The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service

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Attracting & Retaining Employees: Employee Engagement

As a 16-year Southwest Airlines Employee, I love meeting new people outside of work because as you run down the list of typical questions, the “where do you work” question is bound to come up. Inevitably, when I share that I work for Southwest, I’m met with excitement and usually a personal story explaining why they LOVE Southwest. Why is that? Our secret sauce is simple…it’s the great People of Southwest! Whether helping a Customer in need, creating a special memory for a young traveler, or just sharing their vibrant personalities with Customers, our Employees make a difference in the lives of Customers and one another.

So, it only makes sense that we would focus on making a great experience for our Employees at Southwest! It’s always been important to us, but in recent years, we have taken a more systematic approach to it. Today, we have an end-to-end Employee Journey comprised of 22 moments that matter to our Employees. It starts when someone joins as a new Southwest Employee and extends even after an Employee leaves the Company (after all, we care about our Retirees and Alumni).

Our Employee experience work is dependent upon Employee listening. We even developed our Employee Journey by asking Employees, in focus groups back in 2018, about the moments that matter most to them. Today, we continue to evaluate our progress against these Journey moments through focus groups, our Companywide engagement survey, and specific Journey moment surveys.

We are constantly working towards improving the Employee Journey. At the beginning of 2022, we launched a new recognition program and platform to provide “in the moment” recognition to Employees. They can earn Southwest Airlines Gratitude (SWAG) Points and redeem them for merchandise, gift cards, experiences, or even Rapid Rewards Points in an online mall. And we’ve improved our milestone service anniversary recognition as well. With hiring at an all-time high, we are working on improving the onboarding experience for new Employees so they start their time at Southwest in the best possible way. And these are just a couple of recent examples of how we are proactively improving the Employee journey.

We’ve always said that happy Employees equates to happy Customers, and that’s good business sense and great for the bottom line. Ultimately, we do it because it’s the right thing to do!


Lori Winters

Lori Winters

Senior Director, Employee Experience

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