We are at the very beginning of the sexual harassment saga at Uber and there are lots of aspects that have yet to play out. It’s likely safe to say that there was some kind of problem at Uber and that problem, at the very least, had to do with women working in a male-dominated environment.
As the details and responses emerge in the coming weeks and months, many executives are thinking to themselves “How do I make sure this doesn’t happen at my company?!?!” The good news is, science can help.
If the allegations against Uber are even partially true, it indicates that there are three things that could have been done to prevent such a catastrophe.
1. Clearly define your company’s values
2. Ensure the people you hire align with those values
3. Immediately terminate those who do not align with those values
Let’s take them one at a time.
Clearly define your company’s values. The good news is that almost every company has already defined the values which guide their operations. So, this step should be an easy checkbox for most of you. If you haven’t defined your values, think hard about two things: what makes your company special and more importantly, what behaviors you want your organization to be displaying a year from now. Lots of people think about what makes their company special, but few think about where their organization is going and what is required to get there. For example, some companies need to focus on innovation since they are in the creating stages. Other have passed from that stage into the selling stage, so innovation may be less important now and customer focus may be more important. You can see a list of the values of the Fortune 50 that we compiled. It may help you come up with particular values.
The next two are more challenging.
Ensure the people you hire align with your company’s values. Every new hire is either going to add to or detract from your company’s culture. By assessing every new hire for your organization’s values you ensure that you will be hiring the right person. Research shows that people who align with a company’s values contribute more, are more satisfied, and stay longer. In addition, if employees align with a company’s values, then they are much less likely to run into the types of problems we’re hearing about at Uber. When values are deeply internalized at an organization, employees know what is expected behavior — this is especially important when competing priorities and massive growth make for a sometimes chaotic work environment.
Immediately terminate those who do not align with those values. There is a phrase that has served me well throughout my career: “No one regrets firing someone too soon.” In the blog post about Uber it sounds like a particular manager was not fired because he was a “high performer.” But what Uber didn’t realize was the true cost of keeping that manager around. His toxicity led to huge decreases in productivity, job satisfaction, and tenure for his team and other teams. No matter how much he was contributing as one person to Uber, the amount he cost Uber was huge.
We’ve been doing a lot of work recently at Unitive about why values alignment in hiring is critical and how to ensure hiring teams are looking at this alignment when making hiring decisions. If you are concerned that your team might be making decisions based on some other kind of “fit,” (not fit with the organization’s values), we’d love to talk.