a «museum guard».

– As one of my children told me on my 60th birthday: Even though your clothes are worn out, your thinking’s still young, Dad!

Organizational

Grøvik calls himself both a political person who’s highly involved in making changes and a person who enjoys belonging to organizations.

– I’ve almost lost track of all the organizations I’ve been a member of, from sports teams while my children were growing up to our local language group to the Cancer Society and various international organizations. Through my engagement in these groups and through being a part of large organizational changes in Statoil/Equinor, I’ve gotten a good understanding of the challenges connected with running an organization. And if I get involved in something, I do so to make an impact, he explains. 

He became a Tekna member at a young age, becoming a company representative soon after starting to work. For several years he’s been Tekna’s head representative at Equinor, a board member of Tekna Private and head of Tekna Oil and Gas.

–  Both Equinor and the petroleum industry have been through many ups and downs in addition to major change and downsizing processes. And now we’re facing the green shift.

Not a «one-man-show»

He’s clear about one thing in his new role as Tekna president:

– This won’t be any «one-man-show»! We’ll develop the union’s members and representatives so that we’ll build a true Tekna team, he declares.

The new Tekna president likes to help others perform well, seen here with the association’s new vice-president Elisabet Haugsbø, who he’ll be working closely with in the future. Photo: Knut Neerland and Anne Grete Nordal

A lot of people describe him as a fearless bridge builder with a passion for Tekna, and as someone who likes to help others perform well. As a company union representative he’s used to sitting in negotiations with top-level management and arguing on behalf of employees. He has experience from working as a representative in meetings with supervisory authorities and has represented Tekna at hearings in Parliament.

– The salary and special interest groups, professional network groups and regional offices in Tekna comprise a kind of «holy trinity», says Grøvik. My goal is to work to achieve good cooperation among all three groups.

Most of his own experience comes from working with salary and special interest groups.

– These groups are facing big changes ahead, something that’ll affect our members as well, he states.

As the former head of Tekna Oil and Gas, he also has a great deal of insight into the challenges faced by Tekna’s professional network groups, which unite members in different areas – from biotechnology and climate to oil and gas.

The new workplace

Lars Olav Grøvik has vast experience from working with Tekna’s salary and special interest groups, seen here at the annual meeting of three sectors: Tekna Private, Tekna State and Tekna Municipality. Photo: Knut Neerland and Anne Grete Nordal

The new Tekna president points at two great challenges ahead – the new workplace and how we’ll achieve the green shift.

Grøvik’s talking about what very many of us have gotten a taste of in the past year, the difficult decisions associated with having a home office and separating work and leisure. When is someone at work and when are they off? How will core time be practiced, and what if you work with people all over the world in different time zones?

– There are a lot of potentially difficult situations Tekna as a trade union should look at more closely. For example, if more permanent home office and remote work plans are implemented, we’ll have to make sure that employees’ rights are protected and that any changes will be made for the better.

In addition Grøvik considers digitalization and lifelong learning to be important topics in the future, especially at a time where we’re moving towards making significant societal changes.

Betting on a «Fuji-moment»

– The green shift will mean enormous change, which we as a society must be able to handle, says Lars Olav Grøvik.

He points out that the Norwegian petroleum industry has pumped an extremely high amount of money into the Norwegian treasury.

– Between 2000 and 2019 there was talk of around NOK 1,980 billion. Yet next year it’s estimated that the Norwegian petroleum industry will invest only around NOK 108 billion in the treasury, while mainland industries will invest a little over NOK 70 billion there, he says.

– The big question is how we’ll replace the petroleum industry with other sustainable industries that will still guarantee that we can maintain the welfare state and provide good revenue for businesses, the treasury – along with each and every one of us.

– I usually say that we’re either standing in front of either a Kodak moment or a Fuji moment. When the end was coming for rolls of film, and digital photography was poised to enter the scene, Kodak hung onto film, while Fuji chose to see a new opportunity and adapt to the market. While Kodak went bankrupt, Fuji is alive and well, having diversified into several new areas. So we have to make our own «Fuji moment» happen!

– If I can play a small part in helping Norway become a better society for coming generations, then I’ll feel that both Tekna and I have succeeded.

Volunteers as a friend to patients at Haukeland Hospital

Life is more than work and organizations: Lars Olav Grøvik guards his time with his family, including two children and four grandchildren. He himself lost both of his parents at a young age and a brother, all to leukemia.

– Their deaths affected me, and it’s given me an understanding of and humility towards people who are suffering. As a volunteer ‘friend to patients’ at Haukeland Hospital in Bergen, I’ve seen how tough life can be for some people. To many people I might look like somebody who «just talks a lot», but as a volunteer, I’ve had to listen to others a lot as well.

Lars Olav Grøvik also wants to listen to students and the youngest members in Tekna.

– I understand that many students have had to work extra hard during this COVID year, and I see how exhausting it can be. That’s why I’m extra happy and impressed by how Tekna students have gotten involved in working for improving students’ mental health and for what Tekna can offer this group.

Culture junkie

When Grøvik himself wants to find peace in his soul, he finds his camera and goes outside to find good motifs. He calls himself an active amateur photographer.

His favorite hobbies are traveling, reading and other cultural experiences. He calls himself a ‘culture junkie’ with a wide range of interests.

– I’m omnivorous when it comes to culture – I love everything from ballet, opera and theater to popular music and rock. I can just as well go to a rock concert one day and listen to classical Renaissance music the next, says Tekna’s newly elected president.

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