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Part 2 of how we work at trivago. Alena from our Organizational Agility team takes us through some of the methods we use to stay innovative.
"Collectively, we test, we track, we fail, we learn, we try better. Kind of like Machine Learning, but with humans".
You may have heard, at trivago, we are a little unconventional in the way we work. We’re certainly not 'traditional’ in the way we hire, our leadership models, or our organizational structure.
This makes every day at trivago exciting, full of surprises and opportunities. It can also make it unpredictable and a little unfamiliar for those who haven’t experienced a working environment like it.
The rate of change is fast and frequent at trivago, so to keep up with that pace, we look for individuals who aren’t satisfied with the status quo, and who are adaptable and eager to help us improve every step of the way.
Like every other company on Glassdoor, we get some glowing reviews and some not so nice ones. Nobody is perfect, but we work hard to improve. Every. Single. Day.
Now, if you are thinking about coming to work with us, and you are visiting Glassdoor to get some more insights before you take the final leap into our Talent Community, we would like to outline some of the ways we work, through our core values.
Because transparency is at the foundation of our core values please note, we don’t remove or rebut any comments here. We believe everyone is entitled to their own voice. We do, however, read all comments and take them very seriously, and tackle any feedback head-on. No matter what.
We believe diverse teams perform best (and there’s a lot of research that backs this up!) and that is why we encourage everyone to be their true selves, and to stand up for what they believe in. Everyone has the right to voice their opinion and be heard. The more authentic we are as individuals, the easier it is to keep our communication channels informal. By nurturing ‘Informal relationships’ we speak more freely and in our own unique way. This not only breaks down any hierarchy or social status, but also makes communication faster and more flexible, which leads to more reactive and fluid productivity.
One of the most important traits we look for in our talents is self-motivation; the curiosity to go that extra mile and follow your passion, whether that is challenging existing processes, or developing new initiatives of your own. Let’s be honest, if you worked for a company that encouraged you to shape your own role by collaborating with a wide variety of talents, you would be kicking off all kinds of new projects. And, people do. All the time. Everyone at trivago finds their own balance between responsibilities and ‘passion projects’. The choice really is in the hands of the talent as to how they spend their time here, and how much of an impact they want to make.
Power Of Proof
At trivago, we try to base all of our decisions on data. Even in our pay structure. That is why everyone who comes to work with us is offered a competitive yet conservative entry salary. How that salary changes, is determined by the ways in which a talent embodies our core values. We do not assess based on a top-down performance management system, but rather instil a culture of feedback. This is why we run 360 evaluations every 6 months. In a 360 evaluation; your impact, effort and value contribution are measured. There is no “kiss up, kick down” culture here. Everyone who you work closest to, and have the most daily interaction with, is evaluating your performance. So, if you are excelling in your role, it is not surprising to be rewarded appropriately.
As mentioned previously, all talents are trusted to shape their own path at trivago. This means you will need to exercise unwavering focus and self-prioritisation in order to establish the things that are most important. You are measured on your value contribution, so it is up to you to determine what creates the most impact, and focus on those things. Our self-determined working hours and holidays mean you are not judged by the number of hours you spend in the office, but the overall value you bring to the company. We trust that our talents know how to manage their time and projects.
At trivago, we give everyone the chance to develop in their own way. We actively encourage knowledge sharing and learning, and provide various opportunities for talents to excel and expand their skillsets in a dynamic and ever-changing environment. We give free internal and external trainings, invite guest lecturers to our weekly academies, hold regular Q&As with our MDs during our open Fridays, and provide a huge database of information on our company intranet. On top of that we have many team and company-wide events, and a huge selection of sports on offer. Nothing is compulsory, but the opportunities to learn and develop both personally and professionally are always available.
We believe passion, motivation and potential should be acknowledged and rewarded. This is why it is not uncommon to see people in positions at trivago that they may have not otherwise got at another company based on their CV or previous experience. Sometimes people may have team leads that do not have the experience they expected. Well, we hire and promote very much based on the person, their potential, and their willingness to learn. So, yes, sometimes people are in a position where they will be ‘learning on the job’ but that opportunity extends to anyone who joins trivago and shows the intrinsic motivation to develop.
Trust is the foundation of our core values at trivago. We want everyone here to trust in each other and in the company, to always act from good intentions and believe that others’ actions come from the same place, too. There are times when this positivity can be difficult to see, or that someone might make a mistake. We’re only human. We aspire to build an environment of trust where constructive and honest feedback rules, so that any possible negative situations don’t repeat themselves.
Just a few years ago we were a start-up. Since then we have grown very fast, approximately doubling the number of talents every year. As we grow, the working environment around us changes rapidly every day, and maintaining that start-up mentality becomes more and more difficult. How do we ensure we don’t lose the values we were built on when scaling at such speed? Here are a few of the ways we stay adaptable and innovative.
By continuously trying to improve
We know that failing fast accelerates improvement. On their very first day at trivago, people are told that it’s ok to fail. In fact, failure is celebrated. As long as you fail fast, you will learn fast, and succeed sooner. We believe innovation is built on trial and error, and that is why entrepreneurial passion is one of our core values.
By promoting empowerment
Talking openly about our failures is one way we reduce the feeling of hierarchy in the company. We also abandoned titles, to encourage people to leave their ego at the door. Whaaat? You might be asking yourself. How do you know who’s in charge of what? Well, we prefer to identify ourselves with what we do, rather than what it says on our business cards. A “Senior Executive Manager” shouldn’t get to decide everything just because they are the most senior. The best idea should always win, regardless of who they came from. This attitude reduces internal politics, and generally keeps us more humble and respectful towards each other. From the Leadership Team to students, we all sit together and we all party together as equals.
So how does an intern get an idea through the door? Well, by valuing the power of proof over seniority we give everyone the chance to get their ideas implemented. We love testing, so if you have an idea of how to do things better, no one will stop you making a business case. We continuously test new initiatives & analyse our results, persuading people to follow our lead based on power of proof. This way, we get to innovate, learn and share knowledge, rather than give or follow orders.
We also support innovation on an organizational level by organizing hackathons and pitching days, where anyone can turn an idea into a Minimal Viable Product, and if it performs well, get the resources to scale it. These ideas can range anywhere from getting rid of our legacy code, to shortening our meetings to 50 mins instead of an hour to allow time for people to move between meetings.
By breaking down boundaries
As mentioned before, we got rid of job titles, so that all trivago talents see eye to eye. We’re very much a people-focused company. We know that even the best ideas won’t work if our talents don’t like coming to the office. We therefore put a lot of emphasis on breaking down walls, whether that’s between leads, teams or departments. We work in cross-functional teams, in different mixed project groups, and encourage our talents to move positions in the company, to keep them motivated and curious. We take every measure to enable direct conversation. Sometimes a short chat at someone’s desk will avoid the hassle of calling each other, aligning calendars and scheduling a meeting in a month’s time. That’s why we all sit together in a big open space. We also have a wide variety of events, sports, our trivago Academies, guest presentations and many more opportunities to get to know your colleagues outside of work. Our experience is, the more you get to know someone as a person, the easier it is for you to approach them to collaborate, openly disagree with them on work topics, and give them honest feedback. This creates a transparency that builds trust.
By decentralizing our org structure
Decentralizing the traditional organizational structure is another way of reducing boundaries between teams and talents. As we grow as a company, we aim to make our teams smaller and more liquid. It is no secret smaller teams work faster, leaving more time to align with one another on the big picture. Our goal is to split teams into smaller groups, with all the resources they need to achieve the initiatives that support trivago’s mission. Imagine a company made up of lots of mini start-ups, representing the same brand, but moving independently, quickly and innovatively.
Our cross-functional teams consist of developers, product owners, design, QA and a scrum master. This way, they have all the resources they need to ideate, develop, optimize and reach their shared goals. Working like this means that if a small team tries something risky, and fails, it doesn’t break the whole company. If it succeeds? Well, then the team gets even more resources! In this particular team, we’re also trying out a pitching model, where anyone can pitch an idea, e.g. a feature to be built on our website. If he or she convinces others to build it, then they get the go to form a team for two weeks. After two weeks, an MVP should be ready, and if they want to continue working on it, the idea needs to be pitched again for the next cycle.
Now, this is just a basic snapshot of one of our teams. You’ll find many different set-ups at trivago. teams that work with Scrum or Kanban frameworks, teams that work so quickly and reactively they still use paper to-do lists, and some teams work purely on a mix of caffeine and magic. There are no set rules, just whatever works best for that person or team. This diverse approach is a by-product of our scepticism towards rules & standardizations. We don’t get too involved in how people work, but should they need support in finding their ideal way, we have a dedicated Organizational Agility department to support them in achieving their goals faster. We generally believe the best ideas will get the most buy-in, and then become best practices. Adaptability, entrepreneurial passion and fanatic learning are standout traits that we look for in talents during recruiting. We also encourage those already working with us to change their perspectives regularly by switching roles and taking on new challenges throughout their trivago journey.
Because we’re always ready for change, we’re also able to adjust to big shifts within our organization. For example, we’ve just gone through a huge change to our leadership model, as we strive to give teams and individuals even more autonomy and growth opportunity. We decided to split the traditional “lead structure” three ways to match key strengths. We now have:
As everyone has at least two people leading them, it’s not enough just to impress your “manager”. In fact, your performance is evaluated by ALL your stakeholders in the form of 360-degree feedback. We gather input from a talent’s peers. By doing this, we avoid people “kissing up and kicking down.” Your peers could be your team, your stakeholders, your leads or people you worked with on a project. If you manage to convince everyone you’re doing a great job, no one cares how many hours you spent at work. In fact, we often really don’t even know. We trust people to take as much time as they need to do a great job and we trust them to take as much time off as they need to be productive. That is why we have self-determined working hours and holidays, so our talents can get more out of life.
In conclusion, there is no right way or wrong way of doing things at trivago, but there are usually always better ways. We only find those better ways by trial and error, and so we exist in a liquid, adaptable environment, because we believe if you stand still, you get left behind. We value diversity and authenticity over consistency, so there is never just one truth. There are many different opinions at trivago, there will probably even be some who challenge this video, and that’s okay. The more perspectives we gather on a topic, the cleverer we become. It is kind of like machine learning, done by humans. It helps us improve every single day.
I have been working at trivago full-time (More than a year)
- You can try out new ways, processes and learn a lot
- You get responsibility right from the beginning and the scope increases
- Team mates are intrinsically motivated and want to push new topics forward
- The company is innovative and you can always challenge the status quo and come up with new, own ideas --> the management listens!
- You have to deal with a lot of changes, structure/organizational-wise
- Roles are defined in an open way, to be adjustable - not everybody feels comfortable with this
- Lack of defined processes/structures
I applied online. I interviewed at trivago.
If Trivago likes your job application, they will send you a very extensive assessment that will take 12-20 hours to do. The questions are confusing and badly worded. If they like what your submission, they will put you through 3 one hour long interviews. I went through all three interviews and thought I did really well. However, they told me that they didn't want to go forward with my candidacy. I was really bewildered. I asked them for some feedback, and they were adamant to not give any feedback. I spent almost 20 hours doing the assessment and interviews and they can't spend 5 minutes giving me feedback. That was very frustrating and very unprofessional. If you want to interview with Trivago, just know that you might need to invest a lot of time and rejected at the end without knowing what happened. They go overboard with the assessment and really don't value your time.