Crisis Management Analysis: Uber’s Road Ahead

Can the ridesharing service correct before it swerves out of control?

We all knew serious change was required at Uber in order for the ridesharing service to survive. Explosive growth got it to the top, but massive and repeated reputation threats created by everyone from the founders themselves to individual drivers seriously threatened that position. Major moves, perhaps the most significant (and symbolic) of which was founder and now-former CEO Travis Kalanick resigning from his position, were predicted by experts and pretty much had to happen in order for a turnaround to work.

Another thing Uber sorely needed to improve was its communication with users. Its history is littered with examples of choosing spin over transparency, and stakeholders needed a direct

communication about what changes were happening and why.

To Uber’s credit, it delivered, sharing this message via email directly to users in mid-June:

As a company, we have faced some hard truths. In expanding so quickly, we failed to prioritize the people that helped get us here. Ultimately, the measure of our success is the satisfaction of our riders, drivers, and employees — and we realize that we have fallen short.

After a report of inexcusable workplace harassment surfaced earlier this year, our board and senior leadership took immediate action. They asked former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and experts from the law firm Covington & Burling to conduct a thorough investigation. After four months of review, this week they released their report, which you can read here.

Today, we are ready to embrace radical change. Uber’s board has unanimously accepted all 47 recommendations from the Covington Report and has begun to put them and others into action. We are committing ourselves to the following:

• Increasing accountability. Accountability is not a one time thing. We’re creating an Ethics and Culture committee to oversee the actions of our company and our leaders. We have also instituted a 24/7 support line so that any employee can feel safe reporting unprofessional behavior.

• Changing leadership. An independent board chairperson will be appointed along with additional independent board seats. The first of which has been filled by Nestle’s former CFO Wan Ling Martello. Liane Hornsey who came onboard in January as our Chief Human Resources Officer has taken on the task of improving our workplace culture while Frances Frei, Harvard Business School Senior Associate Dean, joined Uber as SVP of Leadership and Strategy in June.

• Focusing on collaboration and empathy. We’re overhauling our cultural values to reward collaboration and to foster a workplace that is inclusive rather than contentious. We believe empathy is not a goal in itself, but one that will help us build products that put our customers’ needs first.

• Empowering diverse perspectives. We’re committing to hiring a diverse workforce and will be appointing a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to oversee new policies.

The past several months have compelled us to redefine who we are and who we want to be as a company. We are proud of our thousands of employees across the globe, who are committed to serving our riders and drivers. As a group, our dedication to our mission remains strong. You can hear from employees in this video.

There is still more work to be done, but we are confident that we are taking the first steps to becoming the company you deserve.

Uber also created a landing page dedicated to the topic of how they will “move ahead” from the issues it was facing – https://www.uber.com/info/road-ahead/. It’s a good start, and though many of the promises are still just that, if the company follows through and continues to keep stakeholders aware of the improvements we may just be convinced it’s put down the shovel and started building a ladder.

Erik Bernstein
erik@bernsteincrisismanagement.com
www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com

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