Walking through Denver International Airport on my way to Nashville last week, it wasn’t difficult to pick out the Southwest gates from those of all the other airlines.
They were the only ones that looked like …well, like it’s late October.
That’s because Southwest Airlines takes fun very seriously. They know if they promote a workplace culture that encourages their employees to be their creative selves and look for opportunities to add a touch of levity and laughter whenever possible, it will relieve the agonizing stress passengers commonly deal with in today’s commercial travel environment.
Southwest Airlines is famous for its workplace culture. At the center of their core values, they instruct their employees to ’embrace a fun-LUVing attitude’ and to ‘not take themselves too seriously’. And if you’ve ever flown Southwest, you feel that relaxed levity and spirit of mirth at every turn.
THE FUN CONTINUED IN THE AIR…
As our flight taxied out to the runway, Karen (the flight attendant) grabbed a bag of pretzels and a bag of peanuts and told the passengers that there was going to be a race to determine which snack would be served on this flight. She then laid both bags on the carpet at the beginning of row one and …well, I’m just glad I pulled out my iPhone in time to record this video of the hilarity that ensued.
Karen’s lightheartedness and laughter were contagious spreading throughout the cabin. For me and many other road-weary travelers, Karen made us forget that we weren’t flying in first class seats while sipping on champagne and eating tartare.
We were too caught up in this silly race, laughing and applauding with her and her coworkers.
CREATING A CULTURE WHERE EMPLOYEE FUN IS JOB #1
Just about every job posting in this competitive economy promises applicants a fun working environment, but very few actually deliver on that promise. It takes more than casual Fridays and an annual holiday party to make a job fun for employees. However, that doesn’t mean that creating a fun place to work is a daunting challenge.
Here is a simple 3-step formula for infusing FUN into your culture:
- HIRE FUN PEOPLE – Place a high value on job candidates that smile frequently and laugh randomly during an interview. Ask them what makes them laugh and, perhaps even ask them to tell you a joke or a story they find funny.
- ENCOURAGE SPONTANEITY – Look, you don’t want your people to clown around with serious issues. Or do you? Is there anything more serious than a flight safety announcement? Southwest allows its flight attendants to inject their own unique humor into this mandatory FAA announcement, and unlike the snoozefest that occurs on other airlines, Southwest’s passengers actually pay attention!
- GET OUT OF THE WAY – Instead of going overboard trying hard to make work fun for your people (ala Michael Scott in The Office) sometimes the best thing you can do is let your cast of characters create their own fun. Invite them to be playful, while never losing sight of their duties and responsibilities. Listen to their ideas for having fun at work, and say ‘yes’ more often than you say ‘no’.
ON POINT – Research proves that employees who are having fun at work actually perform better and stay in their jobs longer. Customers and clients can’t help but feel the positive effects of that energy and engage at a higher level.