HR in the Hot Seat: Ken Hoskin, regional talent lead, APAC, Airbnb

by HRD08 Nov 2016
What is your job title and what brought you into this role?
My title is Regional Talent Lead, APAC, where I work closely with Airbnb’s APAC management teams and the global Employee Experience (EX) team to make Airbnb the “Most Loved Place to Work in the World”. This entails driving Airbnb’s talent programs at both a local and regional level and fostering its fantastic culture across Asia Pacific.  

I’ve been with Airbnb for two and a half years and prior to that, had spent my entire career supporting the advertising industry in APAC. I first came to Asia in 1999 and have had the pleasure of living in Japan, Hong Kong and now Singapore for the last 4+ years. I joined Airbnb because I wanted to be part of the opportunity to revolutionize travel. This role allows me take what I have learned over the years and apply it to an incredibly fast-paced, technology-enabled brand.

What motivates or excites you the most about your current position?
I get to be part of a global team that is responsible for designing in-house systems which help support and develop our employees’ careers and welfare, while delivering the best experience. I look forward to waking up every day and being able to work on something new and exciting!

What is unique about HR at Airbnb?
Firstly, we don’t use the term HR – not because it is a bad word – but because we look at the entire Employee Experience (EX) journey from the first point of a recruiting contact through someone joining Airbnb’s Alumni Program.  My role is to play point on many of these aspects, where I work with the EX leadership team in APAC. We believe in treating our employees like founders, empowering them with information and supporting their decisions at Airbnb to positively impact our community.

What will HR’s biggest challenges be for the coming year?
I strongly believe in enabling individuals to develop the ability to unlearn and then learn new things.  This growth mindset allows employees to adapt to the pace of change found in a technology-enabled industry like ours.  The historical view on development has been to have an approach to help people “check the box” when they have learned a slightly better or newer way to do something.  

We need to toss this mindset and encourage employees to develop themselves in completely new areas, where the company and managers support employees by incorporating learning into their everyday work or through on-demand tools made available to them. This will encourage people to reach out of their comfort zone and embrace new approaches, techniques and venture into new areas of the business.

What has been the strangest HR scenario you’ve ever experienced?
When I was leading recruitment for an advertising agency, I would receive CVs for creative based roles on a regular basis. There was one that tops the list, which I still keep to this day -- an applicant submitting a jewellery box. I opened up the jewellery box and staring back at me was a big, glass eye…with the tag line written, “I have an amazing eye for creativity.”  That one definitely fits in the strange category.

If there’s one piece of HR-related advice you could give, what would it be?
Be flexible and support the business.  Policies, practices and rules have all been put in place to bring order and fairness to an organisation. However, if they don’t keep pace with the needs of the business, they will quickly be deemed as irrelevant and potentially ignored. Stay deeply connected with business strategy and always look towards updating or creating new ways to help the business and your employees thrive in an ever-changing reality.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of HR?
I spend as much time with my daughter as I can. While that takes up the bulk of my time outside of work, I also make time for other enjoyments, such as playing tennis with my wife and going for a run through the Botanic Gardens at dawn.

Where’s the best place to go for dinner/drinks in Singapore? Why?
Good friends we’ve known since our days in Hong Kong introduced us to a small French restaurant on Armenian Street called Le Bistrot du Sommelier.  It is just the best place to gather friends for one of those dinners that run late into the night, where you can be assured of great food and a fantastic environment.

Related stories:

Why Airbnb got rid of its HR department 

Employee experience: Passing fad or here to stay?

Dealing with the HR identity crisis