- REUTERS/Mike Blake
Uber is trying to revamp its culture, which has been described as “toxic.”
In response to a series of crises, Uber agreed on Tuesday to change everything from how it names its conference rooms (goodbye, War Room) to the amount of control its controversial CEO, Travis Kalanick, wields at the $69 billion company.
The changes, recommended in a report issued by former US Attorney General Eric Holder, follow a four-month investigation by Holder and his private law firm into charges of harassment and unethical behavior at the company.
Here are the top nine things Uber has agreed to do to reform its corporate culture:
1. The search for a chief operating officer is on — and he or she will have real power at the company as Kalanick’s role diminishes.
- Reuters Staff
Travis Kalanick decided to take time away from the company. But when he returns, he will have a diminished role; the report makes clear that the board will “review and reallocate” some of his responsibilities.
As part of that, the company is now seeking a chief operating officer who can be a full partner for Kalanick and can take over the day-to-day operations of the company.
Kalanick admitted in February he needed leadership help after Bloomberg published a video of him verbally fighting with a driver. The company soon after launched a search for a COO. However, before the report, the company hadn’t defined the role that executive would play.
The Holder report makes it clear: Kalanick will lose some of his power to gain a COO who can share in clearly defined responsibilities.
2. The company is re-writing its cultural values to get rid of aggressive phrases like ‘principled confrontation’
- Thomson Reuters
Part of Uber’s aggressive culture has been baked into the way Kalanick and Jeff Holden, the company’s chief product officer, defined its core principles. Among those 14 values were items like “Always Be Hustlin”, “toe-stepping”, and “principled confrontation” that encourage employees to work long hours and challenge each other’s work.
Now, though, “our values must be inclusive and focus on teamwork, collaboration and joy at work, and remove aggressive individual behaviors,” Uber’s HR chief Liane Hornsey wrote in an email to employees.
3. Diversity and inclusion are going to be executive-level priorities and every employee will be evaluated on their diversity efforts
Soon after former engineer Susan Fowler set off a bombshell with a widely read blog post that accused the company of ignoring her complaints about sexual harassment and fostering gender discrimination, Uber expanded its team that focuses on diversity and inclusion.
But the company will ramp up its efforts in response to the Holder report, making diversity an executive-level priority.
Uber’s renaming its Head of Diversity position to Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer – although its unclear whether its current head, Bernard Coleman, will take the new title. It also plans to establish an employee diversity board, regularly publish its diversity statistics, and overhaul its efforts to recruit women and underrepresented minority job candidates.
Additionally, Uber plans to start evaluating employees in part on their efforts to encourage diversity.
“There are lots of passionate people at Uber working hard to make our workplace diverse. They do it because they care, and it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s part of their ‘day job,'” Hornsey wrote in an email to Uber’s employees. “We need to recognize and reward all these efforts as part of performance evaluation and as part of our cultural values.”
4. The company will cut back on its party culture and establish clear rules around sex, drugs, and alcohol at work.
- Hollis Johnson
Uber has a reputation for having a party-like atmosphere. Now it’s seeking to change that image by putting in place well-defined rules regarding alcohol, drugs, and personal relationships among employees.
This move is a direct result of the infamous “Miami Letter”. In an frat house-like email sent to employees before a 2013 company bash in Miami, CEO Travis Kalanick enumerated a list of “rules” for drinking and sex at the event. Among them: “Do not throw kegs off tall buildings” and no sex with fellow employees unless “you have asked that person for that privilege and they have responded with an emphatic ‘YES! I will have sex with you.'”
Uber will now prohibit drinking during the work day and using drugs “during core work hours, at work events, or at other work-sponsored events.”
Uber will also cut back its alcohol budget for parties, reduce alcohol inside the office, and limit when it reimburses managers for alcohol purchased at events outside the office. The report recommends that Uber also stop making alcohol the focal point of work parties.
Romantic or intimate relationships between employees and their managers will also be prohibited.
5. Uber is overhauling its compensation and performance review system.
The company’s system for reviewing employees has come under heavy criticism from its workforce. As part of the Holder Report, the Uber pledged to modify the performance review process and make promotion requirements clearer.
Uber knows there is no “silver bullet” here, but wants to make sure employees and managers have a general idea of the requirements and guidelines. Employees will set personal goals, get more feedback from their managers, and not be pressured to compete with each other.
6. Senior leaders will be held responsible in different ways — and their pay might be at stake.
- ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images
Instead of being rewarded for growth at all costs, company leaders will now also be evaluated on their efforts to build inclusive, happy, and diverse teams. If they don’t meet their goals, they could be placed on probation or take a hit to their paychecks, because their compensation will be tied to these new factors.
7. The board is taking back some control from Kalanick and his crew.
- Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
In addition to scaling back Kalanick’s power and control as CEO, the board wants to establish more independent oversight.
Previously, Kalanick didn’t have to worry much about interference from the board. He, cofounder Garrett Camp and early employee Ryan Graves together control the company thanks to their super-voting shares.
The Holder report seeks to counterbalance that control. The report recommends that Uber adds more independent board members and an independent chairman to keep an eye on the executive team and to oversee its cultural change effort. The report also recommends tying executives’ compensation to Uber’s effort to improve diversity and inclusion.
8. ‘We will not fail you again’: Uber’s HR department is starting over
In her blog post, Fowler said Uber didn’t do anything in repo nse to her repeated complaints about being harassed by her manager. Her allegations brought to light some big problems with Uber’s HR department – it didn’t have any protocols in place and its employees lacked training for how to handle complaints.
Uber is now pledging to overhaul its complaint process and hire more staff for its human resources team.
“I want to be super clear, we are building a process that gives employees the ability to report issues, manage issues, and escalate concerns appropriately, and with confidence in the process. You have my absolute commitment on this. We will not fail you again,” Hornsey told Uber’s employees.
9. As part of the cultural make-over, Uber wants to be a friendlier place to all employees, including those with families
Uber is moving up the time when it serves its catered dinner from 8:15 p.m. to 7 p.m., according to Hornsey’s note. It will also give employees the option to work remotely and, starting in September, will allow some employees to work part-time .
The changes are intended to better accommodate “a broader group of employees, including employees who have spouses or families waiting for them at home,” the Holder Report said.