Are Employees an Asset or a Liability?

Last month I attended the National Speakers Association Annual Convention. I had the opportunity to speak with Howard Putnam, a fellow pilot and professional speaker. Howard was also the second CEO of Southwest Airlines.

I have long been a fan of Southwest Airlines. I use their services extensively as I criss-cross the U.S. I consider Southwest one of the most consumer-friendly airlines. But what stands out the most is the attitude of their employees.

I have asked over 100 Southwest employees how they like their job? Of those, 100% have enthusiastically responded with, “This is the best company I have ever worked for!”

Howard shared a story with me about Southwest’s founder, Herb Kelleher. In the mid-1970’s, Howard and Herb were in New York City at an investor meeting. One of the investors asked Herb how he was going to generate the financial return to the investors if they paid his employees so much?

Howard said that Herb responded, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the customers. If the customers are taken care of, they will take care of the investors.”

While other carriers have struggled over past years, this little airline from Dallas continues to grow. While they have around 60,000 employees today, the real indication of their success is that they have over 200,000 people apply to work for them each year.

This is not to say that Southwest is perfect. But Southwest is taking a lot of right actions in creating a winning employee culture.

Many companies I have worked for considered employees a “cost” or a “liability” rather than an asset. They looked at how to lower labor costs rather than how to maximize employee contribution.

How much better would our work be if employees:

  • Were empowered to be their “best” at work?
  • Were acknowledged for the success they helped create?
  • Shared in the financial rewards for the success they helped create?

What if going to work was the best part of our day!

“The greatest wasted natural resource in the world is the untapped human potential that resides in each of us.”

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