How Airbnb Fosters Belonging in the Workplace

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As its slogan, “Belong Anywhere”, indicates, Airbnb has a serious focus on inclusion and belonging. The travel company’s strong brand identity prides itself on helping create a more inclusive world, not only for users of their product but also for employees. Living out this philosophy for employees is key in order to create the sort of impact the company sets out to. Diversity and inclusion are baked into the DNA of Airbnb, and its people practices show it.

Because of Airbnb’s shared experiences model, the platform allows for the coming together of worlds like no other. The company makes it explicit to all its users that joining the Airbnb community means being free of discrimination and prejudice and embracing new cultures. Its nondiscrimination policy makes it clear the types of behavior the company will and won’t tolerate. Airbnb even developed an open toolkit to better understand bias, discrimination, and inclusion.

The company furthers its promise of radical belonging with its Open Homes program, which matches those affected by crises, disasters, or medical care to those that can offer a long-term home. It’s no doubt Airbnb is pulling out all the stops to ensure it is the trusted source of belonging in the market, so what does the company do to keep this passion for belonging alive internally?

Building a dynamic community

Airbnb leverages tech to foster culture-building. The company recently launched an intranet platform that allows employees to be updated on birthdays and anniversaries, as well as get to know each other better through office and employee-specific pages. This use of tech to build community helps strengthen belonging amongst employees by offering them a central platform to connect beyond their day jobs.

Airbnb has also instituted a group called “ground control”, where members bring culture around the offices to life. The employee experience team is responsible for looking out for the workplace environment, internal communications, recognition, and events. This role exists in almost every Airbnb office, making for a balanced and unified experience across different offices.

Once a year, the company also hosts “OneAirbnb”, where employees share vision and strategy, get feedback, learn from each other and participate in giving back to the community.

“Airfinity” & beyond

In 2015, Airbnb launched “Airfinity”, employee resource groups that facilitate employee relationships through common cultures and backgrounds, as well as interests. The company now has twelve groups ranging from LGBTQ, African-American, Latinx, Women in Tech, Veterans, and Parents. These groups serve to further foster belonging, and can also evolve to become vehicles of performance improvement and business alignment.

Not only is Airbnb strengthening community through ERGs, but also the company has forged external partnerships that enact change and spur further employee engagement in working on community initiatives. Some of these partnerships include /dev/color, a non-profit that advances the careers of black software engineers, and YearUp to prepare low-income young adults for careers through training and support. These external partnerships work in unison with internal committees and initiatives and only serve to strengthen the Airfinity program.

Crafting a dynamic space

The cozy, sleek offices designed for Airbnb employees are more than just for eye-pleasing. These spaces have been crafted to make its employees feel welcome and at home, featuring a kitchen, library, yoga/meditation spaces, and an impressive green atrium that feels like a home garden. Even the conference rooms are designed after real Airbnb listings, and there are portraits of actual Airbnb hosts on the walls.

Recruiting for belonging

Airbnb is one of those companies that have to do a lot of screening out of resumes in order to successfully fill open positions. In 2016, it received 180,000 resumes for 900 positions (that’s 200 applications per position!). In weeding out candidates, the company conducts an interview to assess fit not only within the position but also within the company culture. Those selecting candidates for core values are not always in the same role as the incoming candidate, but they have final say on whether or not they get an offer. This demonstrates the importance of culture fit and alignment with core values at Airbnb, and how role-specific skills may not get a candidate the whole way.

A new employee will go through a week-long onboarding process that emphasizes Airbnb’s values, operations strategies, and ways of working. Core values are still very much at the heart of the onboarding experience so that new hires understand and feel a part of the company culture.

It’s no secret Airbnb has put belonging at the top of its priority list. It has executed policies towards its stakeholders that continue to reinforce its message of belonging and inclusion. From taking bold steps to provide homes for refugees to seriously addressing discrimination in the platform, Airbnb has made it clear that its focus would be on spreading belonging in the world.

In order to execute on this, the company realized it needed to stand for this same mission internally with its workforce. Everything from the design of the workspaces to leveraging tech to build community is created with the ambition of making everyone feel like they belong, and having Airbnb employees spread that mission in their daily operations.



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