With New COO, Uber Will Try To Overhaul Its ‘Cult Of The Individual’
Uber’s message: everything is fine, and everything needs to change.
On Tuesday, Uber executives held a conference call with media members to remind the world that its business is still strong–last week, customers in the United States took more rides than ever before–but that its scandal-ridden internal culture is going to be fixed from top to bottom.
Well, almost the top. CEO Travis Kalanick isn’t going anywhere. After repeated questions, Uber board member Arianna Huffington said that Kalanick’s resignation “hasn’t come up and we don’t expect it to come up.” Instead, Uber is looking for a COO and “partner” to work with their young CEO. Uber said that both Kalanick and board member Bill Gurley, who is leading the search, could not participate in the call because they were apparently interviewing a potential COO candidate at the same time.
Meanwhile, Uber’s new Chief Human Resources Officer Liane Hornsey said too little attention had been paid to internal matters as the company ballooned in size and expanded across the globe. Hornsey said Uber has developed a “cult of the individual” and would need to “redesign the organization” to make sure that team efforts came first and all employee voices are heard. She specifically mentioned that the compensation system was under review and that Uber would release its first diversity report by the end of the month.
Uber’s regional general manager for the U.S. and Canada, Rachel Holt, was also on the line to speak to Uber’s business health. She said growth at Uber was higher in the first ten weeks of 2017 than it was the year prior, although she declined to elaborate on those numbers. She also noted that trips in February in Latin America were up 600% from the same period in 2016. From a product perspective, Uber is looking at ways to help its drivers, recently releasing a new version of its in-app driver navigation and changing the way it deals with rider complaints against specific drivers.
Despite those successes in the marketplace, Uber’s reputation has taken a hit. Stories of sexism and harassment shared by ex-Uber employees like Susan Fowler have gotten the most attention, but Uber has been a mess in 2017. The startup bungled its much heralded self-driving car roll out in San Francisco and was recently sued by Google’s Waymo for allegedly using stolen IP. Uber also took heat for its slow response to President Trump’s immigration ban, and has endured multiple senior departures in recent weeks–including Uber President Jeff Jones, the supposed second-in-command to Kalanick.