People Don’t Care How Much You Know…


People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

That was the message given loud and clear by Nan Barry and Amy Marhoefer from Southwest Airlines in their breakout session on Making a Difference with Recognition Life Events at the 2016 Recognition Professionals International conference held in Las Vegas.

At Southwest Airlines employees treat each other like family—and it truly starts at the top. And we truly mean the top as Nan is the Managing Director in the Executive Office, and she reports directly to Gary Kelly, the Chairman of the Board, President, & CEO. Amy reports to Nan and leads the Internal Customer Care (ICC) team at Southwest, a super dedicated team of just 4 people whose sole purpose is to recognize employee life events on behalf of Gary Kelly. The team sends cards and gifts to employees going through a life event—be it a time of celebration or a time of sadness. In their session Amy and Nan highlighted Gary’s mantra on the subject of caring; they want to help “celebrate in good times and comfort in difficult times.”

Life events range from what you would expect to some that show a higher level of care, demonstrating the Southwest LUV that comes from their culture. It’s plain just the way they do things there.

Consider the following life events that can happen to any of us:

  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries, work and personal
  • Births
  • Adoptions
  • Marriages
  • Illnesses
  • Surgery
  • Accidents
  • Deaths
  • On the job injuries
  • Military leave
  • Even the death of a pet

For all that the ICC team puts into their work, their job rated so highly that Fortune Magazine said theirs was one of the coolest jobs among the Fortune 500 companies they investigated.

Amy and her team have dozens of customized cards that fit all of the life events listed above and the ICC teams members have a vast library of genuine and heartfelt words to write inside.

And then there are the perfect gift items to accompany some of these messages of celebration and comfort.

It could be a teddy bear to celebrate the birth or adoption of a child or a Southwest Airlines-branded plane-shaped piggybank. There is the red, plush blanket for an employee who has just had surgery and oodles of other wonderful items that go beyond the words to express care and respect from the Southwest family.

In 2014 they received over 10,000 notifications of employee life events from managers and employees throughout the company. Then there is the information the team learns from reports shared by station managers and Human Resources.

You might not have the resources or culture like Southwest does, but you can do whatever is right for your organization to show love and care to your employees.

If you are considering creating an employee “care” team, Amy and Nan shared these five tips they have learned along the way:

  1. Leadership support: You need a leader who sees this outreach as important enough to do whatever resources permit to show you care.
  2. Start small: Not everyone will have the financial or people resources to do things on the scale of Southwest but you do what is right for you.
  3. Designated individual or team: This is definitely a full time job no matter the number of employees or whatever delivery of care you can give.
  4. Budget creatively: Sometimes you have to brainstorm ideas like printing your own cards or outsourcing offshore gifts you want to give to people.
  5. Keep it simple: It might have to be a simple and quick phone call to an individual or a well thought out no cost email to start small and grow.

Q: What does your company do to show they care for their employees?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

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