50 years since its founding, Southwest Airlines is still flying high. Despite not being the best in terms of airline performance, the company is ranked second to last on customer complaints. For an airline that many believed would not have succeeded, the CEO credits the competitive advantage to its people. And the company is so zealous about its people that it has a Culture Committee.
The Culture Committee overseas the orientation for new employees. That’s not all of course, the Committee ensures that the right – in this case fun-loving – people get hired into the company in the first place. The belief goes that if the employees are having fun, they will have a happier time serving customers, and ultimately passengers are going to get a better flying experience. In reflecting its people-centric ethos, the company has also created multiple galleries where employees contribute pets photos or even military medals to make all feel at home.
The Culture Committee eventually morphed into the Culture Services Committee, which till today takes it role very seriously. A case in point is the handling of compliments about specific employees: they not only get highlighted to the employee’s manager, but also get highlighted to the manager’s manager. What’s fun if there are no parties? Lots in fact – career milestones with the company or even wedding anniversaries all get celebrated with pomp and fun. The company believes it ultimately pays off to invest in culture through budgeting, resources, and time. If the airline’s expansion plans are any indication, Southwest Airlines may well have a very profitable intangible asset that sustains its competitive advantage.