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Google CEO Sundar Pichai announces diversity and harassment policy changes

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On 8 November 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to all employees about changes in light of the recent company-wide walkout of nearly 20,000 employees across 50 global offices, to “protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace that doesn’t work for everyone”.

“Over the past few weeks Google’s leaders and I have heard your feedback and have been moved by the stories you’ve shared. We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It’s clear we need to make some changes,” he wrote.

“Going forward, we will provide more transparency on how we handle concerns. We’ll give better support and care to the people who raise them. And we will double down on our commitment to be a representative, equitable, and respectful workplace.”

The full set of changes are listed below:

Handling concerns with more transparency

  • Arbitration will become optional for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.
  • A new section will be created in its Investigations Report focused on sexual harassment to show the number of substantiated or partially substantiated concerns over time, by function. It will also discuss trends, disciplinary actions taken, and substantiation percentages. The types of behaviour that Google does and does not terminate employees for will also be summarised.
  • The policy on harassment, discrimination, retaliation, standards of conduct and workplace concerns, as well as processes, and channels for raising concerns will be shared publicly.
  • An Investigations Practice Guide, outlining expectations for how concerns are handled within Google, will be implemented and published internally. This will clearly outline what Googlers can expect during the investigation process and/or how their concerns will be handled.

Better care and support to people who raise concerns

  • Opt-in care services will include extended counselling and EAP support, check-ins, support for accommodations and leaves, etc.
  • A global process will be established that will allow Googlers to be accompanied by a companion during an HR investigation, or when raising any harassment or discrimination concerns to HR. This will be started with a Q4 pilot of sexual harassment concerns to learn from, and scale this to all types of harassment and discrimination concerns in Q1.
  • A specialty team of advisors will be created on the employee relations team to look into all sexual harassment and discrimination concerns.
  • A fresh look will be taken, as of Q1 2019, at each channel for reporting concerns, and the processes for looking into them, to ensure claims are handled with empathy and care, and that people with concerns are heard.
  • All matters in which a complaint is made by a T-V-C (temporary, vendor and contractual employees) against an employee will be investigated, and require that suppliers do the same for complaints against T-V-Cs and report back to Google.
  • In addition, the reach of the Supplier Code of Conduct was recently broadened to hold accountable for maintaining “a programme that provides workers with a means to report grievances anonymously and without fear of retaliation, unless prohibited by law”.

Representative, equitable, and respectful workplace policies

  • The company-wide OKR (objectives and key results) around diversity, equity and inclusion will be re-committed to  in 2019, focused on improving representation—through hiring, progression and retention—and creating a more inclusive culture for everyone.
  • For new or vacated positions at the director level or above will commit to having a diverse slate of candidates on the interview short list. Note, there may be some limited exceptions (eg, highly specialised roles or unique skills) that can be approved only at the joint discretion of the VP-level hiring manager and the VP of staffing and operations.
  • Google’s chief diversity officer will continue to lead monthly discussions with Google leads and the CEO on topics of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as workplace health. In addition, the CDO provides recommendations to the Board of Directors through the leadership development and compensation committee on diversity, equity, inclusion and culture matters.
  • One of the most common factors among the harassment complaints at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking (~20% of cases). As such, excessive consumption of alcohol will not be permitted when employees are at work, performing Google business, or attending a Google-related event, whether onsite or offsite.
  • Going forward, all leaders at the company – directors, VPs and SVPs – will be expected to create teams, events, offsites and environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged. For example, many teams have already put two-drink limits in place for events.
  • Starting next year, all employees will complete mandatory sexual harassment training annually (currently required every two years). Employees out of compliance with any required training will be docked one rating in the year end Perf (performance management) cycle (e.g., Exceeds Expectations will be moved to Consistently Meets Expectations). This applies to all Googlers including senior leaders.
  • Noogler (new hires) training will be enhanced to specifically focus on educating them on harassment, discrimination and workplace conduct policies, and Google’s processes for reporting concerns, and resources available to support employees. This information will also be incorporated into Google’s TVC Onboarding programme.

Photo / Google Press Corner

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