Southwest Airlines: Using Human Resources for Competitive Advantage Essay

Southwest was founded in 1971 with a fleet of three Boeing 737 aircraft. Headquartered at Love Field in Dallas. the air hose followed a scheme of low menus. few frills. and first-class client service. Early on. the air hose faced many political and regulative challenges including the Wright Amendment. which prohibited the bearer from offering direct service into Love Field from any province other than Texas and its four adjacent provinces. Under the leading of co-founder and CEO Herb Kelleher. Southwest used these challenges to startle their employees. finally constructing a extremely successful concern with a unambiguously committed work force.

By 1994. the airline’s success had spawned many smaller impersonators such as Kiwi and Reno Air. Large bearers like United. USAir. and Continental besides sought to double Southwest’s theoretical account with an airline-within-an-airline that. like Southwest. offered low menus. few frills. and frequent service. The new competitory menace had driven down the stock monetary value and analysts were inquiring whether the airline’s advantage was sustainable. On September 17. 1994. Ann Rhoades. a former selling executive and VP of People for Southwest. was asked to reexamine the company’s current place in visible radiation of the new competition and measure whether Southwest’s wildly successful human resources patterns could be imitated.

Competitive Advantage
Southwest Airlines’ successful and profitable concern theoretical account has been driven by several schemes including high aircraft use. a standardised fleet. magnetic leading. low menus. first-class client service. an attractive frequent flyer plan. advanced selling. a performance-focused organisational civilization. strategic human resources direction. and thin operations.

The Southwest fleet is composed entirely of fuel-efficient Boeing 737 aeroplanes. By utilizing a individual type aircraft. the company can take advantage of a smaller parts stock list while salvaging on care and preparation costs. which has contributed to the company’s immaculate safety record. These planes spend an norm 11 hours in the air daily compared to an industry norm of 8 hours. Similarly. they run an norm of 10. 5 flights per gate versus the industry norm 4. 5. Southwest’s scheme of short-haul. point-to-point flights utilizing less engorged airdromes has contributed greatly to the airline’s efficiency.

A important cost salvaging factor is the productive and motivated work force. In 1991. Southwest was notably more efficient than the industry criterion as evidenced by fewer employees per aircraft ( 79 versus 131 ) . more riders per employee ( 2. 318 versus 848 ) . and more available place stat mis per employee ( 1. 891. 082 versus 1. 339. 995 ) . Incorporated and developed under the magnetic and motivational leading of Kelleher. the airline’s typical corporate civilization and human resource direction patterns are an indispensable portion of the concern foundation. There are several grounds for the work force productiveness. which include a strict choice procedure. an mean compensation bundle with important non-monetary awards such as stock options. ongoing preparation. and an employee development plan.

The human resources patterns have created stockholder value by agencies of low turnover. high productiveness. and first-class occupation satisfaction. Southwest has designed cross-functional work coordination such that. one time the air hose reaches a finish. every member of the flight and land crew contributes to acquiring the following flight out on clip. Unusually. 70 % of their flights spent an norm of 15 proceedingss on the land in 1991. Faster turnaround clip reduces labour costs and offers a important productiveness advantage in footings of equipment use ; fewer holds make winging with Southwest more attractive to the travellers. Southwest has an organisational civilization stressing “LUV” and “FUN” in a manner that is aligned with the airline’s concern scheme. making an extra advantage. “LUV” is the company’s stock symbol and refers to the organization’s nucleus values of regard for individualism and echt concern for employees.

“FUN” refers to the company’s belief that employees should bask themselves at work and its committedness to making an ambiance that encourages clients to hold merriment. The word “Customer” is systematically capitalized in the company’s corporate communications. Southwest’s concern theoretical account has resulted in consistent on-time public presentation. low menus. diligent bag handling. and high degrees of client satisfaction. Southwest riders who experience the airline’s first-class service are loyal and this in bend attracts more concern. Southwest has created a successful and profitable merchandise in the tough air hose industry year-on-year. ensuing in creative activity of value and high return on investing for its stockholders.

Competitive Menace
Continental Lite was launched in 1993. instantly after Continental had emerged from its 2nd bankruptcy and before it had become profitable. Employees weren’t thrilled with the excess responsibilities and they’re non doing their turnaround times. Its leader. Bob Ferguson. is known as a rough taskmaster and has been known to estrange direction and other executives.

Although he has secured a Southwest alumna as selling head for Continental Lite. he concedes that the new concern has “had some start-up strivings and hasn’t operated really expeditiously so far. ” United announced the launch of their Shuttle service in 1994. partially to recover market portion that Southwest had captured. United’s employee buyout had failed to include flight attenders. the face of the air hose. The CEO stepped down. and new CEO with no air hose experience has been brought in. Possibly most revealing of United’s unstable place is that employees of the company weren’t confident in the new scheme. Southwest leads its rivals on virtually every step of service.

It has ne’er had a serious accident and has won the Triple Crown legion times for on-time public presentation. the fewest doomed bags and the fewest client ailments. The air hose has ne’er had a labour difference and leads on many fiscal steps. The company is profitable with a important addition in net income between 1992 and 1993. Its debt is down and rider burden factor is strong. Most notably. its chief competitory advantage. its committed and motivated work force. is improbable to be duplicated by the competition. Overall. Southwest is well-positioned to contend off the competition.

It is recommended that Rhoades focal point on continued sweetening of Southwest’s already proven schemes. with an oculus toward turn toing the new challenge from rivals. Keeping the airline’s civilization of employee engagement and enthusiasm that has contributed so well to Southwest’s success
should be among the highest ends. Rhoades should instantly take action to include employees in the campaign. which Kelleher has already started with United in his “Commencement of Hostilities” memo. Given the history of trust at Southwest. direction should be blunt and transparent in order to develop a shared vision of the hereafter. As Kelleher notes. “Anger can be a great incentive. ”

Rhoades should impart employee choler through communicating. preparation. and tracking of consequences prosodies. To this purpose. she can pull on the airline’s past history with the Wright Amendment to review and regenerate the corporate spirit that has driven the company since its earliest yearss ; develop a plan budget for extra preparation. employee wagess. and other inducements ; and place specific operational and fiscal ends and prosodies associated with the campaign which would be used to judge success and drive wages plans.

Rhoades may propose a formalistic. specialized employee developing plan to turn to the challenges posed by the new competition and startle employees as “underdogs” organizing a united forepart against the invading air hoses. This attack could both heighten bing service features while reenforcing the current state-of-siege outlook. Additionally. the attitude-based hiring standards could be refined to measure candidates’ resourcefulness at developing winning schemes in the face of competition.

The bing corporate civilization can be leveraged to turn to the competitory menace. Rhoades can follow the design of Southwest’s civilization commission by making a competitory commission devoted to advancing the underdog spirit. She can present limited-time inducements such as free flights to honor employees who best represent this spirit. Wagess should be closely tied to public presentation prosodies. Rhoads should see a particular fillip or profit-sharing plan for run intoing prosodies such as costs per available place stat mi and turnaround clip ends. In maintaining with the current civilization. the competition should be fun with plentifulness of parties to observe mileposts.

Finally. Southwest demands to develop a sequence scheme to fix for Kelleher’s eventual going. Colleen Barrett may be a good pick as she is viewed positively by employees and is seen by many as “the anchor of
the company. ” Most significantly. the replacement must be committed to employees and embody the rules that have made Southwest so successful to day of the month.

Case Update
Southwest’s repute for client service. low cost and on-time reachings remains integral. It’s been consecutively profitable for 38 old ages. Colleen Barrett succeeded Kelleher as president in 2001 and was replaced by Gary Kelly in 2008. Continental dropped its Continental Lite service in 1995 after acknowledging it was “a $ 140 million error. ” United Shuttle failed and was folded back into United in 2001 when it became apparent that cost nest eggs had non materialized to warrant the separate operation of Shuttle. A ulterior version. TED. was launched in 2003 but was abandoned in 2009. a


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