A look at how Ginger Hardage created an unstoppable culture at Southwest Airlines to make it one of the best companies to work for.
I recently came across an article about Ginger Hardage, who was the Senior VP of Culture and Communications at Southwest Airlines. For a long time, Southwest Airlines has been in the top 10 list of companies to work for and has become synonymous with their great company culutre. The more I dug in to see how they operate, the more parallels I started seeing with my current employer, Readify, which I would like to discuss here.
It's Not By Accident
Great company cultures don't happen by accident.
There is always a strategy and intention behind a great culture and will often need to be managed. In addition, once it has been setup it is important that it is sustainable, allowed to grow and nurtured. This is one of the stumbling blocks that I see many organisations fall over; the setup a vision for the culture, but over time it just withers away and dies.
Three Characteristics of Unstoppable Culture
To overcome the issue above, Ginger Hardage came up with three principles to sustain the culture.
1. People First
Many companies say that the put their people first, but when you dig deeper you unravel that this really isn't true. You need to get the right people on the bus, and often this means having a rigorous hiring process to ensure that you get people whose values match those of the company and are a good fit. I know here at Readify there are numerous gates in the hiring process, each with the intention of ensuring that they get the right people. It's not easy or quick, but it is worth the effort. Another important aspect of the interviewing process is that peers should be involved, as they know the job the best and will ultimately have to work with the candidate.
Hire for attitude; train for skill
2. Constantly Nourishing Culture
Once the right people are on the bus, it is important that they have a great onboarding process. The purpose of this is to create a great first impression and memory. In addition, there needs to be extensive levels of training in order to help them keep on getting better, after all they will be helping in moving the company forward.
You need to constantly nourish the people in the company
Another important aspect of a nourishing culture is the constant feedback loop. Without feedback, it would be very difficult to gauge how well you are doing and what areas may need improvement. This is part of the whole continuous improvement mentality.
3. Sharing Stories Relentlessly
Stories are a great medium to convey concepts and to allow people to connect to each other. In addition, when you have people telling each other work related stories it will often model the behaviour for other people to follow. As such, this is really important to get right to help the culture thrive.
One thing to note is that all of the above will fail if this isn't coming from the C suite. Again, if they model the behaviours that they expect, they will be continuously reinforce the values that are important to the company and people will follow. If they don't, employees will see straight through all the talk and nothing will ever truly materialize.
Lastly, I know that I have only been at Readify a short while, but I cannot help see all the similarities between the way described above and the way Readify operate and I can really see the fruits of their efforts.
Until next time...keep learning!