From focussed efforts to improve upon diversity and inclusion, to working around the new cultural norms, Uber is driving change from all directions.
Culture correction is not an easy exercise. Tonnes of tangible solutions may not bring about the desired transformation, until a change in mindset is triggered as well. After Susan Fowler, a former employee wrote a blasting blog early last year, about Uber’s callous culture that absorbed sexual harassment complaints and did nothing about them, the Company faced flak from the entire world. Despite
Uber having to take strict measures soon after, the image correction was far from easy.
After Fowler’s allegations, Uber had let go of one employee a few days after, and by June last year, it had fired over 20 employees for harassment, after more complaints were made public. While the former CEO was forced to resign, the situation was still rather messy when Dara Khosrowshahi, the current CEO joined last September. However, since then began a well-thought out journey—of changing what needed to be changed.
Khosrowshahi spent his first two months at the Company meeting teams around the world, understanding what worked and what needed to be corrected or replaced. Based on his interactions with people, in November last year, he announced the new cultural values and wrote on LinkedIn, “I feel strongly that culture needs to be written from the bottom up. A culture that’s pushed from the top down doesn’t work, because people don’t believe in it.”
While that was just the beginning, the efforts to getting in a culture of responsible growth have been on since then. Liane Hornsey, its SVP and global chief people officer again came out on LinkedIn sharing an inside look into what they are doing to improve their culture and get it right. “I want you to know that Uber is doing the hard and necessary and often invisible work to transform ourselves from the inside out,” she wrote.
With change in the new work culture, we have been listening and engaging with our employees on an ongoing basis, and the overall sentiment is positive. Employees have ratified the ‘positive change’ in the company. Moreover, we have volunteers from our employees, who are our custodians of driving this change as our culture convoys.
From focussed efforts to improve upon diversity and inclusion, to working around the new cultural norms, Uber is driving this change from all directions. Last week itself, it also announced that Uber no longer requires mandatory arbitration of claims related to sexual assault or harassment (drivers, riders, employees); survivors will be able to settle their claims without a confidentiality provision.
In line with all this, Vishpala Reddy, chief people officer, Uber India & SA shares how the cultural transformation strategy reflects here in India. She shares that the Company’s approach to building a high-performing work culture is aligned with its global strategy. “While the basic tenets of our workplace remain the same, we have localised our approach to addressing the needs of the employees in India,” she says.
“With change in the new work culture, we have been listening and engaging with our employees on an ongoing basis, and the overall sentiment is positive. Employees have ratified the ‘positive change’ in the company. Moreover, we have volunteers from our employees, who are our custodians of driving this change as our culture convoys,” she adds.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spent his first two months at the Company meeting teams around the world, understanding what worked and what needed to be corrected or replaced.
Reddy tells us that they see talent as an important pillar of growth as she shares how they are investing in building and nurturing leaders across levels. In line with its focus on learning and development, Uber has a Harvard professor as an advisor, playing an instrumental role in driving its learning and development initiatives, leveraging the innovative Harvard learning platform to drive learning linked to business outcomes.
Further, it has a host of programmes starting from the Uber Academy— our flagship induction programme—which is completely gamified to enable new joinees to collectively solve real business problems in a game set-up. It also has regular training for both employees across levels including the India Coaching Programme, Next Generation Leadership Programme, and Uber Manager Experience.
As Hornsey mentioned in her blog on LinkedIn that Uber has been driving conscious efforts towards being one of the most inclusive workplaces, Reddy also says, “We want to create a workplace that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of the cities we serve: where everyone can be their authentic self, and where that authenticity is celebrated as a strength. By creating an environment where people from every background can thrive, we’ll make Uber a better company—not just for our employees but for our customers, too.”
A few initiatives that ensure the same are – ‘Women of Uber’, which promotes women’s inclusion for all employees at Uber (e.g. women in tech, mentorship, career enhancement); ‘UberABLE’, which aims to strengthen and sustain diversity and inclusion efforts for employees living with and supporting those with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities; and ‘UberPRIDE’, which promotes LGBTQ inclusion and diversity at Uber.
Globally, as per Uber’s 2018 Diversity Report that was released last month, modest yet significant growth was observed in terms of the ratio of women in the workforce, with an addition of 1.9 per cent women in the overall workforce, 2.5 per cent in tech, and 4.3 per cent in women in tech leadership. “In India, we are charting the same journey and have a positive diversity ratio. We believe that through sustained efforts, we will achieve our goals,” Reddy says talking about diversity in India.
While it is clear that the organisation is leaving no stone unturned to ensure a culture that promotes inclusivity and responsible growth, unlike growth at all costs, this also shows how perseverance and planning can bring about the much-needed transformation. As Reddy puts it, “Change starts with action, and we believe the journey of change has begun.”