Airbnb is a globally recognised product, one that promotes flexibility and encourages exploration. This ethos is not just applicable to the platform but to their team environment too, explains Fiona Keane, European Recruitment Manager. She spoke to us about why Airbnb is a happy working environment and how the culture continues to evolve.
Most employers like to believe that their culture is one of freedom and autonomy. And while this may look good on a job ad, what does it look like in reality?
At Airbnb, one practical example of employee autonomy is the concept of ‘neighbourhoods’. There are no assigned desks in the Warehouse Office at Grand Canal Dock. The people (and oftentimes their pets) are free to set up shop in any of the slick spaces around the building, of which there are plenty. ‘The Agora’ acts as the focal point and it’s a physical reminder of how the company strives for openness in both their culture and working environment.
“It’s based off trust,” says Fiona. “Your impact here is not about presenteeism.”
Flexible work spaces are just part of the draw for employees. Employees aren’t micromanaged and that gives them the confidence to perform, continues Fiona.
“At any given time, probably 20pc of the workforce are either travelling or working remotely. So there can be days where I don’t see a member of my staff because they could be in our other building, working from our library room or in the mezzanine. Some of our more tenured employees work remotely from another country. Again, it’s about trust,” she adds.
Core values at Airbnb
With the company growing all the time, how do they stay true to their culture and ensure everyone is working towards a common goal?
Fiona says there are a number of ways the company keeps everyone informed and working as a unit. The Agora isn’t just an impressive looking space, it’s the venue for regular ‘world at’ meetings, which are live-streamed company updates. Founder Brian Chesky even conducts weekly Q&As.
“He fields questions from employees globally and shares his continued vision for the business. He doesn’t dodge any questions. It’s rare to get that level of transparency in an organisation,” says Fiona.
Ultimately, Fiona attributes the close-knit team and sense of cohesion to Airbnb’s firm focus on their core values:
- ‘Champion the Mission’ which is all about being an advocate for the brand and what it stands for.
- ‘Be a Host’ which refers to being considerate of visitors, new starters, your peers and your colleagues.
- ‘Cereal Entrepreneur’ describes a scrappiness and a curiosity that is found at the heart of the team.
- ‘Embrace the Adventure’ means getting on board with the wonderful challenges that may be thrown at you and learning as you go.
These core values have been in place since day one of the organisation and that’s been crucial in maintaining such a strong culture, according to Fiona.
“Our core values act as cultural tenets for the company so when you interview for a role here, you interview against those values. The idea is twofold really, we want to see if you’ll be successful in this environment and if this environment will set you up for success.”
One of the ways Airbnb sets its employees up for success is through further education and upskilling. There are a number of ways the team can expand their knowledge. Airbnb’s ‘Grow at’ programme is a portal where employees can log in and see the various courses on offer. These range from presentation skills and time management, to a ‘data university’ for the analytics aficionados.
The opportunities are extensive and are designed to help employees build the skills they need to do well in their roles, says Fiona. “We found there was a gap at a leadership level for people moving into manager roles. So we now have a programme called Amplify which has three tenets and they’re pretty intensive.”
A lot of Work Happy 100 voters thought Airbnb deserved the accolade of Ireland’s happiest workplace, but one thing that really stood out in the nominations was the human element at the centre of this tech company. Nominations described how the company truly recognises its employees as people beyond their job title. The personal touch hasn’t been lost amidst large and rapid expansion.
Fiona recalls joining the company five years ago and the recruitment team being tasked with ‘doubling Dublin’. “We literally hired 120 people in the first six weeks and a lot of them are still here.”
And it’s easy to see why. Perks offered at Airbnb go beyond supporting the team through their workload. The company celebrates the evolving needs of the team by nurturing them through their professional and personal development. Employees receive $500 in Airbnb coupons per quarter, which Fiona says is one of the most popular perks they offer.
“It’s a great benefit, and it keeps us close to the product which is important,” adds Fiona.
Airbnb shows a commitment to their people and an understanding of their values. Company benefits are designed with care and compassion.
“We have a really comprehensive program” Fiona explains “it includes fertility benefits, adoptive leave and carer’s leave. That means if you have an elderly parent or sick relative you can take six weeks off to care for them.”
While beer on tap and beautiful offices may have proven an initial draw for talent, what keeps retention rates high at this company is a thorough understanding of employee needs and motivations.