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Jan 23, 2018

Human resource professionals had more than enough on their plates in 2017.

Uber started off a year full of fails with the loss of over 400,000 customers after a massive price surge. The morale of the company sunk lower when Susan Fowler published her tell-all blog post outing the sexist culture at Uber.

Even after major hits to customers and employees, Uber didn’t give up. The company is heading into the new year with a new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. Khosrowshahi started with Uber in August and is already implementing a much needed cultural overhaul. According to a November recode article, he included an obvious but crucial policy: “We do the right thing. Period.”

Just like Uber, all HR teams need to take a note from their own and other companies’ actions in 2017 to make better decisions in the future. Here are five failures and triumphs to carry through 2018:

1. Shape up and walk the walk

Many communities and businesses in the US experienced the devastating impact of natural disasters in 2017. Hurricanes ripped through parts of the United States and demolished a number of small islands. This is where many companies — big and small — really stepped up.

For example, when Hurricane Harvey destroyed a number of southeastern Texas companies such as Target, Verizon and Google contributed millions of dollars to relief efforts. These acts of kindness didn’t go unnoticed by affected communities. Also, because employees want to see leaders concerned about more than their own bottom line, the donations improved morale within company walls.

Don’t wait for a major catastrophe to show how your company can walk the walk.

Gather teams of employees to volunteer together at least once a quarter. Allow them to vote on local charities and causes that have a special meaning in their lives. This will nurture their personal connection and dedication to the company even further.

To really show employees the company is capable of caring, put a program in place for struggling team members. Offer monetary relief, time off, and even counseling support to help them through a difficult personal time.

2. Shine some light on yourself

In September 2017, Equifax went public with a major hacking scandal, weeks after the company first learned about it. The incident led to the endangerment of over 148 million people’s data, according to a Washington Post article.  

The breach was enough failure for Equifax but it, unfortunately, didn’t stop there.

Federal agents dug deeper into the company’s past and found an unusual amount of stocks were sold before the hacking announcement was made public. The company’s own investigation cleared the executives who sold shares saying they had each planned the trades or discussed them before the breach was discovered. Yet by delaying the announcement of the breach until weeks after it was discovered and with the subsequent stock sale disclosure,  Equifax leaders likely lost the trust and confidence of quality employees.

Being transparent with your team and employees — and the public — is a lesson that needs to be carried through every situation — both positive and negative. Keep employees feeling safe by sharing up-to-date information in real time. Dealing with rumors before they spread and building trust will prevent you from having your own scandal in 2018.

3. Put employees first

Who’s on first?

There’s no joke here — your employees always come first. Car ride service Uber learned many challenging lessons in 2018 and this was arguably the most crucial. It all began when Fowler went to HR after being sexually harassed by a manager.

While Fowler took the appropriate actions, Uber’s HR department did not. In fact, according to Fowler’s blog, “I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to.”

HR went on to explain how the accused was a high performer and they didn’t want to punish him based on an innocent mistake. By not performing a proper investigation and putting the company’s needs first, Uber ignored the well-being and safety of an employee.

Start this year off right by training your HR team and company leaders on handling difficult situations. Even if an issue jeopardizes a top performer’s position, it’s necessary to put all employees’ needs at the top of your agenda. While one or two people can be easily replaced, the trust, integrity, and safety of the company as a whole cannot.

4. Battle for equality

It’s 2018 and, yes, we’re still battling for equality.

Even the largest and most “evolved” companies are still getting it wrong. One of 2017’s biggest HR blunders came from tech giant Google. A wage discrimination investigation by the Labor Department alleges women get paid less than men in comparable roles. The company is also being sued by females employees who claim they were paid less than male colleagues for doing similar work. And then there was the firestorm over a manifesto by a male engineer who challenged Google’s diversity efforts and said biology explains why there are few women in tech and in leadership roles.

Women, and other minorities, are rising up and fighting back against these discriminatory acts. Which means companies that aren’t willing to fight for equality are missing out on top talent.

Make equality a top priority for this year and all the years ahead. Assign each HR team member an area to dive into. Everything from pay to hiring and the number of minorities in lead positions should be examined for fairness and archaic policies. Making these changes will better both the lives of employees and the company.

5. Listen to what they want

A positive lesson many HR pros have taught us this year is how to offer the best benefits. From unlimited PTO to improved parental leave policies and in-house perks, the year was far from boring.

However, not all of these benefits will fill your employees’ needs.  

Keep an eye on what’s trending, then give employees options. Opening up the lines of communication will make them feel valued and lessen the number of wasted benefits offered. Take surveys and check-in frequently to see if everything is still accommodating to their needs.

Remember, current employees aren’t the only ones in need of benefits. Show your team their career matters to you by offering job counseling for those seasonal, laid off, and let-go employees.