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Uber. The results are in.

My Top Three’s from the Covington Report

By Alexandra Boudrie

You may have noticed Uber featuring in your news feed recently. Not because they have started delivering milk and bread to your door at the click of a button (they haven’t, have they?), but because they have experienced a bit of a shake-up when it comes to the way their people have been behaving, and their workplace culture.

This week, Covington & Burling's (Covington) recommendations were released (the Report). The Report is the result of Covington’s investigation into Uber’s workplace culture and was commissioned by Uber in response to a blog post published in February 2017 by Uber’s former employee, Susan Fowler.

From the Report, I have selected my top three recommendations and my top three quotes. I have chosen these “Top Three’s” based on what I found thought-provoking and what I considered businesses of any size, no matter their culture, could implement.

Top Three Quotes

The Report is 14 pages long. Here are the three quotes that had me reaching for the pink highlighter.

Quote 1. "… building a workplace in which ‘all the great minds’ gather to work and succeed."

A great example of how the people in a business, make the business.

Quote 2. "…tone at the top, trust, transformation, and accountability."

These were the key remedial measures, but I love the phrase on its own.

Quote 3. "Diversity is generally viewed as focussing on the presence of diverse employees based on religion, race, age, sexual orientation, gender, and culture. Inclusion, on the other hand, focuses not just on the presence of diverse employees, but on the inclusion and engagement of such employees in all aspects of an organisation’s operations."

A good definition of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’, pointing out the difference between the two. Diversity and inclusion are terms that are certainly being used, but articulating what they are can be tricky.

Top Three Recommendations

The Report makes 10 overarching recommendations and a further 44 expanding on the overarching 10. These three got me thinking.

1.     Reformulate Uber’s 14 Cultural Values.

The Report recommends that Uber:

“...restate the values with significant input from employees; consider further defining the values in a manner more accessible to and more easily understood by employees; adopt values that are more inclusive and contribute to a collaborative environment… incorporating diversity and inclusiveness as a key cultural value… as a fundamental aspect of doing good business.”

Perhaps by setting values such as “Let Builders Build” and “Always be Hustlin’”, Uber sought to be different and set a playful tone, but the Report implies that those values lacked meaning and relevance to the Uber workforce. This recommendation really highlights the importance of setting a concise set of values that are thoughtful, include staff input and set the business up for success. They don’t have to be boring, they just have to be appropriate and relevant.

2.     Increase Management support for Human Resources.

The Report recommends that: 

“Senior Leadership at Uber should publicly support and embrace the value of Human Resources not only as a recruiting organisation, but as an organisation that works to protect and retain Uber’s most important asset: it’s people.”

Not only does this further emphasise the value of a business’s people, it draws attention to the value a human resources team can have. The Report explains that with true support from senior leaders, trust will develop from staff to turn to human resources for assistance. And with that trust, human resources will have respect, influence and authority to act in response to matters raised, giving them a real opportunity to confirm the value they can contribute to building and maintaining a productive and positive workforce.

3.     Use Performance Reviews to Hold Senior Leaders Accountable.

The Report recommends that Uber: 

“… establish clear metrics to which its leaders will be held accountable in the performance review process… metrics that are tied to improving diversity, responsiveness to employee complaints, employee satisfaction…”

This recommendation really emphasises that without the leaders of the organisation taking these things seriously, and being prepared to commit to developing and maintaining positive and diverse workplace culture, there is little chance of change. Essentially, leaders need to lead.

Uber certainly has a lot of work to do, but they have been provided with a thorough and thoughtful set of recommendations. The recommendations focus on Uber building a better culture. A culture that is inclusive, diverse, better behaved, and accountable. A culture that is led well and maintained. There is no question that Uber has achieved a lot so far. Just imagine how far they will go with a happier, more productive and diverse workforce!