Sunday, December 20, 2009

Walk The Talk

Every CEO of every organisation in the world will tell you how great they treat their employees. Claims that will not withstand a one hour scrutiny of their HR departments' policies and procedures or they way these policies and procedures are administered. Statements made for public consumption.

I always maintained that an airline, more than any other business in the world, is about people. It is never about airplanes or assets. It is the employees and how they interact together and with the passengers. A work ethic that every work group in the organisation is equally important and that an employee once trained is trusted to do what, in his best judgement, is right for the company's best interest at a given situation.

Very few airlines or organisations really "Walk the Talk".

One that shines is Southwest Airlines (SWA), 35000 happy employees (mostly unionised) who helped SWA carry 101.9 million passengers in 2008 (in 2008, the second carrier was AA at 92.772 million passengers) on board 544 B737 narrow body aircraft (AA has 608 including a large portion being wide bodies). More so, 2008 marked the 36th consecutive year of profitability at SWA since its inception on 18 June 1971. Pretty impressive, huh.

What is really impressive, is to hear Ms Colleen Barrett, President of Southwest Airlines talk about the employees being the highest priority and that she spends 85% of her time delivering "proactive customer service to the employees" (click here to hear Colleen Barrett on "Servant Leadership" from KnowledgeAtWharton) and if everyone else does their job right you have success.

WOW, 85% of the President's time delivering "proactive customer service to the employees", go figure. And darn it, it works very well at and for what is definitely the most successful airline in the world.

That is really Walking the Talk.

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