Not long ago, Uber was one of the hottest destinations for job seekers. Now, the Silicon Valley taxi startup is a company in crisis—hit with allegations of sexual harassment and CEO Travis Kalanick’s meltdown and admission he needs help being a better leader.
The latest shoe to drop is the resignation of company president Jeff Jones, who was hired away from Target just six months ago. Jones didn’t try to hide his disgust with how Uber operates. “The beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber,” he said in an email to Recode.
Also leaving is Brian McClendon, a vice president in charge of mapping software, who was hired away from Google. The two join a growing list of departures. If Uber wants to stop the bleeding, it should consider these four steps:
- Communicate. The natural instinct of companies —and individuals, for that matter—is to go into a defensive crouch when under duress, but Uber should open up. The company needs to be transparent with the outside world, but most importantly, with its employees, about its failings and what it’s doing to fix them. In the absence of good information, bad information will take hold, and rumors will spread.
- Identify the most important employees. All companies pretend every worker is valuable, but some are clearly more critical than others. McKinsey & Co. recommends companies in transition go through their personnel to identify the 5-10% of employees with unique or rare skills, and who may also be at risk of leaving. The list could include the most obvious stars, but could also include less senior individuals playing key roles. Uber should approach them, listen to their concerns, and offer them a mix of financial and non-financial incentives to keep them on board.
- Simplify incentives. As companies evolve, their bonus plans can grow complex, as different management goals and directives are layered on top of them. Employees are less willing to stick around if they’re not sure what they’re going to take home at the end of the year. By setting clear goals, Uber can remove the doubt and give workers a reason to hang on. No doubt, many Uber employees who are reportedly finding it hard to get new jobs are waiting for the long-mooted IPO.
- Crack down when necessary. Uber’s culture has run amok, with numerous allegations of sexism, misogyny, and boorish behavior. Kalanick has hired former US attorney general Eric Holder to investigate the accusations leveled by former executive Susan Fowler, but he shouldn’t wait for the results to begin cleaning house and ridding itself of its noxious culture. While some employees may be attracted to a frat-house atmosphere, they won’t be the ones who will lead the company in the future. No one—particularly not senior executives with choices—wants to be embarrassed to say where they work. Uber needs to set rules on behavior and enforce them to prevent a greater exodus.