Human Resources and Success in Southwest Airlines

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Southwest Airlines is annually heralded as one of the best companies in the United States to work for, largely because of its corporate culture and strong adherence to savory and effective human resources practices. Any and all employees are encouraged to air any grievances they may have with the company, and the accepted mode of operations is that everyone helps pull the weight of everyone else- i.e., “everyone goes the extra mile to help customers- even to the point of gate agents slinging bags and pilots guiding passengers in their wheelchairs- in a peer culture where not pitching in is unthinkable” (Solomon, 2013). Unfortunately, there is not a vast amount of centralized decision-making power when entering new markets, as Southwest is a publicly-traded company. Additionally, there is very little room for advancement from within, as the training practices used by Southwest place less emphasis on internal advancement and more emphasis on reinforcing the existing positions and skills of their employees.

Southwest Airlines, as a whole, appears to truly value their employees and seldom creates cause for resignation due to the effective implementation of conflict resolution practices within their organization. While there may be limited opportunities for advancement within the company, Southwest offers a relatively generous benefits package to its employees, including dental, vision, health, 401(k), etc., even for the part-time staff. Furthermore, profit sharing and stock purchasing plans are available to all employees who wish to partake, making the company far more employee-centric as a whole (Hall, 2007).

At Southwest Airlines, training is very important to the company and its employees. While almost none of the training programs are geared towards providing internal advancement opportunities, the company’s incentivized approach to training has been instrumental in keeping their service in top form and making Southwest Airlines the most profitable airline in the United States over the past 25 years. According to Eric Cheslog, a human resources manager whom I met via email correspondence, Southwest Airlines provides financial incentives- such as pay raises, stock options, vacation time, etc.- to employees in order to coerce them to participate in companywide training efforts for their specific positions. “This way,” said Eric, “the company’s employees are reliably up to date on effective business practices and policies. Because of this, a very low percentage of Southwest employees fall through the cracks, making our customer service and operations procedures the best in the world.”

References

Hall, A. (2007) Southwest Airlines: The role of human resources in implementing business strategy and hiring practices. Aric Hall Academic Papers. Retrieved March 12, 2014, from http://www.arichall.com/academic/papers/om5210-hrm.pdf

Solomon, M. (2013, September 14). How hiring And HR build customer service cultures: In healthcare, Mayo Clinic. In hospitality, Four Seasons. In retail and tech: Apple. Forbes. Retrieved March 12, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2013/09/14/build-a-customer-serivce-culture-through-positive-peer-pressure-like-mayo-clinic-southwest-airlines-four-seasons/