Harnessing Formula 1 principles for high-performance workplace cultures

In the fast-paced world of business, where agility and innovation win the race, HR leaders are constantly seeking strategies to nurture high-performing teams and cultivate engaging workplace cultures.

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Charley Zuidinga, co-founder and CEO of cloud-based employee onboarding and engagement platform Qualee, comes from a background steeped in the adrenaline-fueled world of racing. For years, she worked in sales and marketing for the Grand Prix lifestyle experience of Formula 1, revered as the world’s foremost racing competition.

The 2024 season is unprecedented in the number of events, with a tally of 24 Grand Prix races scheduled across 21 countries spread over five continents, illustrating the appeal and global significance of this relatively young sport. Zuidinga says that employers and HR leaders can tap into the F1 energy to strengthen their teams.

Passion, mission and teamwork

Drawing inspiration from the key principles of Formula 1—passion, mission and teamwork—Zuidinga founded Qualee (the name signifies qualifying before the race) in Singapore in 2017. The organization’s mission is to create workplace cultures akin to the high-performance dynamics witnessed on the racetrack.

Zuidinga’s journey from the heart of motorsport to the forefront of HR technology is built on a passion for driving organizational excellence. She says that teams must prioritize culture as a strategy for long-term performance. “Culture is imperative to thrive on uncertainty,” says Zuidinga.

Formula 1 is undeniably a team endeavor, exemplified by the lightning-fast techniques required to replace all four tires on a car in under two seconds. Teams in F1 are responsible for the intricate design, construction and preparation of their cars for competition. Each team boasts a distinctive history and employs its own strategic approach, all united by the common goal of achieving the highest speeds on the track.

Drawing upon her experiences in Formula 1, Zuidinga says that “culture is the driving force behind sustained success.” She cites three cultural aspects of the racing environment directly translatable to the workplace. These are:

  • Continuous innovation in product and management style by taking strategic risks and adapting leadership approaches.
  • Celebration of human elements central to team collaboration toward a common goal. This includes advocating for diversity and inclusion, especially after what appears to be a peak in DEI activity.
  • Embracing failure by thriving on continuous feedback and viewing failures as learning opportunities. F1 teams conduct a briefing armed with data after each practice round or race.

Culture comes first

The business landscape in 2024 is characterized by time compression and rapid cultural shifts, an atmosphere in which Zuidinga’s message resonates: Prioritize culture as a strategic imperative and thrive on uncertainty.

Throughout a Formula 1 season, 80% of a car transforms in the time that passes between the beginning and end of the racing season. This evolution pushes teams to constantly innovate or fall to the competition. In the high-stakes world of F1, stagnation equals defeat, compelling teams to embrace change and adapt to stay ahead of the curve.

Charley Zuidinga, co-founder and CEO of Qualee; Formula 1 strategies to nurture high-performing teams
Charley Zuidinga, co-founder and CEO of Qualee

As Qualee expands its footprint beyond APAC and Australia into North America, Zuidinga remains committed to maximizing alignment and belonging throughout the employee lifecycle.

Utilizing AI technology, Qualee facilitates the development of interactive workflows, streamlines compliance obligations and quantifies employee engagement levels. The solution is available in 20 of the world’s most prevalent languages.

Qualee’s approach to employee engagement aims to be holistic, from pre-boarding to off-boarding, recognizing that timely insights are essential to retaining talent and nurturing brand ambassadors. By leveraging real-time data and AI-generated insights, Qualee offers its clients tools to measure and improve their culture, ensuring that employee voices are heard and acted upon promptly.

Embrace HR technology

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Many times, offboarding is ultimately too late for HR to process feedback about why people would want to separate from the organization, says Zuidinga. “Timely insights are essential.” However, challenges persist, particularly when it comes to quantifying and measuring culture in a way that is useful for talent attraction and retention.

Zuidinga advises HR leaders to leverage data-driven approaches—coupled with continuous real-time insights—to inform decision-making and drive meaningful action across the organization. This is where today’s HR tech environment is rich with solutions.

In an era where job-hopping is increasingly common, Zuidinga underscores the importance of nurturing talent and fostering lasting connections by harnessing cutting-edge technology. After all, candidates and employees are taking advantage of technology to share their experiences with the world, so it’s clear they expect to have similar workplace platforms at their disposal. “When people feel their voices haven’t been heard, they’ll put their thoughts on external platforms like Glassdoor,” she says.

In the time-compressed world of Formula 1 racing, quick access to insights and rapid analysis are crucial for maintaining the high standards needed to snag that crucial win. While there may not be a literal finish line for HR leaders, Zuidinga suggests that adopting a data-driven mindset is valuable in navigating the seemingly constant change of today’s business world.

Jill Barthhttps://hrexecutive.com/
Jill Barth is HR Tech Editor of Human Resource Executive. She is an award-winning journalist with bylines in Forbes, USA Today and other international publications. With a background in communications, media, B2B ecommerce and the workplace, she also served as a consultant with Gallagher Benefit Services for nearly a decade. Reach out at [email protected].