Think back to a time in your career when you were recognized by a peer for a job well done. How did that make you feel?
A study by Gallup-Workhuman on the power of recognition revealed, “Employees want recognition from peers as much or more than they want it from managers, supervisors or leaders.” Why is that?
At Southwest Airlines, Employee feedback is crucial to our day-to-day business. Our Company was built on the quality of our Employees and the fundamental truth that they—not the nuts and bolts of flying airplanes—are what set us apart from our competition. In the same way that feedback from Frontline Employees carries weight in how we measure operational effectiveness, recognition from a peer has a deeply personal impact on how Employees view their value. While recognition from a Leader could be perceived as a requirement of a Leader’s role, there is no inherent expectation for a peer to recognize a peer. Southwest provides an online platform that enables Employees to meaningfully recognize their peers in real time. Employees who participate prove to be more engaged and more likely to provide feedback on how we, as Leaders, can better support them. We believe this makes the Employee experience stronger from start to finish.
Also, departments encourage recognition differently. For example, the majority of our workforce is mobile, so Leaders aren’t able to see the great work of our Flight Attendants each day. Since the platform allows us to see all recognition activity, we encourage peer-to-peer recognition by awarding “Recognition Champions.” Our goal is simple: recognize those who are recognizing others.
I will never forget the phone call I received from our very own Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines, at the beginning of my Leadership career when she told me, “I will never call you and ask why you did too much for someone, but I will call you and ask why you didn’t do enough.” Not all companies have the same platform, process, or culture of recognition—but starting somewhere is better than not starting at all.
If you’re reading this, wishing you were surrounded by a stronger culture of recognition, know this: It starts with you. Remember how you felt when recognized by a peer for a job well done. Commit each day to paying it forward. Never underestimate the affirming power of your own voice.