McLaren entered Formula 1 in the early 1960s and since then has claimed 20 major titles, propelling drivers such as James Hunt, Niki Lauda and Ayrton Senna to global acclaim. Building on this success, the Surrey-based company has branched out into IndyCar and Extreme E racing, and e-sports. Today it also manufactures luxury supercars and encompasses an applied technology unit, which makes the company’s innovation available to other industries.
The long period of lockdown that followed Covid-19 represented a major leap into the unknown for an organisation that had previously been extremely office-centric. Here Daniel Gallo, McLaren Racing’s chief people and IT officer, explains how the company has negotiated this challenge and moved towards a hybrid working model, one with trust and responsibility at its very core.
Determining the future of teams
Like McLaren Racing, Daniel Gallo is used to success. Before joining McLaren, he served as group HR director at Liverpool Football Club, leaving just before Jurgen Klopp’s team won the Champions League in May 2019.
For Daniel, an ardent McLaren fan, the role offered an even bigger opportunity with one of the world’s most recognisable motorsports brands. However, it also represented a major step-up in operational complexity. Each grand prix requires the dispatch of a vast caravan of engineers, technicians, marketers and event managers. And this challenge has only increased in the wake of Covid-19, when the vast majority of McLaren’s workforce went remote.
McLaren has always been office and factory-based, anchored by its space-age technology centre in Woking. By going remote, the company has been forced to recalibrate an approach that brought success for over 50 years.
However, the move to remote working has gone as well as anyone could have expected. Despite all the turmoil, Daniel says levels of productivity and engagement have remained high. So now, the people leadership team is preparing to adopt a long-term hybrid approach for its office-based employees, which has already been communicated to the company and will be formally enacted once the final Covid-19 restrictions are lifted in the UK.
Under this new policy, each team is invited to determine their own future. No role is fully remote, and employees in each of McLaren’s three principal departments – engineering, marketing and its support functions – will be expected to maintain a strong presence in the office. However, within this broad structure, there are no set targets. McLaren trusts its people to determine what is right for them.
“During the pandemic, around two-thirds of the workforce went fully remote, and everyone other than our operations workforce, which is around 300 people, is still predominantly working from home,” Daniel explains. “However, since restrictions started to ease, we have responsibly invited people back in for on-site collaboration.
“This is non-prescriptive. It is giving individuals and team managers a choice as to how they organise and how they do their work in a much more flexible fashion, which allows for a combination of office and home-based working.”