Three Employee Engagement Tactics to Avoid Repeating Uber’s Woes

Uber. You’ve probably heard of it and the high profile challenges Uber is facing throughout its business. Uber has openly identified 47 critical changes recommended by an independent investigation, many of which are missed opportunities to do the right thing. I won’t address most of them here, but there are a few that cause me to remind everyone of the impact of NOT doing what’s right - what’s right for the individual; what’s right for the team; what’s right for the organization, as a whole.
 
As you think about the many recommendations for Uber, think about the cost of not doing the right thing in the first place. Talent is harder to come by due to the widespread cultural issues. Brand reputation is reduced in the market, with numerous users protesting by removing their Uber apps. Investors and shareholders are losing confidence as well, as a leadership void emerges at the top. We are seeing the impact of many missed opportunities, but I want to focus on four key areas and what you can do to avoid them.
 
Focus on HR
More than several recommendations point to an increased focus on human resources, with actions around adequate staffing and resources, policies and talent. You can’t manage people without people management resources. Any attempt to do so is all talk and only pays lip service to truly caring about your culture. 
 
Today, attracting top talent requires not just a cool product, but a true organizational culture that cares about its people. This isn’t just about having core values (Uber has them, though needs to revisit them, per one of the recommendations), but living your core values. HR is a critical partner to senior leaders (which, at Uber, were lacking in their commitment, as widely noted) to actively build the culture. Just like cultivating your urban garden, you can only grow your culture by actively caring for your people. And that requires employee engagement plans and resources. 
 
For Uber, looking back, there is no doubt how incidents around harassment and discrimination got out of hand. It’s a combination of the lack of tone from the top as well as reinforcement from HR. Don’t let your culture grow on it’s own without adequate focus and support.
 
Mandatory Training
As with many young organizations, who has time for training? Uber was a fast growing darling of Silicon Valley - not time for training except to keep leading the market. But the lack of training investment will come back to haunt the organization. Training is a critical step to ensuring your team understands the guide posts set up for the organization. Training reinforces WHY certain policies are important and what risks are we trying to address. 
 
Let’s face it - we all dislike training, but Uber has shown why we have to do at least some of it. We can do it better, but we still need to do it. Shifts toward shorter training sessions with more on-going reinforcement and just-in-time reminders only help if you establish a training foundation. So if Uber has gone without mandated training for the last few years, its teams are about to face an over-abundance of mandatory training. 
 
Employee Sentiment
For me, one of the most interesting recommendations is to provide a mechanism for employee feedback. I would have expected Uber, with its high cadre of talent, would have already established feedback channels. In today’s organizations, the expectation is a two-way communication channel between team members and management. We should provide effective communications mechanisms while ensuring employees can voice their concerns or raise new issues without fear of retaliation. 
 
Many organizations have implemented Net Promoter Score (NPS) within the organization to measure employee sentiment on an on-going basis and not rely on once-a-year employee surveys for feedback. This is a topic we will dig into more in a separate blog entry, but Incorporating NPS and other employee polling provides a constant stream of connectivity to all employees. We have to provide multiple ways of listening to our employee base.
 
However, listening to employee feedback is not sufficient, you have to act on it to show the organization really cares. You have to follow-up with communications on what actions have been taken and the impactfulness of those actions. Uber clearly has not been focusing on employee sentiment (in more ways than one) and organizations should take this lesson to heart. Start tapping your workforce for feedback through quick polls and work to address key issues that arise. Letting them linger or go unheard will have large, long-term ramifications.
 
Uber is facing massive challenges to its business as a result of the lack of focus on the right core values and organizational culture. There is no doubt these challenges will have a direct impact to Uber’s market leadership and that long-overdue changes are coming to the organization. And it will take time to transform the culture while re-establishing customer confidence. Let’s see what tactical methods Uber deploys to create a positive cultural change.

(Here is a copy of the official recommendations for Uber from Covington)