Southwest Airlines Corp. Culture
Length: 1762 words (5 double-spaced pages)
A company hoping to instill a goal or direction should begin with a sound and well rounded statement of the company vision. The mission statement helps reinforce the goals, desires and foresight of the company and Southwest is no exception. Since its inception 32 years ago, its goal was to assure prompt flights at the lowest possible fares while assuring the customer had a wonderful experience in the interim. Since that time, Southwest has remained on that course and included their formalized mission statement that is "dedicated to the highest quality of customer service with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit" (http://www.southwestairlines.com).
The organization has a clear focus on its market with respect to knowledge management. It has implemented its statement in order to secure and retain its market share.
At Southwest, the employee is the greatest asset of the company. The employee is above that of the customer. A common tune in the company is "customers come second... and still get great service"(Czaplewski, Ferguson & Millima, 2001, p. 2). This statement speaks for itself, in fact, Southwest encourages personality openness among its workforce in the form of communication, ideas and opinions. It accomplishes this by investing heavily in training as a continuous process during an employee's course of employment. Employees are cross-trained on numerous positions to enhance the work experience and for purposes of flexibility when needed. The training also includes ongoing preparation to improve work skills to enforce work ethic. The company rewards its staff through financial, promotion and non-financial rewards (Czaplewski, et al., 2001, p. 3).
Southwest's successful work environment is practical, it heavily screens its applicants and only hires those that foster the most outgoing and friendly personality and flexibility.
Once hired, the company places the staff in a friendly and thorough ongoing training during their term with the airline. The company feels this is the most effective way to increase profits while maintaining the lowest turnover. An internal strategy of this nature is the prerequisite for building employee capabilities and motivation, which leads to higher levels of service quality and ultimately a greater profitability for the company. The culture of the marketing strategy is effective by employing value of its most essential asset: human capital. Southwest has effectively implemented the open systems anchor. It has drawn from the experiences and practices of other airlines and effectively created one that has minimized its weaknesses and threats and launched an airline that is one the most successful in its history (Czaplewski, et al., 2001).
From its inception in 1972, Rollin King and Herb Kelleher had a simple tune to the environment of the airline. It was to assure passengers their desired destination in a timely manner at the lowest possible price and assure that they had a wonderful time in the process (http://www.southwestairlines.com).
The airline has an implicit motto. It has always exercised the importance of their workforce as the most essential tool and asset of the company. It is apparent in their infrastructure of training, hiring and personal attention of the employees of the company. The statements and behavior of the company help to reinforce the value that an employee may feel while employed with the company. The behavior, in turn, reciprocates to exceptional customer service, low turnover rate, and delivers positive reinforcement of value and service to its customer base. So in essence, Southwest has effectively implemented the use of organizational culture in terms of value and beliefs by pressing a dominant culture of primary value to its workforce.
Southwest has always placed little emphasis on formal organizational company structure. It has instead emphasized on cooperative labor and management relations. One of the ways this has been manifested is through rigorous and emphatic training of its personnel. For instance, after the 9/11 incident, there were numerous airlines that slashed budgets from every level of operation, including advertising and training, however, that was no option for Southwest, instead, they invested heavily in new training and advertising as a result of this major setback. Southwest's position was that advertising helped to advise their clients of their continued presence and the training helped to retain staff and update their skills. In addition, training has been conducted in an interactive method instead of a lecture. This helped to foster creativity, involvement and interaction (Taylor, Chris, 2003, p. 3-4). Southwest's organizational culture is evident by observing its artifacts, the evident character and signs of the companies culture: effective and outstanding customer service.
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Southwest tradition of celebrating holidays and other special events is legendary. "Southwest likes to be the hometown airline in each of its market" (Southwest Airlines - The Hometown Airline, 2003. Retrieved March 22, 2005 from www.southwest.com), therefore, it strongly encourages its employees to participate in local community events. For example, this year marks the 18th anniversary of the participation in Annual Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade. Southwest also celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month annually. In addition, the airline sponsors community events, exhibits, and concerts. Several examples are the company Chili Cook-off events, holiday celebrations, deck parties and golf tournaments for all employees and their family members. Besides serving employees and the community, Southwest constantly finds other ways to reach out to its customers. One of those programs is the "Home for the holiday" event, that is conducted annually that allows more than 1,000 senior citizens an opportunity to travel, who otherwise could not afford the travel to visit their loved ones. (Southwest Airlines - The Hometown Airline, 2003. Retrieved March 22, 2005 from www.southwest.com
Leaders' processes and outcome of measure and control
Leaders at Southwest are always striving to find ways to provide low fares for its passengers and other amenities. One example is Southwest's process of upgrading leather seating on all of its airplanes. The outcome result will be the largest carrier with leather seating on all aircraft. With focus on the customer, leaders are able to control and measure the increase in customer satisfaction that have resulted in numerous awards over the years, such as Best On-time Record, Best Baggage Handling, and Fewest Customer Complaint, and many more. (New All-Leather Interiors near Completion, 2004. Retrieved March 22, 2005 from www.southwest.com)
Leaders react to critical crises
During the economic recession of 9/11, few companies managed to come through unscathed, yet Southwest managed to come out of the recession triumphantly. Leaders reacted by having a cost-saving strategy with slowed capital spending as well as a consistent management style (Taylor, 2003). Management has proven the ability to swing into action with a series of sharp fiscal moves. Under all critical incidents, leaders always act accordingly with Herb Kelleher's mantra that states, "In good times, manage as though bad times are just around the corner because they're sure to come" (Taylor, 2003). Leaders are strongly emphasize on employee training with the spirit of hard work. This, in turn, encourages employees the desire to work more diligently for the company (Corridore, 2003).
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Organizational systems and procedures
Southwest has an open system of employment policy and offers everyone the opportunity to contribute to the company. This open door policy demonstrates to employees they are welcomed and supported. Southwest has a sincere concern for its staff well being and it reinforces the importance of learning as well as encouraging dialogue of ideas. Southwest considers its employees as the most valuable asset of the company and an essential element for growth of the airline (Corridore, 2003). Southwest also adheres to a simple and well-planned procedure by providing passengers adequate timely flight service at the most reasonable cost and assure enjoyment during the process (Taylor, 2003).
Organizational goals and criteria of employees
The guiding principle at Southwest is that every employee is a leader at Southwest. As a result, this effective standard has contributed to its competitive advantage. "Southwest hires only a small percentage of job applicants because it's serious about only taking people who like to serve other people and who are committed to working in teams" (Ellet, 2002). Southwest only hires and promotes honest and willing employees. It places a trust in employees to do the right thing for the company's customers. Southwest is also passionate about learning. It has an entire department of 30 people called the "University of People" whose primary mission is to provide learning and development opportunity for employees with the skills and knowledge to practice the kind of leadership that Southwest expects. Southwest vets candidates thoroughly in order to assure excellent training. One of the many common statements at Southwest is "If you serve employees well, they'll serve customers well" (Ellet, 2003).
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Czaplewski, Andrew J., Ferguson, Jeffrey M., Milliman, John F. (2001). Southwest Airlines:
How Internal Marketing Pilots Success. Marketing Management; Sep/Oct2001, Vol. 10 Issue
Ellet, Bill. (March 2002). Media Review, 56(3)
New All-Leather Interiors near Completion (2004). Retrieved March 22, 2005 from
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Taylor, Chris. (2003). Recession Survivors: Training to the Rescue. T & D; Oct2003, Vol. 57,
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