Employee Engagement

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Effectively Using an Integrated Employee Engagement Program

Marilyn Field

University of the Rockies

October 3, 2010


Dr. Gary Shelton


A company’s level of employee engagement is a reflection of its core values; while at the same time reflects a fulfilling and positive job-related state of mind that is characterized by the resilience and energy of its workers. The following report is an analysis of a case study conducted by Hallowell (1996) to determine whether Southwest Airline’s organizational capabilities and employee needs are linked to competitive advantage. An examination of the data presented in the Southwest Airlines study reveals a significant level of employee commitment through the engagement and hiring of workers who fit the Southwest standards.

Effectively Using an Integrated Employee Engagement Program

For the last several years Southwest Airlines has been awarded as one of the best companies in which to work by Fortune Magazine. There is an extensive list of awards and achievements attributed to Southwest Airlines including Forbes 2008 most reliable airline, best in customer service, and the number one friendliest airline to fly in 2008 by Time Magazine (Triangle Business Journal, 2008; Time Magazine.com., 2008). A review of the literature revealed that much of Southwest Airlines continued success is due to their effectiveness in engaging their employees. The Southwest Airline employees reflect the organization’s culture as one with committed workers who strive to maintain the company’s reputation as a leader in social responsibility. A case study was conducted by Hallowell (1996) to analyze the sources of Southwest Airline’s competitive advantage. Hallowell attributes the highly acclaimed airline’s success to the high value place on its employees. Hallowell’s 1996 case study of Southwest Airline was illustrated within a frame work of particular variables with the first being that the airline value is a product of meeting the employee’s needs on a satisfactory level. Employee needs satisfaction is a very important variable when one considers that Southwest Airline is comprised of approximately 35,000 employees working together with the aim of flying their valued Customers to their destinations across the United States (69 cities in 39 states) (Kelly, 2010). Hallowell used value analysis to study Southwest’s competitive strategy. Value analysis breaks down which variables play a role in where value is created. It is based on Porter’ (1985) Game Theory, which focuses on how individuals interact (Levine, 2004.). The results of Hallowell’s study revealed that employees are motivation from the employer’s encouragement of behavioral norms and organizational values. The second comprehensive variable Hallowell (1996) studied was Southwest’s strategy for having one of the most successful airline stocks. This raises the question as to how employee engagement plays a part in stimulating shareholder’s commitment of investing in Southwest stock. The Southwest Airline’s organizational culture has encouraged its workers to have fun on the job. This is a wellness approach which has led to the company’s high degree of productivity and low turnover. By suggesting and encouraging a positive experience for the Southwest employees, the management displays significant value for employees, which is converted into customer value and shareholder value. This value earning process forms a circle of capturing value, creating value, and converting value beginning with the employees (Hallowell). With the present economic turmoil, Southwest Airline’s Chief Executive Officer Kelly has had to make recent cuts; affecting the company’s historic low-cost initiatives (i.e. making short trips between cities and ownership of jets) (Schlangenstein & Hughes, 2010). Southwest answered though economics with the addition of 138 airplanes (AirTran); “The addition of AirTran will...
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