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Chesky at Airbnb and the Process for Mapping and Communicating a Layoff...

My friend and colleague Patrick Lynch at CMP did a post over the weekend on the recent layoffs at Airbnb, covering a letter that founder and CEO Brian Chesky sent out to employees covering the move to layoff 25% of the workforce at the hospitality sector giant.

Patrick was spot on in his analysis, as the letter from Chesky is a deep dive in how to approach crisis Chesky communications with a spirit of transparency and treating people as well as you can afford to.

Of special note to me in Chesky's letter was Airbnb's process for working through the what, when, how and who of the layoff process. Here's a clip from his letter to all employees:

How we approached reductions:

It was important that we had a clear set of principles, guided by our core values, for how we would approach reductions in our workforce. These were our guiding principles:

    • Map all reductions to our future business strategy and the capabilities we will need.
    • Do as much as we can for those who are impacted. 
    • Be unwavering in our commitment to diversity. 
    • Optimize for 1:1 communication for those impacted. 
    • Wait to communicate any decisions until all details are landed — transparency of only partial information can make matters worse. 

There's a lot of good here, even if it's delivering news on the worst topic possible. While I've written before that we shouldn't be caught as leaders communicating intensely personal news in group settings, there's other factors beyond "optimizing for 1:1 communication" that serve as best practices in Chesky's letter. My thoughts about the other bullets listed below:

--Map all reductions to our future business strategy and the capabilities we will need. "Before you ask, yes, we had a plan. We're stripping this thing back to the base with these layoffs. Continue to buckle up."

--Do as much as we can for those who are impacted. "While we always would like to do more, we stretched as much as we could and went beyond what others are doing during this crazy time. Hope you see that, we're confident enough in what we're doing here to proactively say it."

--Be unwavering in our commitment to diversity. "Yep, we looked at diversity from every angle and the cuts are not only representative of our current workforce, but we made changes to what was submitted to ensure we're as strong as possible moving forward. Yes, we did an adverse impact analysis, but more to the point, we went beyond that. We're so confident in what we did in this area we're talking openly about it."

--Wait to communicate any decisions until all details are landed — transparency of only partial information can make matters worse. "You wanted details earlier of what we were thinking. We didn't give those to you early - not because we weren't working on it, but because not having the full plan is a bad way to communicate. You now have all the details"

All of these comments represent best practices in communication of this type of event.

Not every company has the resources that Airbnb has - if fact, most don't. But whether you're giving a minimum of 12 weeks and covering medical for the rest of the year...or providing next to nothing due the economics of your company's situation, you can follow this roadmap regardless of your situation.

Good luck and stay strong.

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