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Recognition: Top-down Recognition

At Southwest, we talk a lot about putting our People first. It’s our Employees who make us an industry leader. Recognizing and appreciating them is not only the right thing to do, data shows that it has an undeniable positive impact on Employee engagement. It’s also true that engaged Employees tend to work more safely and productively. And in the airline industry—particularly the area of Technical Operations, which encompasses the highly-regulated and safety-sensitive work of aircraft maintenance—safety and productivity are paramount. There is no room for compromise in these areas, which makes it all the more important for our Leaders to be genuinely invested in cultivating an engaged workforce. For these reasons, we intentionally appreciate and recognize our Employees through several formal programs and countless informal ways.

Southwest offers an online recognition platform that our Leaders can use daily, monthly, quarterly, and annually to recognize their Team Members. Leaders also have the flexibility and authority to do what is right for their People. Something we emphasize in Tech Ops is taking a personal approach to recognizing important life events. Our Leaders are great about sending hand-written notes to acknowledge weddings, deaths in the family, new babies, or any number of moments that matter to our Employees. This is one of my favorite things to do each week. It always makes me feel so connected to our Team. 

However, recognition takes effort. I’d be lying if I told you we don’t have to work on it. We do! The daily demands on our Leaders are extensive, and recognition could easily fall through the cracks when trying to manage over 4,000 flights a day. Within our department, we set recognition goals for each Leadership Team to ensure that our Leaders are integrating an appropriate amount of recognition for our Employees throughout the year. We also include our recognition performance metrics in our quarterly business review. This helps ensure that we, as Leaders, hold each other accountable for valuing the recognition of our Employees as highly as we value our operational and financial performance. And it’s paying off! Our Employee Engagement and survey results are trending positively.

For us, spending time and effort recognizing our People is not only good for business, it’s good for the heart! 


Landon Nitschke

Landon Nitschke

Senior Vice President Technical Operations

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