Employee-Designed Southwest Airlines Uniforms Highlight Company’s Commitment To Its Workers

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Southwest Airlines (SWA) recently budgeted an estimated $23 million for new uniforms for its nearly 42,000 employees, but instead of hiring a clothing company to come up with the new design, Southwest went to the source–its employees—to help with the creative process. That sends an unmistakable message to employees that their opinions matter, that what the employees want is important to the company.

Forty-three employees made up the design committee (selected from about 500 applicants). They factored in weather, functionality, comfort and safety. Their designs were met with overwhelmingly positive employee approval. Following testing and adjustments, the new uniforms for flight attendants, gate agents and ramp workers will be ready in 2017.

Southwest likes to say that it values its employees. In this case, it has again shown that it puts its money where its mouth is. That makes all the difference between engaged and disengaged employees. Employer-employee relationships like these set companies apart from their competition.

Southwest Airlines is consistently listed by Glassdoor as one of the best places to work. That should come as no surprise. Most businesses still stubbornly think that squeezing everything they can from their employees will improve profits. That may work in the short term—until employees flee in droves–but it’s not a successful long-term strategy.

Southwest Airlines is also rated as the fourth top performing large carrier in the world, according to Aviation Week. Southwest’s success and profitability is a logical consequence, to a large degree, of how they value their employees. When employees have a stake in a company, studies consistently show that profits follow.

Companies do not need to spend large amounts of money to show employees that they truly matter and are appreciated. Any such effort in that direction will pay off for the employer with greater employee morale and productivity, which naturally lead to greater profits.

For more on the story of how the Southwest Airlines’ uniforms were designed, go to http://airwaysnews.com/blog/2015/10/12/new-uniforms-on-the-horizon-for-southwest-airlines/

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Management Success Tip #91: How One Small Word Change Can Powerfully Impact Your Business

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Michael Schrage discusses how:

“Former IBM Chairman/Europe Hans-Ulrich Maerki observed that one of the most important organizational and cultural shifts that occurred in the aftermath of IBM’s $3.5 billion acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting over a decade ago was a subtle but profound shift in language. That acquisition signaled IBM’s global commitment to become more of a professional services firm. But the company’s internal and external vocabulary alike emphasized the computer giant’s ‘product’ origins.

“After the acquisition, says Maerki, IBM began emphasizing ‘clients’ over ‘customers. The PwC consultants relentlessly stressed that “customers” were about managing transactions but “clients” were about investing in relationships. IBM needed to redesign itself around serving clients, not selling customers…Changing important words helped change important behaviors.”

When it comes to your employees, SouthWest Airlines made a similar tiny word change that had huge impact in how their employees viewed themselves. All SouthWest did was capitalize the first letter of “employee” in all their documents, articles, everywhere. So it now reads “Employee.” Suddenly, Employees were important! Anything capitalized is.

Think about it: what small word change could you make that would demonstrate to your employees how much you value and appreciate them? And make them very happy.

Management Success Tip #46: Before A Crisis Sinks the Company Ship: Turn to Your Employees!

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When the economy whacks your business with a resounding downturn, or a major account disappears, it’s natural to think first of stripping down: tightening the belt on resources, laying off employees, forgoing new projects.

Unfortunately, this approach has an adverse effect on employee morale and motivation, often at the very time you need employees to perform and produce better than ever—with less.

Although it may feel like the only solution (and sometimes may be the only solution), there’s another possibility to consider.

What if this problem became an opportunity to assess how you are currently conducting your business? What if you looked upon the problem as an opportunity to discover new customer needs? To find new and different solutions to customer issues? To create better, more streamlined product and services?

What if you put the problem to your employees in that light? “We’re going through a serious rough patch here. We have two options: downsize everything, or get creative.” Which do you think your employees are going to pick? Which is the more motivating challenge?

Back when SouthWest Airlines was a 4-plane company, and they had to sell off one of their cherished airplanes in order to pay employee salaries, they were faced with the dilemma of how to run a 4-plane route with only 3 planes. It was one of their employees who came up with how to implement a quick turn-around time which became a major reason for SouthWest’s success.

Engage your employees in the problem-solving discussion. Refuse to accept only one answer to your company’s current crisis. Your employees may not come up with “the” answer, but you may be surprised at just how much of “the” answer they do figure out—and how much more committed they are to the company that respected their contributions.