Global shoe and apparel behemoth Nike was ranked for the first time on LinkedIn's annual Top Companies list earlier this year, coming in as the 35th company in the world when it comes to where people want to work in 2018. One thing that stood our for Nike is that many of its top executives have been with the company for decades.
Yet, in the couple of months that have passed since release of the list, Nike executive exits are piling up in the midst of women speaking up about the company's misogynist culture. There is no easy way to respond to executives jumping ship in association with the implication that women may be treated unfairly, but there are a few things that the company at least appears to be doing right, which all business owners can learn from in case they are confronted with a similar type of situation.
1. Acknowledge oversight and issue an apology.
A basic apology won't due. The response needs to be authentic and there must be a firm commitment to rectifying the issue. Speed matters, as there can't be too much of a gap between when the issue arises and when the apology is issued.
Nike CEO Mark Parker quickly acknowledged that top leaders, including Parker himself, missed signs that employees were unhappy, and promised changes not only with regard to compensation but also training programs.
Paying people off isn't enough and won't be appreciated fully by the employees or the general public overseeing what is technically an internal issue. There needs to be a commitment to hearing peoples' concerns above and beyond a perceived pay gap.
2. Instill confidence in the remaining workforce.
There needs to be a firm message provided to the workforce that is clear, concise and lacks any wavering. Parker appears to have taken a bit of blame for providing meandering comments, which should not be present if there is proper preparation.
What instills most confidence in the remaining workforce other than promising and delivering on changes? Likely, it is advising your employees that despite the few executives that have departed in the wake of the exposed issue, no other employees are leaving. Stability is important and that needs to be a key element of the message.
3. Commit to doing what's necessary to preclude issues from reoccurring.
An issue is typically much more than a single unrelated event that is capable of absolving without fear of return. Instead, the apology and call to action should reference that there is an ongoing mission to best ensure that the problematic activity does not reoccur.
Parker identified that Nike will continue to review its human resources processes. In a small business, there may not even be an HR department. No matter the size of the business, there must be a call to continued, strong action.
4. Invite communication on the subject and promote transparency.
It is impossible for an executive, especially one who was not at all involved in the issue, to have a full understanding of what caused the problem and how to fix it from occurring again. As such, inviting communication from employees who experienced or witnessed the issue is key. Those communications should be transparent so that the community at large feels as though it has a voice, and should help instill confidence among those who remain.