When you think of marketing, you more than likely think of marketing to your customers, how can you persuade more people to buy what you sell? But another “market” is just as important are your employees, the very people who can make the brand come alive for your customers through their engagement with their Company.
Why is employee engagement so important? It is the best way to help employees make a powerful emotional connection to the products and services you sell. Without that connection, employees are likely to undermine the expectations set by your advertising.
When the purpose of your company is "to help create a world where you can belong anywhere", your employees ought to feel they belong in your Company. At least that's what the leaders of Airbnb believe. And this belief explains why they place so much importance on the Employee Experience (EX).
EX is the critical strategy that Airbnb relies on to build its brand and pursue its purpose. In 2016, the company adopted the slogan "Belong Anywhere" to express its brand identity and launched the "#belonganywhere" brand campaign. Airbnb’s leaders believed these efforts needed to represent more than an external idea, the concept of belonging needed to apply inside the company as well.
Mark Levy, the former Global Head of Employee Experience at Airbnb explained, "We needed to create a place where our employees feel they belong, belonging starts here. We have to figure out internal belonging first, then we can break down the walls with our customers”.
The fact that Levy's role even existed at the company is a testament to the Companies commitment to aligning employees' everyday experiences with its purpose and values.
Taking the cue from their customer experience (CX) department, they created an "Employee Experience" group.
Developing the specialist areas of total rewards, learning, talent design and talent systems “Everything in the whole journey of an employee's experience," as Levy described it, the EX team works across functional silos to create a seamless service delivery model or support for employees. "Running across everything is a focus on mission, values, and culture, that's the glue that holds everything together."
EX at Airbnb starts well before an employee officially joins the company. Since Airbnb has far more interested applicants than positions to fill, its hiring process primarily involves weeding people out rather than attracting them.
To do this, Airbnb interviews candidates to make sure they are a good fit not only with the position they are interviewing for but also with the company's culture.
Candidates are asked to participate in two interviews, one to check the candidates functional/technical ability the second to check their cultural fit to Airbnb’s core values. The cultural fit interview is conducted by 2 Company employees working outside of the function the candidate would work within.
The rigorous interview process serves another function as well: It offers candidates their first experience with Airbnb's unique culture. By taking the time to learn about the candidate as a person and their values, the interviewers live out and model one of Airbnb's core value: "Be a Host: Care for others and make them feel like they belong."
Airbnb’s overarching purpose and core values are also at the heart of its week long onboarding experience, which introduces new hires to Airbnb's purpose and core values, its business strategies and functions and ways of working.
Once employees begin their jobs, their daily experiences, where and how they work, continue to be directly informed by the company's brand identity, purpose, and values. The food served in their café, for example, is inspired by a different travel destination every day. Hosts are celebrated everywhere, each conference room is designed to match an actual host property and giant portraits of hosts line the hallways.
Airbnb also designs its offices to help employees feel at home, a place where they belong. Included are a kitchen, a library, and places to meditate, practice yoga, or write on the walls. A green atrium that stretches up to three floors high evokes the feelings of being in a home garden. The company provides "landing stations" where employees can charge their devices and store their belongings, but it doesn't confine them to assigned desks, so they can work wherever they feel most comfortable.
The "Ground Control" team continuously shapes the employees' experiences in ways that reinforce belonging. By staging pop-up celebrations and themed events based on holidays in the communities around the globe where Airbnb does business, the team creates an environment that not only supports employees' sense of belonging to a worldwide community but also encourages them to create belonging experiences for customers.
It’s no wonder that Airbnb rate as an “engaged employer” on Glassdoor.com with 77% of their workforce saying they would recommend a friend to work at the Company. A quick look through the employee comments show that Airbnb has a highly engaged workforce, with one commenting “I could not be happier to come to work every day and see the value that we are adding to the company”.
How may of us feel this way about our Company?