After speaking at a conference in San Francisco, I got a chance to spend some time at Airbnb Headquarters. Having been to dozens of company headquarters, this one really stood out. All their offices are modeled after exact replicas of popular listings, they had a 50 ft. living wall, loads of healthy snacks, and seemingly happy employees. Before we dive into the juicy culture lessons, a small disclaimer: while I would love to be partnering with Airbnb on their learning and development initiatives through my company, We!™, I was only touring the space thanks to a wonderful connection. These learnings were gathered through observation and my asking about 152 questions; rather than some official “Airbnb Culture Manifesto” or something. Great, now here are some nuggets about how to create a workplace worth showing up to:


Airbnb Culture Lessons People are Better than Perks

#1 People > Perks

My final question to David, the Airbnb employee who gave me the tour was: “If you were to leave Airbnb, what would push you out?” And after an 1.5 hours of showing and talking about all the perks Airbnb has to offer, he said, “the people.” Not all the perks in the world trump the relationships. Gallup’s workforce report and a myriad of other studies echo this over and over again. Engagement and retention is so deeply tied to the social connections and relationships that we create and maintain at work. Bonus fact, Google’s quest to build the perfect team found that the #1 indicator of a high performing, innovative team was the psychological safety and trust that develop solely through social connections. So,what are you doing to actively invest in the relationships of your organization?

Airbnb Culture Belong Anywhere

#2 Create a workplace where everyone belongs.

Airbnb went through a major rebrand in 2014. Their new mission and mantra:belong anywhere. Above doors, there were letters reading “belong here.” The mural above was peppered with inside jokes and connections to belonging. The point, they are both intentional and remarkably transparent about creating a space for people to belong. The company also has a fascinating program known as “Airbnb Explorer” where employees can apply for an “internship” elsewhere in the company after two years in their current role. Essentially, they are saying, “hey, we value you and want you to find a home somewhere with us rather than quitting altogether.” Awesome! How might you create opportunities for your employees to find belonging?

Airbnb Culture Lessons Make Space for Introverts in the Workplace

#3 Make space for introverts

As a company founded on the principals of trusting and connecting with strangers, Airbnb became a very “extroverted company” over time. This showed up in hiring practices, open office plans, etc. It didn’t take long for people to recognize this and they started implementing practices to make space for introverts. For example, there is an informal company policy that reads: “don’t book your meetings on Wednesdays!” This gives introverts a reprieve and allows people to focus in on getting stuff done as opposed to just talking about getting stuff done.

Airbnb Culture Lessons Surprise Your Employees

#4 Surprise people.

With positive feedback. With events. With food. With random exercise breaks. With Airstreams on the second floor of your office building? Yes, the photo I took above is somebody’s office at Airbnb.

Brains love novelty. Love it! The neuron firing party that happens when we experience something new keeps us awake, curious, and continually learning. Using a crane to lift an Airstream into your office building may not be in your budget, so let’s get creative. If you want 12 free printable questions to surprise and connect your team, signup for our newsletter right here.



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