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Uber details its COO search, drive to change the work culture

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Uber has been enjoying a period of relative quite over the past couple of weeks after a very tumultuous start to the year. The company had been facing the fallout from high level executive departures, the CEO having a heated argument with an Uber driver over the company’s pricing scheme, claims of sexual harassment going on at the workplace, and finally a #deleteUber campaign. The company is now detailing some of the steps it has taken since to improve things.

Uber hosted a special press call on Wednesday. At the call, board member Arianna Huffington was accompanied by North American operations lead Rachel Holt, Chief HR officer Liane Hornsey and Uber communications lead Rachel Whetstone. Notice a pattern? Well, these three are some of Uber’s highest ranking female staff. The event started off with Huffington speaking at length about how the state Uber was in differed from what was envisioned and how Travis Kalanick, who was conspicuous by his absence, was very keen to change things.

Asked about Kalanick’s absence, Huffington said that the Uber CEO was currently busy interviewing for a new COO along with board member and investor Bill Gurley.

Huffington also commented upon the toxic workplace culture at the company, stating that she would continue to “hold Uber’s feet to the fire” and that there was no longer room for “Brilliant Jerks”. This last part seems to have been in a nod to the Susan Fowler narrative in which Fowler had claimed that the person harassing her was protected because he was a high performer.

Huffington also said that she was independent from the investigation into the affair by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. That was rather strange considering that Kalanick had made it abundantly clear that Huffington would be part of the investigations quite early on. However, Arianna did say that the whole company would accept and abide by the findings delivered by Holdings and that everyone at Uber was very committed to finding and weeding out the source of the problem.

Chief HR officer Liane Hornsey also took the occasion to note that she had received a full license from CEO Travis Kalanick to do what was right. She also accepted that Uber has focused more on the business, rather than the employees and that had come to be a problem with the cab hailing company’s massive growth. She also said that the company was now tackling the problem at the roots and had already conducted “over 100 listening sessions”. She also talked about the establishment of a slew of teams that were all working on different projects including one on “diversity and inclusion.”

Meanwhile, the cab-hailing company will be releasing its first ever diversity report by the end of march and had already started work upon improving the system. Apart from updating various job descriptions to ensure that they were fair, Uber has also been revamping the  performance management system, which was found to be unfair and inequitable after investigations and talks held with the staff.

Finally, it was also revealed that the company has continued to show strong growth despite the tonnage of negative publicity it has received over the past couple of weeks. Claims that Travis Kalanick could retire so as to assuage the ongoing situation, were also trashed.

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