By Calvin Gower, Trüpp.
As the CEO of Uber steps down following a flurry of complaints, a revealing investigation, and cultural issues, we are reminded of what happens when HR is overly influenced by internal culture and takes a biased approach. Earlier this year, Uber underwent an internal investigation after the allegations of sexual harassment were made that resulted in the firing of 20 employees including some senior executives.
The most revealing allegation came from a former engineer, which included claims of discrimination, sexism, and retaliation. She stated that her manager propositioned her for sex on her very first day, and when she reported the issues, the HR Manager told her they couldn’t do much because of the accused employees’ high performance. Her complaints to HR went ignored and her previously good performance review came back with negative remarks, suggesting retaliation.
What could have been done differently?
The recent investigation shines a light on internal cultural issues, which Uber has made a high priority to change. But, this current crisis might have been averted entirely had they contracted with an outside HR company to conduct an unbiased investigation as soon as the allegations were made. The results would have enabled Uber’s HR department to take a strong stand against the inappropriate behavior. Internal HR departments can have difficulties separating themselves from bias or the culture they have become accustomed to. Small to mid-sized companies which have experienced rapid growth are especially prone to these kinds of cultural vulnerabilities. Casual behavior from the “start-up” period can easily get embedded into the business framework, creating blind spots that become increasingly more difficult to address as the organization grows. Savvy leaders understand that outsourcing the HR function or contracting with an HR company to perform audits or unbiased investigations is a great way to prevent or uncover practices that put an organization at risk.
The benefit of unbiased candidness.
It’s clear that outsourcing isn’t for every company, but this case highlights a key differentiator for an outsourced HR model. Partnering with an external company enables the outsourced HR organization to provide unbiased candidness. It is much easier to keep a clear perspective on a situation when HR isn’t technically under that company’s employment or significantly dependent on the executives who may be part of the issue. HR companies who choose to maintain a high level of integrity are not afraid to call attention to unethical practices as they come to light. This case presents a reason to re-consider your HR function when you want to minimize risk and value an unbiased outside perspective on internal issues.