Airbnb follows a holacracy model, or a sort of flat organizational structure, where teams are organized for projects, to move quickly and iterate fast, thus keeping a lean and flexible approach. Airbnb also moved to a hybrid model where employees can work from anywhere and meet on a quarterly basis to plan ahead, and connect to each other.
|Engineering and Product||Functional||– Teams organized based on technical functions, such as software development, data engineering, and product management. – Functional managers lead these teams.||– Specialization and expertise in technical areas. – Efficient management of engineering and product development tasks.||– Potential communication barriers between different technical teams. |
– Siloed work without cross-functional collaboration.
|Host and Guest Services||Functional||– Teams focused on supporting hosts and guests, handling customer service, trust and safety, and dispute resolution. – Functional managers oversee these teams.||– Expertise in customer support and conflict resolution. – Effective management of host-guest relationships.||– Potential misalignment between customer service and product development. – Lack of holistic user experience focus.|
|Marketing and Sales||Functional||– Teams responsible for marketing campaigns, advertising, and sales efforts. – Functional managers lead marketing and sales functions.||– Expertise in marketing and sales strategies. – Effective customer engagement and revenue generation.||– Potential disconnect between marketing and product development. – Overlook of holistic user experiences.|
|Trust and Safety||Functional||– Teams dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of Airbnb’s platform. – Functional managers oversee trust and safety operations.||– Proficiency in maintaining a secure platform and trust among users. – Effective response to safety concerns and incidents.||– Limited integration with other functions like engineering and product development. – Potential trust and safety silos.|
|Global Regions||Divisional||– Divisions organized by geographical regions (e.g., North America, Europe, Asia). – Divisional managers for each region.||– Tailored strategies for regional markets. – Localized decision-making and adaptability.||– Potential conflicts between regions in resource allocation. – Challenges in maintaining a consistent global user experience.|
|Product Categories||Matrix||– Cross-functional teams for different product categories (e.g., Experiences, Airbnb Plus, Airbnb for Work). – Team members report to both category and functional managers.||– Enhanced collaboration between product development and engineering. – Efficient category management.||– Potential for power struggles between category and functional managers. – Complex communication channels.|
The five key features of Airbnb’s new organizational design
- 1. You can work from home or the office—whatever works best for you.
- 2. You can move anywhere in the country, like from San Francisco to Nashville, and your compensation won’t change.
- 3. You have the flexibility to live and work in 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location..
- 4. We’ll meet up regularly for team gatherings. Most employees will connect in person every quarter for about a week at a time (some more frequently).
- 5. To pull this off, we’ll operate off of a multi-year roadmap with two major product releases a year, which will keep us working in a highly coordinated way.
Brian Chesky highlighted:
Why did we come up with this design?
The world has become more flexible. Our business wouldn’t have recovered as quickly from the pandemic if it hadn’t been for millions of people working from Airbnbs.”
And he further highlighted:
We also had the most productive two-year period in our company’s history—all while working remotely.
But he also emphasized:
But there’s a tension.
The most meaningful connections happen in person. Zoom is great for maintaining relationships, but it’s not the best way to deepen them. And some creative work is best done in the same room.
The right solution should combine the efficiency of Zoom with the meaningful human connection that happens when people come together.
Our design attempts to combine the best of both worlds.
From open floors and on-site perks to flexibility and remote working
As Brian Chesky highlighted:
Two decades ago, Silicon Valley startups popularized open floor plans and on-site perks. Today’s startups have embraced flexibility and remote work. I think this will become the predominant way companies work 10 years from now
This is a critical point, as the trend to understand is exactly that. Today’s employees might value way more flexibility and remote working, rather than open floors, and on-site perks.
Airbnb’s Organizational Design: A Shift to Holacracy and Flexibility
- Holacracy Model and Flat Structure:
- Hybrid Work Model:
- Airbnb adopted a hybrid work model allowing employees to work remotely or from the office.
- Geographic flexibility enables employees to relocate without affecting compensation.
- Employees can work in 170 countries for up to 90 days per location.
- Regular Team Gatherings:
- Regular in-person team gatherings are held, fostering meaningful connections.
- Most employees meet quarterly for about a week, enhancing collaboration.
- Balancing remote work efficiency with in-person human connection.
- Multi-Year Roadmap and Product Releases:
- Operating with a multi-year roadmap to coordinate efforts.
- Focus on two major product releases annually for synchronized work.
- Business Recovery and Remote Work:
- Remote work during the pandemic contributed to business recovery.
- Airbnb’s most productive period occurred while working remotely.
- Balancing Efficiency and Human Connection:
- Acknowledgment of tension between remote work efficiency and in-person human connection.
- The value of deepening relationships and creative collaboration in physical presence.
- Combining Efficiency and Connection:
- Airbnb’s design aims to merge Zoom’s efficiency with in-person human connection.
- Striving to offer the best of both worlds for effective collaboration.
- Shift in Workplace Trends:
- The evolution of workplace trends: from open floors and on-site perks to flexibility and remote work.
- Anticipating that flexibility and remote work will dominate work culture in the future.
Brian Chesky’s Vision and Conclusion:
- Emphasis on flexibility and remote work aligns with the changing preferences of employees.
- The new design combines the efficiency of remote work with the richness of in-person interaction.
- Airbnb’s approach anticipates a shift in how companies work in the coming decade.
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Types of Organizational Structures
Siloed Organizational Structures
Open Organizational Structures
Connected Business Frameworks
Organizational Structure Case Studies
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