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2010 ONE REPORT  >  people  >  Employees  >  Engagement & Recognition



Our beLUVed Employees are our greatest asset, so we listen to their suggestions and reward them for outstanding extra efforts.

Employee Engagement and Recognition

At Southwest Airlines, we recognize that our beLUVed Employees are our greatest asset. This is why we feel it’s so important to engage and recognize our Employees by listening to their suggestions and ideas, as well as their concerns, and reward them for outstanding extra efforts.

Employee Survey

On a biennial basis we conduct an Employee survey, which allows us to take a collective picture of our entire workforce from several angles. These snapshots let us know how our Employees feel about working at Southwest Airlines. Employees’ candid feedback is critical because it helps identify areas of strength at Southwest Airlines as well as areas where we have an opportunity to work together as a Team to improve.

Sixty-five percent of Southwest Airlines Employees participated in the 2010 Employee survey and provided feedback regarding their views of the Company. Employee participation is up from 51 percent of Employees providing feedback in 2008. The survey, conducted by Mercer, evaluated the following:

  • Training and development
  • Customer focus (internal and external)
  • Leadership
  • Performance management
  • Communication
  • Company direction
  • Work environment
  • Involvement
  • Satisfaction
  • Teamwork
  • Employee commitment
  • Mission and strategy alignment
  • Corporate citizenship

We improved in all 12 dimensions evaluated in the 2008 survey. Corporate citizenship was a new dimension in 2010.

Southwest Airlines Leaders will use this survey as a roadmap for improvement and to gauge our progress to becoming the Best Place to Work. We will continue to compare new Employee surveys with those previously conducted to identify what we’re doing well in the eyes of our Employees and learn where we need to focus additional effort.

Employee Recognition Programs

Our Employees are known for Legendary Customer Service and operational excellence, while working efficiently. Our Employees go above and beyond each and every day to provide our Customers with the best possible flying experience, and our Employees focus on low costs so we can offer low fares. Celebrating and recognizing these contributions are an important part of our Culture.

President’s Award

Southwest Airlines hosts an annual banquet to celebrate our anniversary in June and recognize our hard-working Employees. In addition to recognizing Employees for milestone years of service from 10 years up to 40 years, we have the honor of recognizing outstanding individuals who have represented the best of Southwest values in the past year. The President’s Award is one of our Company’s highest honors. Every spring, Employees in each department consider the accomplishments of their peers and nominate candidates for the President’s Award. Winners are selected by Southwest Officers from the pool of nominees. The annual President’s Award winners are those Employees who truly go above and beyond. These are our stars in the Southwest Hall of Fame.

In addition, on occasion, an individual stands out that rises above the rest as not only a representative of his or her department, but also of the Company as a whole. For them, Herb Kelleher started the Founder’s Award, an honor given only to those who have exemplified the Southwest ideals and values throughout their career.

Winning Spirit Award

The Winning Spirit Award recognizes Employees for going above and beyond their normal job responsibilities, for consistently displaying can-do attitudes, and for Living the Southwest Way. Employees nominate their peers, and the Winning Spirit Committee selects a group of winners every quarter. Winners are invited to Headquarters where they are honored by their Department Vice President and Gary Kelly, Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Airlines.

Operation: Kick Tail

Great things happen when there is collective focus. In 2010, Southwest Employees were asked to focus on three goals to help Southwest Airlines achieve success:

  • #1 in Low Costs with our Warrior Spirits
  • #1 in Customer Satisfaction with our Servant’s Hearts
  • #1 in Employee Spirit with our Fun-LUVing Attitudes

These goals are our enduring strengths, and we obtain them by upholding our values through Living the Southwest Way. When Southwest Airlines Leaders witness an Employee exhibiting a behavior needed to reach these goals, a Kick Tail-A-Gram is given to that individual. Kick Tail-A-Grams are entered into a database where monthly, quarterly, and annual drawings for cash prizes are conducted when goals are met. We set aside $1 million for our Kick Tail program each year, and in 2010 we gave away 221 cash prizes to Southwest Airlines Employees. From nurturing our unique Culture to volunteering for a Share the Spirit activity to celebrating with Coworkers at a Company event, there are countless ways to kick tail.

Heroes of the Heart

Southwest Airlines is known as the LUV airline, and every year on Valentine’s Day, we really earn that title. Employees across our system are encouraged to wear red or pink, many bouquets of flowers are delivered to our locations, candy is free flowing, and one of our biggest SWA traditions takes place at Headquarters in Dallas: Heroes of the Heart.

Colleen Barrett, our President Emeritus, started Heroes of the Heart 18 years ago as a way to honor a workgroup that has no contact with our external Customers. Flight Attendants and Customer Service Agents may have several opportunities to be recognized for the outstanding work they do, but a lot of our behind-the-scenes Teams, who keep the heart of Southwest Airlines beating, never get that chance.

Employees nominate Teams they feel deserve the award and a committee holds several secret meetings to determine the winner—everyone involved in the day, from Vice Presidents to our A/V Specialist, have to sign confidentiality agreements; part of the FUN of Heroes of the Heart is the surprise when the winning Team is announced.

On Valentine’s Day morning, Employees gather in the main lobby of Headquarters where they are surrounded by thousands of gorgeous balloons and decorations and treated to cookies and beautiful music from a band made up of their Coworkers. After a welcome from one of our Leaders, a video showcasing—but not revealing—the winning Team plays, and everyone thinks they have it figured out until the winners are revealed. The winning Team holds one of the highest honors at Southwest Airlines. Our Heroes of the Heart receive gifts, the largest literally being an airplane. Check your aircraft as you leave; it just might be the Heroes plane, emblazoned with the Heroes of the Heart logo and featuring the winning Team’s name.