Meet Skyscanner – A company with a heart

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Meet Skyscanner – A company with a heart

When you visit a company where employees feel good about work, you notice it. People look a bit happy entering in the morning. They take the time to say hello to a stranger like me waiting in the lobby.

What’s their secret?

I was sat waiting in the Barcelona office of Skyscanner, the popular travel search company, when it struck me. Almost everyone arriving to work were politely saying good morning, even in different languages (I look foreign :) ).

I had arrived early for my meeting with the Senior Talent Executive as I wanted to get a feeling of how they keep their employees so happy.

Ever since Celeste Carballo installed what she calls their ‘Happiness thermostat’, the results have showed a steady, green, result. People are, simply put, having good days at work.

So how do they do it?

A company with a heart

Skyscanner defines itself as a “company with a heart”. Taking into account the needs of the people begins even before employees show up on their first day. In fact, the company even lets you decide where to show up.

The talent team searches for talent on a European basis. When they find a good fit, the candidate is asked during the interview to pick the office they most fancy working from.

Do the beaches in Barcelona take your pick? Scottish pubs in Edinburgh? How about Budapest? (“Barcelona often wins”, Celeste says with a cheeky smile.)


What did you have in your old company… that you don’t have here?

After three months the new starters are asked to give feedback on their employee experience so far: Do you feel that you fit into the culture? Do you like our culture? Is something missing? What did you have in your other workplaces we don’t have here at Skyscanner?

Judging from the flash office, the autonomous way in which work is organised, and the impressive list of activities the companies does, it probably wouldn’t be much they’d miss.

As I was guided around the office it was pretty obvious their workspace has been tastefully designed with the employees in mind (predominantly male).

Borrowing Spotify’s terminology and using agile work methods with squads and tribes, at first I didn’t spot that all columns and most of the walls were actually white boards. Turns out the engineers love to scribble and asked for more space to write.

The company put up entire walls.

Company culture at Skyscanner offices

Working at skyscanner: Fun

Between dedicated gaming rooms, ping pong tables, quiet rooms and fancy coffee stations, the organization tries to integrate fun into their daily life.

“We’re pretty chaotic; there are a lot of meetings. You think you have a structure and then all of a sudden it changes… you have to be flexible, which I really think we are. And that’s one of the things most needed in today’s workplaces, isn’t it?”, says Celeste.

“When I hear people laugh around the office it’s a sign that things are going well. And our employee mood is really great, what more can you ask for?”.

“We do a lot of team buildings, breakfasts, barbecues, courses, talks, Meetups, coaching clubs and social stuff. Everything is optional, we don’t force anyone. We try to connect outside of work too. Many employees are expats; we try to help them to integrate– both to the local culture and our culture here at Skyscanner”.

Skyscanner engineers at the Barcelona office

30% millennials

Celeste tries to continuously adapt her strategies to keep up with the 30% of their workforce who are millennials.

“You need to add new components to maintain their interest and use stuff like video games and gamification to keep them interested and participating. They’re more attracted by the work culture than money”.

Celeste is a firm believer of changing mindsets, of challenging her people to be more autonomous: “Don’t give the fish, show them how to go fishing”.

She says it was difficult at the beginning to get employees to do stuff themselves, instead of being served. She launches questions like what would you like to do in the next 30, 60 and 90 days?

What’s your vision? Where do you see yourself contribute best?

Skyscanner millenials workforce

Work culture vs Growth

Celeste then turns to explain to me that the biggest challenge she sees is how to maintain the great office vibe as they are growing so fast.

She feels they have the basics right with their collaborative work culture, and that it’s about making sure they keep offering what employees need to best succeed.

“The other day I had a coaching session scheduled and I was getting stressed as I didn’t have anything prepared. I told my team I would work from home to get it finished and the day after I was 100% focused – in my pyjamas!”.


A company with a heart (and cash)

As I passed by the Happiness Thermometer at the exit door, it was pretty obvious that Skyscanner is a company with a heart.
Skyscanner happiness thermostat

And now the question is, what about the economic results?

According to the CEO, Gareth Williams, “Skyscanner has enjoyed high double-digit growth rates for some years now, and has been profitable since 2009”.

So it’s a nice example of where looking after the employees, having fun while doing it and making a profit is a good fit.

Like the idea of a Happiness Thermometer to improve your workplace in an agile way? Join leaders in 60 countries:


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Rebecca Lundin, CelpaxHej! I’m Rebecca. HR analytics enthusiast and co-owner at Celpax, a for-profit helping workplaces continuously improve employee morale. I might appear in our chat, or say aloha on twitter?
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