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Southwest Airlines Employee Motivation

The Southwest Airlines employee motivation phenomenon is no accident this company is a well-oiled, high performance organization. Wikipedia mentions these three facts: Southwest Airlines (SWA) is one of the world's most profitable airlines, posting a profit for the 36th consecutive year in January 2009. SWA is the largest airline in the United States by number of passengers carried domestically per year (as of December 31, 2007) SWA has carried more customers than any other U.S. airline since August 2006 for combined domestic and international passengers according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Southwest Airlines employee motivation is a magnificent-living example of what most companies are striving for. The business press has continuously celebrated SWA outstanding performance. Fortune magazine has called it the most successful airline in history, and it ranks it in the top spots of its 100 Best Companies to work for. Despite the fact that SWA is one of the most highly unionized airlines in the US airline industry, it has consistently enjoyed lower turnover rates than other US airlines, it has high levels of employee motivation and satisfaction, and it has the lowest absenteeism and tardiness rates of any business in the area. In no particular order, here we mention key elements that play a critical role in the Southwest Airlines employee motivation visible fact.

7 Key Elements in Southwest Airlines employee motivation 1) STRONG SET OF VALUES Values are peoples deep sacred convictions about how they must behave themselves values are behavior guidelines. The SWA set of values are not wishful thinking on the contrary, this companys values determine the behavior of all employees at all levels in the organization not only front line workers must behave according to these values, but especially top management as well, who maintains credibility by walking its talk and keeping 100% its integrity the values discipline is strictly enforced across the company. In SWA, values are mandatory behavior guidelines.

Why are values important for Southwest Airlines employee motivation? For the following reason: The top three SWA values are in this order of appearance: Employees Customers Stockholders Translation: The SWA organization exists first and foremost, to exceed its employees expectations; in a close second, to exceed its customers expectations; and in close third, to exceed its stockholders expectations. 2) EMPLOYEES COME FIRST Just underneath SWA mission statement on the SWA web site it reads: To our employees: We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer. According to SWA values, employees come first this is not some lip service payment to workers from top management and SWA workers know this for a fact. The employees personal well being is a most important matter for SWA leadership the entire company places significant importance on every single job. All employees are highly valued and respected as individuals, which in turn, this engenders strong feelings of mutual belief, trust, and certainty (read motivation) to perform. Top management is meticulously careful to invest heavily in training, in development, and in the creation of opportunity for everybody the company is willing to take risks on its people to a degree that might seem extreme for outsiders. No wonder Southwest Airlines employee motivation is outstanding. Performance (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY: 1992) found that the high performing companies have value systems that REALLY care about all three constituencies (employees, customers, and stockholders). 3) REWARDS & RECOGNITION Workers know that the company provides meaningful recognition and rewards for their performance they know exactly what it is the company gives them in return for their exceptional work there is no doubt about it. The entire company (read everybody at all levels in the organization) places particular importance in exploring every conceivable technique, approach, and device to recognize excellent performance this is an ongoing effort where everybody is involved. The organization recognizes all employees directly in proportion to their personal accomplishments and SWA does so by rewarding and celebrating them in many different ways, by direct supervisors and peers as well as upper management.

This generates a contagious collective energy across the whole organization and as a consequence, the work environment is animated with eagerness, enthusiasm, and joy it is an environment that employees love. In this Southwest Airlines employee motivation context, formal compensation is of secondary importance. By profusely rewarding its employees for excellent performance, SWA is able to maintain loyalty, job satisfactions, and high levels of personal motivation. 4) MISSION The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. However, SWA accomplishment is NOT in the writing of its mission any company could have written the very same mission statement Southwest Airlines employee motivation does not reside in its mission itself. Rather, Southwest Airlines employee motivation exists in the fact that SWA has been able to frame its work as part of a deep and rewarding purpose (its mission) that employees find fulfilling. In the mission arena, SWA accomplishment is this: Southwest Airlines employee motivation exists in the fact that SWA has been able to place its mission as a noble purpose in the eyes of its employees, and as a consequence of this, its employees visualize a dignified mission for their organization that rises above any short-term financial profits. The force of a mission any mission statement is not found in its wording (however, a mission statement must be well written), but in the organizations capacity to transform its mission into a live force embodied in every single worker and Southwest Airlines employee motivation is fueled by this. 5) HIRING SWA has a VERY rigorous hiring procedure nothing and nobody is left to chance and/or to gut feeling. The SWA search and selection processes are by far much more meticulous than at most other companies the selection is purposeful. Deciding who becomes a permanent worker of the company is a significant decision SWA goes to great lengths to make certain that they get the best of the right candidates. Plus, a permanent rehiring way of thinking prevails employees are expected to maintain top performance, or else In other words, Southwest Airlines employee motivation is not an option if you genuinely like it here, you stay; but one thing is for sure, if you dont like it, you can not fake it for long. SWA is not for everybody and so it goes for all high performance organizations with strong corporate cultures. 6) DISTRIBUTED LEADERSHIP

SWA has a strong leadership at the top AND throughout the management hierarchy top executives genuinely take for granted that everyone is able to lead in significant ways. Most employees at most organizational levels play leadership roles as needed most workers start actions that other employees will follow. Becoming skilled at leading is everybodys duty at SWA and to make this happen, top management invests a great deal in front line leaders. What does distributed leadership has to do with Southwest Airlines employee motivation? SWA doesnt hire candidates who dont get thrilled with the possibility of leading. In this context, leading is inherently motivating. Since the essence of leadership is change, a positive organizational change index creates a higher degree of adaptability, which is necessary now more than ever only cultures that help organizations anticipate and adapt to environmental changes will have superior performance over the long haul. 7) PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT A key feature of SWA performance management is its performance transparency. To begin with, SWA obsessively measures three dimension of performance: Employee well being Customer satisfaction Shareholder gain Hence, in order to reach their clearly articulated goals, the performance of the average worker is critical; therefore, SWA emphasizes a rigorous tracking and rewarding of individual performance, coupled with clear, immediate and straight feedback. It goes without saying that goals, roles, and responsibilities are crystal clear across the SWA organization, anybody (anytime, anywhere) can spell for you performance metrics that matter to the company. All employees at SWA have a clear image of the background in which they work, they clearly comprehend how performance is measured, and what it is they can do in order to improve it. The focal point on performance begins with recruiting and hiring, and it goes on throughout the performance appraisal, recognition, and reward processes. The understanding of current individual performance, current departmental performance, and current organizational performance in other words: having the big picture is a key factor not only in Southwest Airlines employee motivation, but also in any employee motivation setting.