Flying with Heart

“The synergy in our opinion is simple. Honor, respect, care for, protect, and reward your employees, regardless of title or position. And in turn they will treat each other and their external customers in a warm, caring, and hospitable way. “ - Herb Kelleher

Southwest Airlines was created to provide no-frills air travel at an economical cost. Instead of competing against other airlines in first-class amenities, Southwest emphasized direct flights and no hidden fees. That’s their business innovation, but their strongest asset is their people.

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Attitude

Southwest is consistently recognized for its corporate culture. That’s odd. Airlines are right behind the DMV when it comes to poor service. Lost bags, delayed flights, and punching passengers in the face have all become the norm when traveling.

Former CEO and Founder Herb Kelleher attributes their team culture to attitude. Attitude goes a long way. One toxic attitude can spread through your office like the Black Plague. One upbeat attitude can lift your spirits. Kelleher says that you hire attitude, train for skills, and develop leadership. While the norm in the market is hiring for skills, rewarding short-term results, and expecting development.

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FUN

The commonality between companies with great cultures is the FUN element. Southwest Airlines encourages an atmosphere of fun, what other company would ever have a rapping flight attendant:

Human beings are not machines. Without fun in the workplace, it feels inauthentic. Instead of trying to divide your persona between work and personal, integrating your fun side into your work will be more rewarding.

Results

Culture is intangible. You can see the value of investing in equipment from the increase in production capacity. Investing in culture is difficult to see, but you know it when you see it. Southwest Airlines has a voluntary attrition rate of 2%. From a financial perspective, culture reduces one of the biggest cost centers of the company: human resources. Hiring / firing employees is an expensive process that holds companies back from achieving their goals. By having a rigorous hiring process and supportive culture, your company is launched forward. Like any investment, the financial numbers will take time to reflect the investment, but it will pay off if done correctly.

Indy Bal