Southwest Airlines Business Culture Has Magnetic Draw

May 13, 2019
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Author: Tyran Saffold Jr

On the culture page of the Southwest Airlines website, there is a strong model of what a healthy organizational culture should look like. Within the company, employees serve as each other’s strength to create the optimal work balance. The formula for success is revealed through their impressive numbers.

Southwest Airlines Magnetic Culture

The Southwest Stats Say So Much

• Southwest boasts a 2.5 percent voluntary turnover rate compared to a 23 percent national average
• Southwest maintains some of the lowest numbers of customer complaints in the U.S. airline industry
• 85 percent of employees say they’re proud to work at the company
• The average length of employment is a remarkable 11.5 years
• There have been no layoffs or furloughs in the history of the company
• Southwest executed its 45th consecutive profit-sharing award, sending $544 million back to employees (amounting to approximately 10.8 percent of each eligible employee’s compensation)

“We receive thousands of applications, but we hire less than two percent of those who submit, which over the past two years, is almost 1400 people,” said Cheryl Hughey, Managing Director of Culture at Southwest Airlines.

It Begins and Ends, with Organizational Culture

Southwest Airlines started over 50 years ago, but it wasn’t until the last 10 years that leaders of this dynamic company decided to focus on infusing strong culture into their workplace as a business practice. They began by identifying the six values they wanted to honor.

The Six Southwest Airlines Values:

• Warrior Spirit
• Servant’s Heart
• Fun-LUVing Attitude
• Safety and Reliability
• Friendly Customer Service
• Low Costs

Southwest created a Company-wide Culture Committee to retain focus on these values. The group, staffed by employees in every division, regularly deploys small teams to various airports for the sole purpose of making sure each employee understands how much they are valued.

Leaders are encouraged to sympathize with their employees' needs outside of the workplace. For instance, leaders are given authority to spend money to care for associates in ways such as sending flowers after a family death, or Southwest-branded items to employees’ newborn babies.

“No Company can survive long, much less be great, without great People and strong Culture”- Gary Kelly, Executive Officer and Chairman of Southwest Airlines.

This company takes pride in recognizing when employees receive compliments from customers. Outside of blasting the news through social media, the company encourages employee acknowledgment through peer-to-peer recognition. Employees are encouraged to give “points” to colleagues as a form of recognition—and with these “points,” employees can purchase items from a company catalog.

Culture Matters

Since the implementation of the cultural awareness programs, Southwest Airlines has experienced unparalleled success both internally and externally while satisfying customers and employees. A business culture infused with strong morals, a system of affirmation and employee appreciation will never have a problem attracting employees—and in a tight labor market, the competitive advantage rests within each company.