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How Southwest Airlines engages its large and diverse group of workers

2 min read


This guest post is by Miri Zena McDonald, a strategic communications consultant. Miri tweets at @miri_orgchange. She attended the Advanced Learning Institute’s Strategic Internal Communications Conference in Chicago.

When Emily Cole, senior analyst on Southwest Airline’s communications tools team, came to the airline their intranet was very disjointed; a home page that linked to various departmental websites without a consistent look and feel.

SWALife, the company’s current intranet, is the daily information source for employees. However, Cole also knows that Southwest Airlines, with 35,000 employees and counting, has a diverse group of employees with distinct needs and work environments. Baggage handlers, for example, don’t have access to computers at work. “We can’t give same message in the same manner to all of these groups and expect them to receive it in the same way,” Cole said.

That’s why SWALife content isn’t just available from a computer. It’s the central access point for messages, which are are distributed in many formats. A daily one-page newsletter, Today@SWA, is produced Monday through Friday and shared through blog posts on SWALife, distributed via e-mail, and posted on physical bulletin boards. A mobile application of SWALife is also in the works.

In keeping with the company’s culture, every blog post has a byline that is hyperlinked to a profile with a photo and personal information about the blogger.

SWALife also includes a podcast called RedBellyRadio (their planes have red bellies), a video channel called SWA TV with videos including messages from people across the company, as well as a weekly survey of employees’ opinions.

Other ways the company reaches their diverse employee base include:

  • Luvlines, a print magazine for employees distributed to all locations. PDFs of the magazine are available on SWALife.
  • Digital signage in all locations that features local, group-specific content such as videos, photos, messages, weather updates and some content from SWALife.
  • Regular meetings with the CEO. The company hosts a half-dozen of these a year, complete with tailgating beforehand