VRMA invites you to consider these thoughts on diversity from Vered Raviv Schwarz, COO at Guesty, a property management platform for short-term and vacation rentals. The company provides a wide range of services, from 24/7 guest communication and booking management, automation tools and reporting, to Airbnb optimization.
From Issue 4 Arrival
VRMA: With your role in managing several different teams worldwide, what challenges and opportunities have you faced while experiencing diverse working styles and cultures?
Vered Raviv Schwarz (VRS): First and foremost, appreciate the fact that your employees have different styles of working and hail from different backgrounds – not just demographically, but also professionally. In any global company, I suggest keeping the following top of mind:
- Learn other cultures’ values in order to communicate in a manner that comes across as forthcoming and welcoming. For example, in some cultures it’s appropriate to be incredibly upfront and assertive, whereas in others it’s instead appropriate to speak in a more subtle manner. Perhaps some cultures have difficulty saying no as they consider it impolite. Do your research and come prepared to conversations with individuals from different backgrounds armed with information that will help you build relationships rather than burn bridges right off the bat.
- Know and understand what important days and holidays each office location observes so you can show them you value their culture and time off. Stand with them in remembrance days and celebrate together the holidays. This will create a culture of inclusivity which is crucial.
- Nothing replaces face-to-face conversation; that’s why at Guesty we make it a point to have video conferences with those located in other offices as I firmly believe that when people see one another, they feel increasingly part of the same family. In-person visits are also wonderful as they enable you to understand other employees’ environments and make those employees – perhaps in smaller locations – feel cared for. Though in-person interactions can seem old-fashioned, they still very much have a place in our modern world and truly make employees feel connected and part of something bigger. We practice this at Guesty by holding a company-wide trip annually to make sure everyone gets facetime with one another.
VRMA: What are the business benefits of instituting policies that support a diverse and global workforce?
VRS: The more diverse your culture, the more out-of-the-box, diverse thinking there will be. At Guesty, I’m proud to say that our employees come from every continent across the globe. We’ve also made it a point to hire people from different industries – such as hospitality and adtech – to provide us with fresh perspectives on the travel tech space specifically. As a result, Guesty encompasses several employees that would perhaps not be the classic fit on the surface, but have been very successful with us.
In addition, as Guesty customers are spread out across 70+ countries, it’s an asset for us to have employees with different backgrounds interface with our valued community as we can then better embrace and understand our customers with employees that relate to them.
VRMA: How do you ensure a company’s stance on diversity extends beyond employees to freelancers/contractors? Can you share some of Guesty’s policies that support diversity initiatives?
VRS: It all begins with the hiring process. At Guesty, we make sure that candidates (whether they are full-time or freelance) are interviewed by individuals from various backgrounds in order to eliminate potential bias. As our company is diverse in terms of background and gender (I can proudly say Guesty is 42 percent women, including in management), we aim to embrace everyone who comes through our doors.
If you are a company like Guesty, spread out across seven office locations, I would also
note that great internal communication is key. All communication should include both freelancers and contractors in order for them to feel truly a part of your company’s “full-time” family, as well as to ensure they understand your company’s policies.
At Guesty, we extend our office facilities to freelancers and contractors, and make sure all Guesty locations – whether they house 10 people or 200 – set the same standards and feature Guesty branding so those employees feel proud of the company and space they are in.
VRMA: How have STRs improved job opportunities for a diverse workforce as well as those in need of flexible work schedules?
VRS: One of the ripple effects of individuals making careers out of the short-term rental industry has been the trend of remote working. Not to mention, managing listings across OTAs is a great side gig for anyone who craves more flexible work hours, and in many cases can be the right fit specifically for women. Furthermore, when choosing short-term stays, travelers tend to look at the property’s quality, ratings and amenities, rather than the host, eliminating disparity based on gender, race or otherwise.
But female empowerment in the STR arm of the sharing economy doesn’t stop at those with the side gigs themselves – it’s also had a huge impact on those in the travel tech space working for companies that have launched due to the need for tech solutions to support this booming industry.
If you compare Airbnb’s employee makeup (48.94 percent female in 2018)  to the likes of tech giants Facebook (36.3 percent female in 2018)  and Google (30.9 percent female in 2018) , the travel platform comes out on top. These stats are just a few examples of why I’d assert that it’s easier for women to find their place in travel tech, compared to tech in general, thus creating more of a gender balance in the male-dominated tech scene.
VRMA: When it comes to supporting diversity, inclusion and equality, what advice can you share for vacation rental managers that they can implement in their businesses today?
VRS: Be able to communicate with your staff in their native language to ensure they fully understand the tasks they need to execute. I’ll give you an example – many property managers hire additional staff members to assist with handling daily operational needs, whom at times don’t speak their same language. That’s why we updated Guesty’s platform and native mobile app in five new languages (and counting)  to break down any barriers that property managers have when communicating with those they rely on most.
Moreover, I’d emphasize that in this industry the more diverse your employees are the better, as they can find common ground with guests from across the globe and potentially provide a more welcoming experience.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of hidden bias. Make it your mission to hire people that are different than you. Try to understand their motives and passions, and in turn, they will help you expand your boundaries and ultimately excel.
1. “Belonging is at our core,” https://www.airbnb.com/diversity/belonging, accessed June 10, 2019.
2.” Distribution of Facebook employees worldwide from 2014 to 2018, by gender,” https://www.statista.com/statistics/311827/facebook-employee-gender-global/, accessed June 10, 2019.
3.”Distribution of Google employees worldwide from 2014 to 2018, by gender,” https://www.statista.com/statistics/311800/google-employee-gender-global/, accessed June 10, 2019.
4. “Going Global: Guesty is Now Available in 5 New Languages,” https://www.guesty.com/blog/going-global-guesty-is-now-available-in-5-new-languages/, accessed June 10, 2019.
Vered Raviv Schwarz is COO of property management platform Guesty, where she brings nearly 20 years of experience in global operations to overseeing teams including customer experience, finance, legal, HR, customer success and data and analytics. Prior to Guesty, Vered was COO of Fiverr where she grew the company from 40 employees to over 400 in her six-year tenure. Before Fiverr, Vered held senior executive positions in private and public global tech companies including Kenshoo, MediaMind (now Sizmek) and Radware. She has been featured in prominent media outlets including Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur and The Next Web. In her free time, she serves on the advisory boards of several startups and participates in mentorship programs focused on female entrepreneurship.