Lessons from the Uber investigation

After a former employee of Uber Technologies, Inc. (“Uber”) went public with allegations of workplace misconduct and the ineffectiveness of the company’s policies earlier this year, the company retained a law firm to investigate, review and make recommendations.

The investigators’ findings and recommendations are good suggestions for any organization. They included:Make Senior Leadership Changes

Make Senior Leadership Changes

It was recommended that Uber make high-level changes to put a focus on operations and company culture.

Uber had a “Head of Diversity” already; the investigators recommended elevating that person’s visibility within the company publicly, and that the role clearly address both diversity and inclusion going forward.

Enhance Oversight of the Board of Directors

The investigators felt that increasing independence on the board by adding additional independent directors and changing to an independent chairperson could help demonstrate the company’s commitment to reform.

Other recommendations included the creation of an oversight committee to enhance the company’s culture, and revamping executive compensation to include metrics like ethical business practices, inclusion and diversity.

In order to make sure recommended action was taken, the investigators also recommended that Uber appoint a senior leader to oversee implementation, form a committee to set timelines and prioritize recommendations, and to report back to the larger board on progress.

Improve Internal Controls

It was also recommended that Uber take action to enhance its internal policy compliance controls.

Enhancing the audit committee’s independence, size and role, and improving record-keeping within the human resources department were also recommended to help ensure accountability and appropriate actions and responses to alleged misconduct.

Enhance and Expand Training

Training plays a critical role in any company’s success, so it’s not surprising that the investigators in the Uber case recommended broad revisions to Uber’s training program, from the highest levels of the organization on down.

For senior leaders, recommended training would include modeling inclusive leadership, encouraging and fostering a culture where employees feel safe and fighting implicit bias. Training metrics would then also be a component of senior leaders’ compensation.

Similarly, HR professionals and managers should receive training on handling complaints and investigations properly, as well as general HR issues like harassment, discrimination, retaliation and more, as well as training on interviewing skills and methods.

Formalize Complaint Process

Recommendations for enhancing the company’s formal complaint process included identifying a policy “owner”, increasing top-level support of the HR function, and implementing a robust, visible and effective complaint process for employees to follow when reporting workplace issues. Following best practices, employees should have more than one avenue available to them to lodge a complaint.

A robust complaint process also includes processes for escalating matters, and ensures the HR department has the staff and resources it needs in order to be able to respond thoroughly and effectively when complaints arise.

Enhance Efforts Toward Diversity and Inclusion

Investigators also recommended that Uber establish an employee diversity board to help shape and ensure consistency with diversity efforts, target diverse talent, regularly publish statistics about diversity, and ensuring that women and underrepresented minority groups are included in candidate interviews – both as applicants and as part of the interview panel.

Both managers and employees should be recognized for their efforts toward the company’s diversity initiatives.

Revise Employee Policies and Procedures

Finally, part of the investigators’ recommendations to Uber included updates to the firm’s discrimination and harassment policies, the implementation of policies specifically prohibiting intimate relationships between individuals in a reporting relationship, clear guidance on alcohol consumption and the use of controlled substances, removing barriers to employees’ career mobility, and revamping the employee review process.

Any Company can Implement These Recommendations

Companies in any industry can learn from Uber’s experience, and can benefit from implementing some or all of these recommended changes.

No organization want to find itself the subject of this type of very public allegations; by taking action to shore up your company’s policies and procedures, you can help protect both your employees and your firm.

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