Uber has been a hot topic in the media lately, with stories around its culture scandals and resulting company organizational changes.
Uber’s culture issues were brought to the surface through a former employee whistle blower, and then corroborated by several current employees in addition to leaked exposures of misconduct stemming from all levels of the organization.
Once stories of Uber’s culture became public, they were followed by insincere recommendations from the board that felt more like empty gestures than an attempt to fix the real issue. These actions highlighted that while certain individuals may have set the tone for Uber’s environment, their culture problems are systemic in nature and will require significant time to sort out.
From this situation, there are three important lessons that I think companies, no matter their size, should learn from this.
1. HR is a critical element to the success of a company. (No matter what size!)
Uber is a high-growth, private technology company that places an emphasis on company expansion and profit. In doing so, the company neglected to put necessary structures in place, such as human resources, to manage and supplement this growth.
In fact, one of the key recommendations presented in a report by Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General, was to increase the number of HR representatives. While this is important, it is even more crucial for there to be leadership in place that truly values HR. Otherwise, the efforts of more HR leaders will remain unvalued. The best cultures are found in companies in which the CEO understands their ability to succeed is about their ability to support, inspire and empower their people.
2. Establish core values with employee buy-in.
Uber had 14 total core values. Just the number of core values alone shows that none of them are truly core to the company’s overall vision of culture and success. Companies should have somewhere between three to five core values, which should be established with employee buy-in in mind. These values should also be revisited frequently to enforce and recognize positive action and ensure they are still applicable and delivering value to the company as a whole.
Listen to employees and develop a system for continued communication around company values—living core values is a journey, not a destination. Employees should have a say in what defines their culture. This should act as a give and take between leadership and employees.
3. Communication and recognition enforce building a positive company culture.
Uber was instructed to put in place mandatory HR training for all employees. Unfortunately, this action is too little, too late. This tells employees that the company doesn’t truly value cultural change.
Instead, companies should constantly communicate with employees in a way that recognizes behaviors which align with company culture. Creating a culture of recognition where employees understand what is expected and are rewarded for this benefits the company overall.
Building a positive company culture does not happen overnight, but if you implement these three key takeaways into your organization today, you can start paving your way to a healthy and successful company culture—even a company with a toxic culture like Uber.