Southwest Airlines (SWA) operate with a belief that effort given to personnel will increase knowledge in the organization, which ultimately benefits SWA. Rudy Giuliani, in his book Leadership notes: “Looking back, I believe that the skill I developed better than any other was surrounding myself with great people” (Giuliani, 2002). SWA seeks to fill its employment doors with “great people.” However, to have great people, you have to make great people decisions. (….). For Southwest, this means placing the needs of their employees first, believing that satisfied employees will provide superior services to the customer. Part of this strategy is listening to employees rather than talking at them and employing procedures and rules as a guide rather than the law. As a result, their focus on human capital unleashes employee's innovation, increases their capabilities, and promotes a high level of employee trust. In fact, in 1988, Southwest made a commitment to their employees that they still stand by: "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 are provided with the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer" (Southwest Airlines, 1998). This commitment starts with the human resource function known as the "People Department" according to the department's mission statement: "recognizing that our people are the competitive advantage, we deliver the resources and services to prepare our people to be winners, to support the growth and profitability of the company, while preserving the values and special culture of Southwest Airlines."
Southwest's Approach to Rewards and Motivation
Southwest understands the importance of non-financial and financial rewards as motivators. They are known for celebrating achievements, holding fun contests, having a catastrophe fund for employees, and showing the same caring, concern, and respect within the organization as outside with customers and suppliers.
Story telling is also a key component to the Southwest philosophy. Sharing stories of exceptional service or organizational triumph is a means to promote the family unit that is Southwest Airlines. For example, there is the story told of an airplane captain who left the plane after landing and began to help baggage handlers remove and load baggage. Knowing that the flight was going to miss the arrival time by 15 minutes, he had radioed ahead to advise the ground crew to get additional help to unload the baggage in an attempt to regain the 15 minutes. The pilot assisting the baggage handlers allowed the flight to depart on time (Laszlo, 1999). Stories such as this have become folklore and are used to reinforce the concept of the "employee family" which motivates employees to work together be successful.
While Southwest promotes a fun-loving environment, they also understand the importance of investing in their people through continued education and growth. In an organization where attitudes, culture and fit are so important it is natural that the company also places such a great emphasis on socialization and training. Just as McDonald's has its Hamburger University, Southwest has its University for People (U4P). The University of People is the corporate training facility, dedicated to developing and delivering personal, professional, and leadership curriculum. Everyone at Southwest has a responsibility for self-improvement and training. Once a year, all Southwest employees, including all senior management, are required to participate in training programs designed to reinforce shared values. Elective classes are also open to all employees and include software training, communication skills, leading effective…