“The aim is to be as good at people as we are at cars”. – Mandeep Dhatt, Executive Director of HR  at McLaren talks to us about HR leadership in 2019.

As part of our commitment to supporting candidates to develop fulfilling careers, we’ve invited some HR Leaders to share the secrets of their success.

This week we had a great conversation with Mandeep Dhatt, Executive Director of HR at McLaren Automotive Ltd. We asked Mandeep a few questions about her career in HR. A career that spans Engineering, Pharmaceutical, Publishing most recently Advanced Manufacturing and Automotive Design. Mandeep’s journey began at University where she studied business studies and excelled in the HR modules. Mandeep then went on to work for an IT storage solutions company as part of her placement year and was inspired by one of their Senior HR leaders. From there Mandeep made a commitment to develop a career in HR leadership.

Mandeep joined McLaren in 2013 as an HR Business Partner and has since added value throughout the business as Head of HR Ops and more recently Executive Director of HR . We were keen to speak with Mandeep about McLaren, her perception of the HR sector and what she feels it takes to be a strong HR leader in 2019.

What do you think is the key to being successful in an HR Leadership role?

Being human. Being human is important. It’s easy for an organisation to forget that it’s not all about chasing the target or building the car or closing that contract. It’s about being human and looking at the people perspective.

It’s also about having empathy. For example, the CFO; not everyone in the company is going to understand exactly the pressure they’re under and what they must go through to deliver. The HR leaders’ role is to demonstrate and showcase all the ways that we can support each other; collaboration is important.

I’m also completely fortunate in that the leader we have, completely understands the value of HR.

“He’s a great support. He will often say, ‘you can do more in that area Mandeep’ and provides the space to do that. And I completely appreciate that not all HR leaders will have that at the top of their organisation. We’re very fortunate in that respect”.

What are the common themes and or challenges you are facing currently?

The generational mix of the workforce that’s currently in play and is coming into play. The mindset of a ‘millennial’ versus a ‘baby boomer’ can be very different. This then feeds into broader conversations around attrition and turnover.

Where we’ve got senior leaders in business, who have worked in the same industry, in the same organisation for 15, 20 years, we also have millennials that are coming to us after two years and are restless and bored, and off they go.

It’s a very new way of working so the workforce isn’t necessarily stable. As a leader you have to dissect which bits of the business need to be stable from a resource, people, expertise and knowledge perspective.

An organisation never stands still. So, we have to think, ‘how are we going to cater for that’ and get comfortable with it. Mandeep recently launched a Coaching Initiative in part in recognition of the value of a multi-generational team.  The initiative was created to encourage knowledge sharing, skills transfer and also to foster resilience within the business. Mandeep said ‘we’re a fast-growing organisation, there is constant change. The coaching element is a way of providing support and a mechanism to communicate that we are aware that we ask a lot of our teams every day, but we also offer this level of support and development in return.

Finally, Mandeep offered one more issue that is high on the agenda at McLaren, “Skills, skills, skills. The global shortage of engineers is being felt quite significantly. So, for us it is all about retention and attraction. Where do we find that skill? It’s also key that we are influencing society and government to ensure that future generations will want to work in automotive and manufacturing and engineering.

STEM is also really important to us as an organisation, as is our early careers programme. We have placed a focus on work experience, apprenticeships, internships, and the graduate space. But it’s also key that we look at how we are utilising the apprenticeship levy to upskill and reskill existing employees, to stop some of that churn. Career development is a USP for us. If you join McLaren you will not only learn what it is to set up and lay foundations and build legacy, but you will also develop beyond recognition – if that’s what you want to do. We’ll give you all the opportunities and avenues available to do so.

What advice would you give HR professionals who are looking to move into an HR leadership role.

Building credibility is important whether from technical stance or a commercial perspective.  A strong HR leader will always be asking, ‘what makes the business better?’, ‘What will make it survive tomorrow?’

Talking authentically about your impact is also really powerful. I think sometimes HR leaders can be narrow in their thinking. When demonstrating your impact follow your examples with impact. What did that do for attrition? What did that do for the employer brand?  It’s important to demonstrate the bigger picture.

Finally, I asked Mandeep what goals her team are working towards in 2019. Mandeep was clear that as an HR leader her goal is always to ensure that McLaren are ‘as good at people, as we are at cars.’

If you are interested in a confidential conversation about your HR career or would like to speak with us about supporting the growth of your HR team, please get in touch today.

Subscribe for more content

“The aim is to be as good at people as we are at cars”. – Mandeep Dhatt, Executive Director of HR  at McLaren talks to us about HR leadership in 2019.