Southwest_Airlines

For this week’s assignment, students were asked to choose a company and learn about that company’s customers, services, products, mission, and objectives. Based on that information, we were to prepare for completing a needs assessment. “Needs assessment refers to the process used to determine whether training is necessary” (Noe, 2013). Throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, I have read many examples of excellent customer service portrayed by Southwest Airlines. Therefore, I was excited to choose Southwest Airlines as the company to use for this exercise.

Mission Statement for Customers

southwest_large

The above mission statement is intended for the customers of Southwest Airlines, but there is also a mission statement intended for their employees. It shows the great consideration the company has by encouraging and retaining their staff.

Mission Statement for Employees

“We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected   to share externally with every Southwest customer” (Southwest Airlines Co., 2014).

 Products/ Service

“Southwest Airlines is now America’s largest low-fare carrier, serving more Customers domestically than any other airline with a unique combination of low fares with no annoying fees, friendly Customer Service delivered by outstanding People, safe and reliable operations, and an extraordinary corporate Culture that extends into the communities we serve” (Southwest Airlines Co., 2014).

Consumers

“Dallas-based Southwest Airlines continues to differentiate itself from other carriers with exemplary Customer Service delivered by nearly 45,000 Employees to more than 100 million Customers annually” (Southwest Airlines Co., 2014).

Management Philosophy

“Not only were Southwest employees trained to give excellent customer service, they were also empowered to do so. When people with the right attitude are hired and trained according to the company’s customer service standards, they can be confident that the employee will make the right decisions” (Campbell, 2010). This is just one of many examples of the corporate philosophies illustrated at Southwest Airlines. The article found at http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/customer-support-software/articles/87080-how-southwest-airlines-became-model-customer-loyalty.htm provides several more examples.

 Strategic Objectives

“Southwest Airlines’ number one priority is to ensure the personal Safety of each Southwest Customer and Employee. Beyond this, we follow “The Golden Rule,” which means we treat each other the way we want to be treated, which is why doing the right thing by our Employees and Customers is so inherent to who we are” (Southwest Airlines Co., 2008). More information about Southwest’s dedication to their customers, employees, communities, and planet can be found at http://www.southwest.com/assets/pdfs/corporate-commitments/southwestcares.pdf.

Stakeholders

Upper-level managers, mid-level managers, and trainers should all be involved in the needs assessment process. Upper-level managers would include CEO Gary Kelly and company directors that would be able to give broad company views of how training would benefit the strategic objectives. Mid-level managers such as department managers would be able to help determine who should receive training and how many resources would be used to develop and deliver the training. Trainers would be able to determine how training programs should be designed, developed, and delivered to best reach participants. It is important for trainers to determine how supportive upper-level and mid-level managers are in the training process. In addition, employees can give a great indication of what should be included in training and how they best learn and use the material to transfer to their position.

Organizational Analysis

Upper-Level Managers: Is training needed to successfully meet the business objectives? Will training benefit employees in relation to retention and job growth? Will training benefit customers by improving service and production? What resources is the company willing to utilize for training?

Mid-Level Managers: How many resources from your department are you willing to utilize for training? What needs do you hope to benefit from training? Will training help hire, retain, and grow employees? How active are you willing to be before, during, and after the training program to ensure proper design, development, presentation, and utilization?

Trainers: How supportive are managers in the training program? Do I have the resources needed to properly integrate the training program? Do we have SMEs that can help with training program content and development?

Person Analysis

Upper-Level Managers: Do specific employees in certain positions or departments need training? What needs to be accomplished to meet business objectives?

Mid-Level Managers: Do specific employees in certain positions or departments need training?

Trainers: How do I determine which specific employees in what positions or departments need training? Do some employees within these positions or departments need more specialized training than others?

Task Analysis

Upper-Level Managers: “Does the company have people with the knowledge, skills, and abilities or competencies needed to compete in the workplace?” (Noe, 2013).

Mid-Level Managers: “For what jobs can training make the biggest difference in product quality or customer service?” (Noe, 2013).

Trainers: How do I determine what tasks should be trained for which positions and/ or departments? How do I determine which skills and knowledge (prerequisites) are needed to completed the training?

Documents/Records

  • Current and past training modules, manuals, presentations
  • Training feedback through surveys and interviews
  • Department Turnover Reports
  • Customer Service Ratings
  • Flight Percentages

Techniques

Observation: This would allow the trainer to observe what is working and what is not working in current work duties. This would also allow me to gain a greater understanding of where there are opportunities for improvement.

Focus groups: A focus group consisting of new hires and experienced employees who can give insight to current and past training, what they would like to see in future training, and how they would like to see the training presented.

Online technology: Online training programs could help employees who do not meet prerequisites. This would allow these employees to complete tasks at their own pace and ensure they have needed knowledge before attending training. Online technology could also be used for confidential surveys. Some employees feel uncomfortable giving honest feedback in a group setting.

Interviews with SMEs: Interviews would allow the trainer to learn required skills and knowledge needed to complete the training, and determine how the SME could help with design and development of training material.

Conclusion

It was very important for me to identify company values when researching for this assignment, and it is clear that Southwest Airlines is determined to offer excellent service to their customers as well as their employees. Therefore, it is extremely important that ample time is put into the needs assessment for this company. They strive to make work fun and produce great results while saving money as much as possible. The more upper-level managers, mid-level managers, trainers, and subject matter experts can work together to clearly outline resources, determine the right participants, determine how the training will meet business objectives, and offer support throughout the training process, the more successful the outcome.

References

Campbell, S. J. (2010, June 2). How Southwest Airlines became a model for customer loyalty. Retrieved May 16, 2014, from http://www.tmcnet.com: http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/customer-support-software/articles/87080-how-southwest-airlines-became-model-customer-loyalty.htm

Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Southwest Airlines Co. (2008). Southwest Cares: Doing the Right Thing.

Southwest Airlines Co. (2014). About Southwest. Retrieved May 16, 2014, from http://www.southwest.com: http://www.southwest.com/html/about-southwest/index.html?tab=5

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Comments on: "Planning for a Needs Assessment" (5)

  1. Hi Lori,

    You presented a clear and concise plan for a needs assessment for Southwest Airlines. The questions you proposed for the organization analysis, person analysis, and task analysis support a thorough analysis of with whom and how training might benefit the organization in achieving their business goals as well as whether or not training is necessary in different areas to accomplish this. I liked your suggestion of using multiple techniques for conducting the needs assessment as this would be beneficial for gaining a broader picture of what is occurring in the organization and with its people in order to determine where the needs are and how training might be able to support those needs.

    Thanks!
    Amber

  2. Lori,

    I also selected Southwest airlines. It always amazed me how a small company in a big competitive market always maintained an edge over the bigger carriers for so long. Like you, I also believe that Southwest company values and serious commitment to employee’s well-being and development are the reason for their success.

    I agree with your selection of techniques. I specifically prefer observation and focus groups. We just need to ensure that we have skilled observers and that employee’s behavior is not affected by being observed (Noe. table 3.2). In addition, focus groups can be time consuming, therefore costly to the organization. Here is where I believe managers and supervisors buy-in is important. We need to ensure we brief them on the time and process so they understand and support the focus group technique. I have experienced where suddenly management cancels the focus groups at the last minute and we never get the desired information. This can negatively affect the outcome of the needs assessment.

    Great job!

    Roberto (rrodri5131.wordpress.com)

    Reference:

    Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

    • I enjoyed your blog post. I really appreciated all the background information you included. Like Roberto, I’m always amazed at how successful Southwest Airlines and really appreciate the dedication to their customers and employers that keep them at the top. Wouldn’t love to get a look at how the employees perceive their training programs?

  3. Lori,
    Wow!! Amazing analysis. The first thing that caught my eye was the graphics and layout; very eye catching and clean. Your analysis was thorough and very informative. In reading about Southwest Airlines and their success it brought to mind other smaller companies that are able to be so successful. I think the reason smaller companies are able to be successful is they keep customer service in the forefront and don’t mind spending money to train employees.

  4. Kim Bargiel said:

    Lori,

    I really liked how you took the company’s core values and allowed them to play a key role in your needs analysis. Values are so important to companies, and there are so many times that they are often pushed aside in an effort to propel the company in the future. By taking the values into play, as a trainer, you are ensuring that company stays true to itself.

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