skip to main content
Gallup and Southwest logo

How Southwest Airlines® Uses CliftonStrengths®

Southwest Company employee walking in front of a Southwest plane

It's 8:00 a.m. on Monday. You walk through the doors to your first day at work, and you hear a commotion. As it becomes clearer, you realize it's the sound of people cheering. There's a tunnel of raised arms that your new coworkers have formed; as you go underneath, a red carpet is rolled out for you.

It's your first day at Southwest Airlines -- and you smile and think to yourself, "I have a feeling I'm going to like it here!"

The Goal

Inspiring a Movement

It all started with one individual in a single department at Southwest Airlines who was exposed to the life-changing research of CliftonStrengths. What started as a grassroots movement in the organization has turned into nearly 100% of the departments committing to CliftonStrengths implementation, starting their journey to make Southwest Airlines the world's first strengths-based airline.

With so many customer-facing employees, a culture focused on individuals' strengths is critical to continue growing the spirit of hospitality, one employee at a time. The strengths strategies being implemented throughout the organization enhance the employee experience for everyone.

With nearly 60,000 employees and around 11 million customers served each month, putting people first is not simply a business mantra for Southwest leaders, but rather a way of life to which they are genuinely and wholeheartedly committed.

The Approach

The Journey Toward Engagement

The Southwest Airlines journey to create a highly engaged workplace is threefold.


First, the organization is strengths-based. After employees discover their dominant CliftonStrengths themes, everything that follows is a combination of learning and living their strengths. The Southwest® core values -- Warrior Spirit, Servant's Heart and Fun-LUVing Attitude -- naturally align with Gallup's research and learning, creating the perfect opportunity to develop the strengths of Southwest employees in the culture to which they are already accustomed.

"We don't want people to try to be somebody they aren't when they come to work. That's just exhausting. We want them to be able to learn how to aim who they are naturally in order to succeed at work."

Second, Southwest is engagement-focused. Some Southwest leaders have started conducting individual strengths conversations to enhance the overall engagement of their team members. Soon, Southwest plans to implement these coaching and engagement-focused conversations from the top down. Gallup research has found that teams that have ongoing, high-quality coaching conversations achieve higher engagement, leading to better performance and business outcomes.


Finally, Southwest is performance-oriented, which is a result of its long-term focus on building leader capability at all levels of the organization. Southwest has truly adopted Gallup's view that the best leaders act like coaches -- not bosses -- every day. At Southwest, Gallup-Certified Strengths Coaches support the efforts of their leaders and serve as their personal strengths guides as they work to engage and coach the strengths of their teams.

Southwest Companies employees talking to one another by the entrance to board a plane
The Outcome

An Exceptional Workplace Culture

Through the implementation of CliftonStrengths, Southwest has had the opportunity to rise to the next level in terms of creating an amazing workplace culture. With nearly 60,000 employees and around 11 million customers served each month, putting people first is not simply a business mantra for Southwest, but rather a way of life to which the organization is genuinely and wholeheartedly committed.

"Southwest Airlines' key to success is about a paced approach to fully integrating strengths into everything they do. What started with a single Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach has expanded across the organization by driving local accountability with a true "leader as a coach" model. Every leader will lead more effectively through a strengths-based lens, seeing the value in their people, positioning them for success and helping Southwest Airlines win every day with their customers."

-- Kelly Bacon, Partner at Gallup

Southwest Airlines is already seeing the effects of aiming CliftonStrengths at specific business outcomes: lower attrition, reduced turnover, increased engagement scores, higher productivity and more.

With every airline ticket sold, every bag checked and every inflight snack served, employees have the opportunity to do what they love in a way that makes customers feel like family.

Making change that matters.

Learn how organizations everywhere are turning the workplace — and the world — into a better place.