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Uber says it just had its best U.S. week ever — despite its executive turmoil and image problems

Uber did more trips last week in the U.S. than ever before.

Travis Kalanick Asa Mathat

It has been a rough year so far for Uber, from executive turnover to the #deleteUber campaign.

But its business has apparently weathered its controversies: The ride-hail company saw more rides on its platform in the U.S. last week than it ever has before, Rachel Holt, the head of Uber’s U.S. and Canada operations, said on a call with reporters today.

“In fact, in our most mature country, we’ve grown faster in the first 10 weeks of 2017 than in the first 10 weeks of 2016,” Holt said. “Looking at less mature regions like Latin America, trips were up 600 percent in February, year on year.” The company wouldn’t disclose specific numbers.

The call, which served to update reporters on the company’s progress on its investigation into former employee Susan Fowler’s sexual harassment allegations, as well as its first-ever diversity report, also seemingly served to assuage any concerns people might have about how these public scandals have affected its business so far.

That’s partly why Kalanick is staying put in his role, at least for the time being.

Asked twice by reporters, Uber board member Arianna Huffington said she doesn’t expect Kalanick’s position as CEO will be in question, even after attorneys Eric Holder and Tammy Albaran conclude their investigation into Fowler’s claims of sexual harassment and sexism at the company.

Huffington staunchly defended the controversial executive, saying he made Uber and the overall ride-hail industry what it is today, and that he has evolved as a leader as a result of the recent series of issues the company has been grappling with in public.

“I’m a big proponent of allowing leaders to evolve,” she said. “He has made it clear that this a journey that he takes very seriously and ... is holding himself ultimately responsible.”

That’s a good sign for Kalanick, who, in addition to Huffington, has a few other allies on the company’s board, including his co-founder Garrett Camp and former president Ryan Graves. With Huffington on his side, it’s unlikely the serial entrepreneur will be forced to embark on his next endeavor in the immediate future.

Nevertheless, changes need to be made — changes that must come from the top, Huffington said. So the company is in the midst of searching for a COO — or a “partner” for Kalanick, who recently admitted that he needs to “grow up.”

“In short, Uber needs a leader who has significant operational experience and who understands service-related businesses at a local and global scale; who can thrive in a hyper-growth company; and someone with the strength and smarts to work alongside a founder as a true partner,” Huffington said.

During the call, which was — not coincidentally — staffed by some of Uber’s top female executives, the company’s new head of human resources Liane Hornsey said Uber planned to release its first-ever diversity report by the end of the month.

Uber is also undergoing a major change in how it’s run, according to Hornsey, who worked at Google and then Softbank before joining Uber. As part of this overhaul of Uber’s internal structure and culture, Hornsey said Kalanick has given her “full license to do what it takes” to ensure the company is focused on its employees, not just its business.

“The focus of the company has been on the business, not the employees, and too little attention was being paid to the way things were operating internally,” she said. “Now is the time to rectify this balance. This is my primary focus right now — on ensuring we have the right organizational design, the right culture and the right employee proposition.”

As Recode reported earlier, Kalanick long felt the function of the human resources department was primarily to scale the company and recruit talent — not to remedy workplace issues. Further, it was Kalanick who was adamantly opposed to reporting any kind of diversity data, insisting it was not an efficient or worthwhile metric for the company.

But that system won’t work for the now $70 billion global company.

“Looking closely at our culture, it’s absolutely a truism that every strength in excess can become a weakness,” Hornsey said. “Uber is disruptive — and disruption demands the confidence to be bold. What I have seen, though, is that this has translated internally to what I would call a cult of the individual. We now need to expend genuine effort ensuring the individual is never more important than the team — not ever.”

“We need to work more closely as a team, and at this point over-index on making room to ensure that everyone can be heard and that everyone feels valued,” she said.

To that end, Hornsey said she has held more than 100 listening sessions with employees, to whom the company has made an anonymous tip line available. Uber is also beginning to train and educate its employees on why diversity matters. The company provided few specifics when it came to the type of programs it was rolling out to encourage diversity and inclusion.

But the company overhaul doesn’t just extend to its employees. Uber plans on dedicating resources to improving driver experiences in the wake of Jeff Jones’s — whose role included driver relations — departure.

“It’s about more stable earnings, a better product to take the stress out of driving, providing more human and understandable communications, and support so that drivers are true partners,” Holt said.

You can read the full remarks here.

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