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Assessing Corporate Cultures of Southwest Airlines

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Assessing Corporate Cultures of Southwest Airlines

Team A has chosen to evaluate and assess the cultural atmosphere generated within Southwest Airlines (SWA). The airline started its operation in 1971 by the co-founders, Rollin King and Herb Kelleher, in the humble city of Houston, Texas. SWA was to be an airline that provided shuttle service between the cities of Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas, Texas. Southwest Airlines began with one simple notion: “If you get your passengers to their destinations when they want to get there, on time, at the lowest possible fares, and make darn sure they have a good time doing it, people will fly your airline” (www.SWA.com). Today, SWA flies more than 65 million passengers a year to 59 great cities all across the country, and they do it more than 2,800 times a day (www.southwest.com).

The company now had a mission on their hands. This mission is, “dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit” (www.SWA.com). The initial president of SWA, Lamar Muse, stated, “He wanted a company committed to the employees and for them to have a stable working environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.” He also wanted the employees above all, “to be provided with the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer” (www.southwest.com). These have been the core ethics established within the company that has made it what it is today.

The current president of SWA, Colleen Barrett, recently dedicated a Southwest plane to “The Spirit of Hope,” in memory of the many volunteers that are part of the Ronald McDonald Houses across America. Captain East, pilot of this dedicated aircraft, stated, “we have corporate cultures based on love and family,” (www.swa.com) which has been the basis for the corporate work environment and workplace of Southwest airlines. The culture of the airline has been that of compassion, high standards, and making the company the most pleasurable to the working American passenger.

Turn on any television commercial for SWA and you will hear the slogan “You are now free to move about the country.” SWA prides itself on its commitment to its customers, its friendly atmosphere, and its willingness to share the same respectful and caring attitude that is shown to its employees with its customers. The slogan, “you are now free to move about the country,” leads customers to believe that they will be able to not only fly with ease, but also to book reservations and proceed through all of the steps that are required prior to boarding the plan with ease.

The highly trained and qualified staff effectively accomplishes the ease of service provided by SWA. The spirit that exists throughout SWA empowers its employees to believe in themselves, the service they are providing, the business as a whole, and the customers that they serve. SWA employees, including flight attendants, customer service reps, and baggage handlers, are encouraged to take whatever action they deem necessary to meet customer needs or help fellow workers (Milliman 1999).

The positive spirit and atmosphere that exists throughout SWA is a fundamental piece of a puzzle that begins when employees are first interviewed to become a member of the SWA family. SWA links human spirit and personal performance to training and corporate vision as keys to its success in the aviation industry. Once employees are hired by SWA, they are trained through courses at the University for People, the airline’s corporate university (Bruce 1997). This deliberate act of training employees at a company approved and regulated institution helps emphasize both the corporate and consumer goals that make SWA as successful as it is.

SWA provides its employees with a comprehensive benefit package. This package includes rewards such as free airfare and profit sharing. The ability to fly free is considered one of the special rewards offered to the employees of the airline. Profit sharing plan is funded by company contributions to the profit sharing accounts as the company meets its profitability goals that it sets each year (www.southwest.com). The corporate culture of SWA motivates employees through empowerment. This culture also encourages employees to make suggestions that will help create continuous improvements within the company and better serve its customers.

Each month SWA chooses an outstanding employee, named “Star of the Month,” to be featured in their company magazine Spirit. The article opens with the employee’s brief background and current position at the airline and includes a couple of quotes from the employee and the employee’s coworkers. The articles consistently

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