Facebook, Google, Airbnb Share Tips for Improving Employee Experience

Recently, League Inc., hosted an exclusive panel event to discuss how employers can provide a best-in-class employee experience. Three of the most successful tech companies in the world were represented on the stage:

  • Marie Josee Lamothe – Managing Director at Google
  • Alison Leung – Vertical Lead at Facebook
  • Aaron Zifkin – Regional Director at Airbnb

Each panelist offered tremendous insights and gave the crowd of eager HR leaders in attendance a glimpse into what it’s like to work in one of their innovative offices.

A common question from the audience was how to apply strategies being used at these relatively new companies to more established organizations. Fortunately, each panelist also had more traditional work experience and were each happy to provide suggestions that could be modified to fit any organization.   

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are five strategies that really stood out:

1. Develop a company-specific onboarding program

A common theme from all three panelists was that each of their companies (Facebook, Google, Airbnb) set the tone for a positive employee experience right away. This process involves onboarding programs that are both welcoming and also tailored to the business.

For example, Aaron Zifkin says the Airbnb onboarding program is called “Check-in”. He likens it to a frosh week experience. New employees have no work responsibilities. Their only job is to meet with each department and learn about the company.

Aaron also noted that each employee is eventually required to have two Airbnb “hosts” over to their home for dinner – just to ensure they understand the perspective of the company’s hosts.

Marie Josee Lamothe says that at Google, in addition to their onboarding – employee education never stops. Each quarter employees are given tutorials to keep them up-to-date with the new technology being developed. “It’s like being in university part-time,” according to Marie Josee.  

2. Improve employee energy levels: Facebook’s “Fuel” program

Alison Leung is a big fan of Facebook’s “Fuel” program for employees. It has two main components:

  • A career/personal vision

This is a written document that focuses not only on their professional goals but also their personal goals. Each employee then has a meeting with their manager to discuss their vision. This ensures that managers are aware of their team’s goals and are in a position to help.

  • A focus on four main energies (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional)

Alison says helping employees fill up each of these four energy buckets involves everything from in-office massage chairs, meditation rooms, and even nap rooms. She also pointed out that Facebook’s relationship with League has led to them participating in soothing activities like “build-your-own desk garden” and having a “de-cluttering” expert give tips to the team.

Employee experience panel taking questions
Employee experience panel taking questions.


3. Find communication channels that work specifically for your team

All three panelists admitted that with so many communication vehicles available in today’s work environment it can take time to find the most effective channels for your team. But it’s worth the effort to keep employees engaged and in the loop.

At Facebook, Alison says they have different online Facebook Groups that are divided by team, project or subject. There is also a company-wide Q+A each Friday afternoon with CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Marie Josee added that Google has similar “TGIF” town halls for employees to speak with the company’s founders. Her team also utilizes shared Google Docs on a daily basis to keep them literally on the same page.

In an attempt to address a lack of communication, Aaron said Airbnb actually “over-rotated” and began flooding employees with information. They now have a team in place to manage internal communications and act as “gatekeepers”.    

4. Encourage “work/life flow” if work/life balance isn’t realistic

When the question was posed to Aaron Zifkin about how he helps his staff achieve work/life balance at Airbnb he decided to reframe the topic. That’s because his belief is that achieving work/life balance is usually impossible – especially in a high-growth company.

Instead he prefers to encourage his team members to find their “work/life flow” – meaning that during busy stretches they should acknowledge that work will likely take up a lot of their time, but when they identify a slower period they should take advantage by shortening their days or taking extra vacation.  

5. Give employees a voice through manager evaluations

When an attendee posed the question of how these leaders give their team a voice, Marie Josee was quick to point out that at Google the evaluation she gets from her team is one of her biggest KPIs – and is often more important than the review she gets from her actual manager. This is how Google puts the onus on managers to communicate effectively with their teams and solve their problems quickly.

At Facebook, Alison says that she has regular 1-on-1 meetings with her team members and a question she always asks is, “Do I have any blind spots that I should be aware of?”. Meaning, what’s the vibe on the team right now? Is there anything frustrating them that I can help with?   

In addition to these five tactics, you can find even more of the employee experience strategies that were discussed by the panel in our Guide to Building a Best-in-Class Employee Experience or by reading a summary of our keynote speaker’s discussion of HR design thinking principles in action.

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