I recently chatted with a man who works for Southwest Airlines, a company widely known for its positive culture and its dramatic success. The man’s face lit up as he described the things that Herb Kelleher, Southwest’s founder, had done to create a culture that celebrates people and their successes. He said that he and his friends love working for Southwest. “It’s the quality of our leadership,” he told me; “if they were selling underwear, I would buy their underwear!”
He was being humorous, but the comment stuck with me. What creates that kind of passionate employee loyalty and respect? Would you say that Herb Kelleher introduced a business philosophy that is the root of which my friend’s enthusiasm is the fruit? Or does such a culture happen by chance?
It certainly didn’t happen by chance at Southwest. The company’s NASDAQ symbol is LUV, short for “Love.” All their airplanes are emblazoned with a heart symbol. And Southwest doesn’t talk about love for marketing copy; building a culture of love is part of the way they do business. Here’s how the company’s website explains their philosophy: “Happy Employees = Happy Customers. Happy Customers keep Southwest flying.” Southwest’s mission statement includes these words: “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.”
Southwest’s employees appreciate the investment that is made in them. The LUV company ranked #12 in Glassdoor.com’s 2013 Employees’ Choice Awards Best Place to Work. Okay, so the company has a great culture, but does that translate into profitability? As a matter of fact, it does! Southwest recently announced its 40th consecutive year of profitability. Let that sink in for a minute: forty consecutive years and that’s working in an industry that has been bludgeoned by skyrocketing fuel costs, terror threats, and economic malaise.
People are always looking for validation or for someone to tell them that they are doing a good job. Employees want to know that they are appreciated; and, if they are, they will pay those feelings forward onto your clients, customers, stakeholders, or anyone who is invested in what you do. Your employees reflect your company’s reputation as your actions reflect on your character and who you are. If you can keep your employees happy, your customers will also be happy with your company.