By JASON ATEN, TECH COLUMNIST
It’s a lesson in both leadership and communication in the midst of a crisis.
No one knows what’ll happen when we find our way out of this pandemic. That’s true if you’re a restaurant worker, a parent of three small children, a teacher, or a small-business owner. Even large companies are struggling to make sense of what the world might look like in three or six months, or even in a year.
Nowhere is that more prevalent than in the travel industry. It’s hard to anticipate when people are likely to get on airplanes or stay in hotels in large numbers. As a result, those companies have had to take dramatic steps to try and position their business for a very uncertain future.
Yesterday, Airbnb publicly disclosed its plan. In a blog post, the company shared an email from its CEO, Brian Chesky, detailing layoffs that will affect 1,900 employees, or 25 percent of Airbnb’s workforce.
It’s never easy for a company to make a decision that so personally affects such a large number of its team members, but I think that everyone should read Chesky’s email in full. Even when broken down, it’s quite a lesson in how to talk to your team in hard times.
We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill. Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019. In response, we raised $2 billion in capital and dramatically cut costs that touched nearly every corner of Airbnb.
With that in mind, I want to unpack a few things that every company should be doing right now.
Be Transparent and Clear
Today, I must confirm that we are reducing the size of the Airbnb workforce … Out of our 7,500 Airbnb employees, nearly 1,900 teammates will have to leave Airbnb, comprising around 25% of our company. Since we cannot afford to do everything that we used to, these cuts had to be mapped to a more focused business.
Your team deserves to know what’s happening, especially as it affects their lives. Being transparent about the current reality of your business helps everyone understand what is going on, and what to expect. Being clear helps eliminate confusion or ambiguity. Both of those are important in building trust, and creating an environment where people stay engaged, even in the midst of a crisis.
To those leaving Airbnb, I am truly sorry. Please know this is not your fault. The world will never stop seeking the qualities and talents that you brought to Airbnb … that helped make Airbnb. I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing them with us.
It can be tempting to disassociate and think about these decisions in terms of the numbers. Once you start putting a name and a face to a decision to let someone go, it gets far more difficult. It should be, and that’s okay. Your team is counting on you to communicate with them with compassion and understanding.
I am thankful for everyone here at Airbnb. Throughout this harrowing experience, I have been inspired by all of you. Even in the worst of circumstances, I’ve seen the very best of us. The world needs human connection now more than ever, and I know that Airbnb will rise to the occasion. I believe this because I believe in you.
Finally, your team is looking to you to set the tone. Let that tone be encouraging, even in the hard times. Chesky does a good job of delivering difficult news, while also helping the team focus on the purpose and mission–which will continue.
To those of you staying, one of the most important ways we can honor those who are leaving is for them to know that their contributions mattered, and that they will always be part of Airbnb’s story. I am confident their work will live on, just like this mission will live on.
Click on the link below to visit the source page to read the entire e-mail:
You can read the complete email at the blog post I linked above. I encourage you to do so. It’s a gut-wrenching, yet powerful lesson in leadership and communication, two things we could all strive to do better right now.