Southwest Airlines People Management
26 Aug 2012
Southwest Airlines has been the most profitable airline in the United States for decades. It leads in customer satisfaction and for years led the rankings in on time performance. Many have identified the successful business practices that have allowed such remarkable success but Southwest's corporate culture has been identified as the secret sauce. This paper will discuss the company's overall people strategy, employee reward and motivation, company culture, employee hiring and sustainment, and ways to continue success.
Southwest Airlines History
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Their aim was initially to win people over to air travel who typically drive. The beginnings proved to be very challenging as the young company struggled to make ends meet. Employees were repeatedly relied upon to make sacrifices and go above and beyond to allow the company survive another day. These early experiences with employees greatly influenced Mr. Kelleher as he clearly cherished his employees. The company recently acquired Air Tran Airways and now have 46,000 employees. The company has enjoyed 36 straight years of profitability but will be greatly challenged as they work to integrate their new acquisition.
Southwest’s People Management Strategy
The basic strategy Southwest Airlines employs regarding people management is employees first, customers second. "We offer Employees the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every customer." At first glance, this strategy sounds absurd. On the contrary, this outside the box strategy has worked since the company began serving customers. The company stresses several fundamental basic core values that identify the company as an industry leader. The core values stem from concepts developed over several years by Southwest's acknowledged "corporate mom" Colleen Barrett. She started out as Mr. Kelleher's assistant when the company began and has held several managerial positions over the years. Armed only with a two year associates degree, and a resume lacking a full list of educational degrees, her insight into how to get the most from employees and how best to connect with customers is legendary.
Southwest's website is "fun" to explore searching for company information. They boast that they follow three core values with several value descriptors. These values seem so simple, yet their message cannot be mistaken. First is "warrior spirit" and some qualities include: work hard, desire to be the best, be courageous, display urgency, persevere and innovate. The second is "a servant's heart". Follow the golden rule, adhere to the principles, treat others with respect, put others first, be egalitarian, demonstrate proactive, customer service, embrace the SWA family. The third vale is "fun-LUVing attitude". Have FUN, don't take yourself too seriously, maintain perspective, celebrate successes, enjoy your work, be a passionate team player. The positive energy and attitude is infectious and is has come to identify the company.
There are undoubtedly those who do not appreciate this type of informal and unpredictable experience however. Southwest targets travels who are out for the cheapest opportunity and the least amount of frills. Someone like a frequent flier business traveler typically relies on a higher level of travel experience. They do not want to fight for a seat and snack only on pretzels.
Employee rewards and motivation
Inherent awards for airline employees is free travel. ...