skip to main content
Building Business Resiliency in the COVID-19 Era

Building Business Resiliency in the COVID-19 Era

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 64
  • Learn how an ultra-low-cost airline is navigating the challenges of COVID-19 through Gallup's selection and employee engagement tools, along with CliftonStrengths.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Edward Kayton, Senior Director of Human Resources at Spirit Airlines, and David Klein, Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development at Spirit Airlines, were our guests on a recent Called to Coach. Edward and David spoke of the challenges facing the airline industry because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how Spirit Airlines has confronted these challenges head-on:

  • Paying attention to metrics, including Gallup's selection and Q12 tools, to drive retention and employee engagement
  • Using CliftonStrengths in leadership training, so leaders can maximize the performance of team members as they "lean into" their strengths
  • Listening to its employees, including via pulse surveys on inclusivity, resiliency and wellbeing, to help chart its path forward

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

During economic downturns ... certain companies seem to fare better than others ... And we call those businesses ... "resilient" ... because they were able to respond rapidly and adapt to disruptions.

Iseult Morgan, 13:44

[Gallup's] selection tools help us save time with recruiting. The engagement tools help us drive productivity. ... So ... yes, we're spending money. But we ... have proven the case that we're saving more.

David Klein, 48:55

We really think through anything that we do, especially when it comes to survey work. ... Times are uncertain. ... What would a person want in an environment like that? Well, I want somebody to care about me.

Edward Kayton, 52:15

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world -- or at least today, here in the United States -- this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on July 24, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:21

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent Strengths Coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room on our live page. There's a link right above me. Just click on that. It'll take you to the YouTube page. You can sign into the chat and ask your, your questions live. If you have questions after the fact, you can always send us an email: Don't forget, you can subscribe to us on any podcast app as well. Just search "Gallup Webcasts" and you'll find Called to Coach there. Or you can subscribe to us on YouTube on any of the YouTube pages that we have. Just search "Gallup Webcasts" on YouTube, and you'll find us there as well. Iseult Morgan is our host today. She's a Senior Consultant with Gallup. And Iseult, welcome to your first Called to Coach. Great to have you. Welcome!

Iseult Morgan 1:11

Such a pleasure to be here! Thanks for having us, Jim.

Jim Collison 1:13

We are glad to have you. We've got a couple great guests and a great story today. I'm going to turn it over to you. Why don't you introduce our guests, and, and we're excited about what's ahead.

Iseult Morgan 1:22

Excellent. Great. Well, yes, we're very pleased to welcome and have with us today, both Edward Kayton -- Edward Kayton is the Senior Director of Human Resources at Spirit Airlines -- as well as David Klein, who is Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development. They're both based out of Spirit's headquarters located in Miramar, Florida, which is really in the Miami metro area. And among their many accolades, they are both Certified Strengths Coaches. David, Edward, welcome!

David Klein 1:53

Thank you for having us.

Iseult Morgan 1:55

And before I let you both introduce yourself a bit, I wanted to kind of set the stage for our discussion today. We've asked Edward and David to join us to really share the steps that they have taken to set the foundation for business resiliency at Spirit. So really how they're adapting and responding to disruptions that have been caused, primarily, of course, by COVID-19. We've organized the conversation or we intend to organize the conversation around sort of 3 main concepts. The first one is that point of entry. So how Spirit took a calculated approach to identifying that right point of entry to create a strengths-based, engagement-focused culture.

Iseult Morgan 2:36

Next, we're going to kind of talk about how they've been recently gaining traction on that. So really, understanding how they're promoting organizational-wide sustainment of those concepts they've already been introducing over the last few years. And lastly, we'll just discuss how they're really listening and equipping their, their team members, really, so we can understand how they can operate better in this new COVID era that we find ourselves in. So again, Edward and David, thanks for taking the time today, truly appreciate it. And really be able to kind of highlight and share your journey with this community of Strengths Coaches and Champions will be a fun conversation we're looking forward to.

Iseult Morgan 3:16

And I'd like to start off, as mentioned, to really ask you both to introduce yourselves. So Edward, I'll start with you, if you don't mind. And I'm going to ask you three things. First off, if you would let us know what you do at Spirit Airlines, in your own words. Next, your Top 5 CliftonStrengths. And lastly, if you have been finding yourself lately leaning into any strengths in particular to deal with the disruptors we've been facing.

Edward Kayton 3:45

A complex question with 3 components. Thank you, Iseult. My name is Edward Kayton. And I've been with Spirit Airlines for 5 years, they're right around the corner. Spirit Airlines, for those of you who are not familiar with that airline, is an ultra-low-cost carrier. We fly our guests to 77 destinations in the U.S., Caribbean, and Latin and South America. And if I'm keeping all of my ducks in a row, I think your other question was my Top 5 strengths: Focus, Input, Relator, Responsibility and Individualization.

Edward Kayton 4:29

And I think your other part of your question was, How do I lean into those strengths in times of COVID? And I have a very complete answer, I promise. You know, COVID, as as all of the listeners know, is unpredictable, and, you know, continues to evolve and change. Focus allows me to prioritize and adjust to stay on track, juggle competing priorities, act and follow up. Input drives my thirst to know more. So, you know, how the disease is transmitted, How do we get rid of it? How do we eliminate it? So I ask a lot of questions and want to really understand how something works.

Edward Kayton 5:22

And of course, with Input, you know, I archive it and use it, at some point. whenever I need it. Relator drives meaningful interactions, especially in times of crisis. It allows for collaboration, transparency and loyalty. All really important under the circumstances, when you're dealing with such unpredictable elements. And the last 2 of my themes, the Responsibility and Individualization, also make an appearance. You know, I, I take ownership about, you know, my actions.

Edward Kayton 6:10

Obviously, being transparent and honest and straightforward with our team members and leadership. And Individualization is just the ability to tailor, you know, my message to the audience. We speak with many different people; we have many different groups inside an organization. And I lean into Individualization also to not only message different audience, but also pull teams together that work productively together.

Iseult Morgan 6:49

A lot of what you were -- yeah, you did, you really did; full, full answer there. A lot of what you were saying at the end, reminded me about our Needs of Followers research and your ability to kind of build trust through those themes, and stability, as well as compassion, when you're thinking about Individualization. So that was really cool to hear.

Edward Kayton 7:09


Iseult Morgan 7:11

David, over to you. And I'll remind you, since it was a minute ago. First, what do you do at Spirit? Second, your Top 5 strengths. And thirdly, if you are, what strengths do you find yourself leaning into these days?

David Klein 7:25

Definitely. So been with Spirit a year and a half. Really excited to be part of such a great organization. My role at Spirit, I really have two halves to my job. In one half of my role, I oversee HR for our Spirit Support Center -- what we affectionately call our corporate headquarters. So everything from HR business partners, employee relations, and those types of great pieces of work. And then the other half of my job, which I equally love and lean into regularly, is the organizational development side of my, my role. And in that role and that portion, I'm really making sure we're attracting, engaging and developing great team members, great leaders to help us achieve our mission.

David Klein 8:05

I include everything from social media and branding to developing leaders through Spirit U, and making sure we're engaging team members both through our regular engagement survey pulses, but then also in the activities that we're driving on a regular basis. So great, great work, super passionate about it, and love every second of it.

David Klein 8:24

My Top 5 strengths: Communication No. 1, followed by Discipline, Arranger, Includer and Maximizer. And I love, love, love my strengths. I guess you have to and you should, because they are who you are or they define you in many ways. And really, I have been leaning into them pretty incredibly during this crisis.

David Klein 8:44

So if I look at them in pairs, I've really been tapping into my both Communication and Includer really to make sure people are aware of daily changes. These times are so unpredictable, as we all know. And it's so important to stay on top of communication, keep messaging going. And I really lean into that. And with the Includer piece coming in there is bringing people along, making sure they feel a part of it and making sure we're bringing the right people along and they're getting the right messaging.

David Klein 9:12

Kind of a second pair that I look at is my Discipline, paired with my Arranger coming in. Love structure and I love maximizing resources. And again, in these times when, when, when structure is awry and resources change on a daily basis, really leaning into those and how you maximize those resources and create some structure so we have a path and a plan forward. Really excited and really love that. So that's a little bit about me.

Iseult Morgan 9:43

I love all the things that David said he was passionate about are all things that he truly excels at. And we can see that from a third-party perspective, shamelessly will plug for all those things. So thanks for sharing that. You're also making me think of our resiliency research too; you're really setting a stage for refreshing expectations for individuals through all that structure that you're creating and communication, which we know is so critical in this rapid, changing priority mix. So really appreciate those words.

Iseult Morgan 10:16

Edward, you had mentioned a little bit about what Spirit Airlines does is how they operate. I, you mentioned the flight paths. We know you're ultra-low-cost carrier. There's a couple of elements of your culture I'd love for you to discuss, and two in particular I wanted to highlight: That at Spirit, employees are called team members, and customers are called guests. I don't know if you have any reflections on that.

Edward Kayton 10:46

Sure. It always has been a very debated, but, but both have been debated topics. And team members, we wanted, it was actually a collective decision. And we wanted to convey the importance of working as a team. And if you think about an airline, you know, your experience starts as you walk into the airport and you're meet, met or, no, you're greeted, or met, by a Guest Services Agent who is a Spirit employee. And that's the beginning of your journey, right? That person, later on, you go through TSA, you arrive at the gate, and there's a Gate Services Agent at the gate. And that relationship continues. Everybody plays a part in your experience. So if something goes wrong as you're checking in your bag, or if something goes wrong with a seat assignment, it certainly leaves you with an impression.

Edward Kayton 11:59

So us sticking to "team members" inherently conveys a message that we are codependent. And it's important to have that continuity chain of guests' experience, which I guess brings me to the second part of your question, you know, Why do we call our customers "guests"? And the reason why is because a "guest" conveys an important person that enters your home, right? So if you think about having guests over to your apartment, to your beautiful apartment in New York, you, you welcome them, you want to make them feel comfortable. You want them to feel like they're in their own home. And you offer refreshments, right, and just so they can assimilate and quickly get comfortable. And that's what we do with our guests. We, we use their names as frequently as we can. And we would like them to have that, that same comfortable experience on our aircraft.

Iseult Morgan 13:08

And for something that can be so stressful to so many, even in relative stable times, like air travel, those little components of making an individual feel extra special and like a guest certainly get highlighted as ever-more important during these times, I imagine.

Edward Kayton 13:29

Absolutely. Absolutely. We believe that. For sure.

Iseult Morgan 13:33

Well, before we get a little bit more into Spirit's journey, I did want to set some context around this concept of business resilience that we've brought up -- mentioned a few times. So of course, during economic downturns, we see patterns emerge in the sense that certain companies seem to fare better than others, even within certain industries. And we call those businesses really "resilient" in hindsight, because they were able to respond rapidly and adapt to disruptions, while also safeguarding their people, their guests, their customers and maintaining their business operations. When we get one level down, and we've seen this through Gallup's research as well as several others, resilient employees are really those individuals who are equipped to deal with the new stressors that are involved inherently and the shifting demands and increased pressure that they are faced upon them. So given that, Edward, could you just tell us a bit about how Spirit is responding to these disruptions and the sort of changing dynamics of air travel that you guys are finding yourselves in?

Edward Kayton 14:43

Sure. You know, Spirit has always been an organization that puts safety first. It's actually one of our first values. But we've always been, in addition to being, to keeping safety in mind, we've always been innovative, thoughtful and proactive. And before COVID, we invested in technology that allows a, a touchless check-in. So you use the kiosk to, you know, check yourself in, you can even print a bag tag, and we just introduced a conveyor belt. So as you're self-tagging your own bag then you're putting your own bag on a conveyor belt, and the bag goes away.

Edward Kayton 15:34

You know, a few years ago, we equipped our aircrafts with HEPA filters. That's way before COVID. But it was always important to provide, you know, a safe environment and a quality environment for our guests. So today we're using, you know, along with others, electrostatic solution to sanitize planes, special sprayers that continue to kill germs, you know, on surfaces for a long period of time, all in an effort to create a, a sense of safety and a sense of confidence, so that our guests continue to fly.

Iseult Morgan 16:25

And I know you mentioned that safety is really one of Spirit's core values. I know that another core values of yours is service. And it's interesting to think about how we still maintain that human-to-human connection, even though, you know, through the masks, through the, the contactless everything. I don't know if you have a sense of how your flight attendants and guest agents are equipped to kind of respond to that?

Iseult Morgan 16:54

Absolutely. So I'm not going to give away all of our little secrets. But we have something, we have a program that we rolled out a few years ago, and it's called S3: Spirit Signature Service. It taps into the 5 senses that we all have, because that's what becomes resonant, you know, with our guests and just with people, you know, as they interact with one another. It's about eye contact. It's about body language. It's about, you know, anticipating someone's needs. So even though we're wearing mask coverings and gloves, you know, when, when we serve our guests in flight, I think that our flight attendants are absolutely able to convey and make an interpersonal connection with our guests. It's absolutely critical, especially in times like this.

Iseult Morgan 17:53

Agree. I like to think that people can see me smiling under my mask, but who knows, really. Spirit and Gallup have been sort of official partners since, I want to say, about 2015, at which time we sort of brought in some of Gallup's science and analytics to help understand the employee experience I would say overall. And I know Edward and David had both previous -- at previous organizations had had relationships with Gallup, so plenty of history with us. What can you tell us about sort of the impetus to the Spirit-Gallup partnership? What was the need that you had that brought you to us?

Edward Kayton 18:34

The most important need was to, you know, we're all HR practitioners. And we, we know people. I think it's important to have science attached to people. And Gallup certainly serves that up very nicely. I would like to hire the best people. I would like to read the tea leaves and and predict someone's success. And unfortunately, without Gallup's instruments and technology, I fall a little bit short in those areas. So we, you know, that was the impetus, right? It's connecting human and people experience and knowledge of people with science.

Edward Kayton 19:25

And Gallup, of course, is famous for many different things. Survey work was always important. I think that we all recognize the importance of employee engagement. You know, "Happy team members, happy guests." We use that phrase very frequently. You know, and with Gallup poll and, and the work that George Gallup did, and the famous 1936 election of Franklin Roosevelt, who obviously defeated Alfred Landon. I am sure that people didn't even know who Alfred Landon was. But it was a controversial decision, you know, at the time. And Gallup obviously, made that prediction first against all odds and accurately so. And the Truman election, I can go on and on, but I won't. So I think that survey work and the Gallup poll certainly came with credibility right away. And it was important, you know, as we introduced the engagement survey at Spirit.

Edward Kayton 20:39

The second thing, which was critical to us, you know, when I started with the organization, we had 50 planes, we had just a few thousand employees. We now have 150 planes. We have over 10,000 -- 9,300 our own employees and about 15,000 service providers or contractors. So it's a much larger organization. We hire a lot of people. And selecting the right talent was always important. So we have used the selection instruments, and with the work that Don Clifton has done with the SRI and his work around strengths management, obviously, was very appealing and very instrumental in us kind of transforming from a mom-and-pop airline into a slightly larger, ultra-low-cost carrier.

Edward Kayton 21:45

And, you know, I mentioned Don Clifton, and strengths management is absolutely important. We all have heard that you get more with honey than you do with vinegar. And I think strengths management really paves the way for that. And I think that Don Clifton's work and, around positive psychology and being recognized as the father of positive psychology and minimizing remediation and focusing on strength to reach exponential growth, I think is super important to us as an organization. So we tapped into all of those tools and resources and developed a great partnership with Gallup.

Iseult Morgan 22:34

Really great overview of it. When you're talking about the surveying component, the Gallup sort of historical component, of course, very much known brand-name-wise for that. While we don't do the horse racing anymore, we certainly still engage in many worldwide polls. I think last year, 2019, we were in 140 countries, and really just understanding the will of the people. And I mention that because we get really excited about applying those insights with organizations like yourself, really fueling the science that we're creating, to create the tools that we're using in practice.

Iseult Morgan 23:08

And then you were, when you're talking about Don Clifton, really, the father of positive psychology, it lends perfectly to our platform of just behavioral economics. So we're really applying those psychological insights into human decision-making through, through those tools and through, through the work that we do together, our analytics.

Iseult Morgan 23:31

Well, and that reminds me too. So when we're talk -- thinking about optimizing human behavior through that sort of behavioral economic lens, we often talk about this Gallup Path where we have several concepts and components that are the building blocks to create that foundation for driving individual performance. And Spirit, of course, you mentioned it, does quite a few of those building blocks, some of which are really starting with identifying strengths, as well as identifying the right fit for role through talent instruments, and talent science, as well as engaging your employees and developing managers. And I think when we look at Spirit, you guys took a really intentional path that might not have been our sort of traditional 1, 2, 3 steps. Could you tell us a little bit how you rolled out those components at Spirit?

Iseult Morgan 24:25

Sure. We're a little bit unorthodox. And, you know, we were engaged in a very healthy debate with Gallup because we deviated a little bit to --

Iseult Morgan 24:37

First, Break All the Rules.

Edward Kayton 24:38

That's right. That's right. And I love the book. So I absolutely live by breaking rules, and then David actually gets to fix them and course-correct my mistakes. But I mentioned that we were a small company. It's 50 airlines, 50 airplanes, and a lot of the organization has worked together for a very long time. And they've known each other and they obviously knew what they were ex -- their own expertise and things that they were good in and things that they were not good in. So I thought it was important to, to do survey work first. I thought that right away, the Gallup poll, the familiarity with, with the -- that was right away lended itself to credibility and a survey would be well received. And prior to this survey was done via Survey Monkey, who knows what kind of questions were asked. So --

Iseult Morgan 25:52

I don't know if you mentioned, we're referring specifically to employee engagement surveying.

Iseult Morgan 25:56

Correct. I'm sorry if I, if I wasn't clear, clear on that. But yes. And the engagement survey was absolutely the first introduction to Gallup instruments. And it was, it was well received. And we're actually in our third administration, you know, of the engagement survey. We started to use selection instruments a little bit later. And we started to use them only with new hires. And the reason why is because, you know, people that were already working here were already known by leaders.

Edward Kayton 26:39

And I wasn't trying to convince anyone of anybody's strengths, or, you know, weaknesses or opportunities. I was just curious and making sure that whatever talent we were bringing in, No. 1, would match to our growing needs. And No. 2, would be able to support, you know, the culture that, that existed. And it was easy because it gave hiring managers insights into talent that was being considered, and they have been able to make decisions that are more cognizant and more based on facts and science. So that's --

Iseult Morgan 27:25

I'll mention, too, if you don't mind, for anyone in the audience who isn't familiar with the talent instruments that we're talking about is actually based in the same body of science that was used to create CliftonStrengths, where you're looking at a sort of a comparison of your own strengths. Whereas in, with our talent instruments, you're being compared to a group of high performers. So very similar, often mapped together, but used for completely different purposes.

Iseult Morgan 27:52

Iseult, perfect. That, that sets me up beautifully to speak a little bit about strengths management, which was the last thing that we tackled. And strengths management was, you know, it's a, it's not a, it's not an organic concept. Because, you know, I will never forget, when I was at the Gallup University, the example that was used, you know, you bring a report card home, and there's a bunch of A's and an F. And your parents asked you, "What happened to the F?" and not the 10 A's that you have.

Edward Kayton 28:27

So, strengths management is just a more sophisticated concept to me. And we use strengths management first with new leaders to get them assimilated and for them to learn about the talent on their teams and accelerate the relationship. And I think that strengths management and StrengthsFinder certainly paved the way very easily for that. And then, you know, team dynamics afterwards. So we gained a lot of credibility because as leaders started to hire people using the selection instruments, and then they learned and had more insights through StrengthsFinder, it gained a lot of credibility and a lot of "ask" from HR to continue to provide these instruments and services. And I'm happy to say that today we have 4 Certified Coaches. And a lot of our organization has been through StrengthsFinders.

Iseult Morgan 29:42

Lovely. And I love that you said, "accelerate the relationship" because that made me think of all sorts of airline puns, but, but also sort of a pun for the overall growth that Spirit has been experiencing over the last maybe 10 years. David, I don't know if you can share a bit with us about how you are managing to sustain traction around these initiatives, while in this period of -- is it hypergrowth that you have been experiencing over the last several years?

David Klein 30:12

Definitely, I mean, we've seen double-digit growth for, for, for a great amount of time now. Obviously COVID has brought the full airline industry into, to different times. But we expect to return to that, hopefully very soon. But really, we've seen it in a lot of ways. Rather than how do we maintain the traction? We've used it to how do we fuel our momentum, through growth, and, honestly, even through challenging times? And I think of it in three different buckets.

David Klein 30:38

When we talk about that engagement Q12 element, How do we use that to unlock performance? We hear about 12 key elements -- and we've added a few others in that we ask people -- that drive performance. We know statistically that the elements we ask through our Q12 engagement survey drive performance. Things like understanding the mission and purpose of your company. We understood that wasn't as strong at some, at one point and had actually used that to fuel the definition, the clarity around mission, values, purpose, which really, in the end, does drive performance.

David Klein 31:12

Most recently, when we did our engagement survey last October, we heard a lot about communication, and how do we enhance that? We're a company that's moving all the time, literally moving all the time. Our team members are on the move physically, while they're at work in the sky, and how do we get to them? And I think through this crisis, and leading up into it, how do we use things like SharePoint? How do we use things like virtual town halls, increased executive communication, increased tools for collaboration? And, and really, we heard that in many ways from our engagement survey, and use that as business language to fuel. I always find it passionate, I'm very passionate about the fact that we as HR professionals and as -- look at the science, we look at the, the, the back end behind it. But in the end, we're here to drive business results. And when we can translate that into driving actual results, that's when we see success. And we really leaned into that from an engagement perspective.

David Klein 32:12

From a strengths perspective, we actually started speaking the language without introducing the tools to start. So, so when you start to talk about to people about leveraging their strengths, leaning into their strengths, I always use the sailboat analogy. If you think of your weaknesses as the, as the anchor and your sails as your strengths, if you put wind in your strengths, it's going to soar you forward. Your anchor's never becoming your sails. You should ratchet your weaknesses enough to get them above the water, but focus on those strengths. Everybody seems to get things like that.

David Klein 32:45

We then integrate that in; you actually heard our CEO at our managers meeting earlier this year talking about strengths, talking about the importance of strengths. He didn't say "StrengthsFinder," but he said "strengths." Now he introduced StrengthsFinder as a tool to give language to that, to give common language to help team leaders gain greater self-awareness of who they are, lean into that, then also help them understand their teams, lean into them, and again, drive performance and productivity through that. And always continue to measure it back to that.

David Klein 33:12

And we've seen a lot of great success with that. To Edward's point earlier, we've gone through the process of certifying more coaches this year, myself being one of them. And we're now taking it purposely through the organization. So how do we make sure the executives now understand what that language is? How do we get our teams in base? And I'll talk a little later about how we actually are integrating that into our leadership development curriculum, which is our approach to really bring that in as part of our core language. And that really probably is the, the final piece of all this. And -- it's how do we make Gallup sciences our own?

David Klein 33:45

So Gallup also has done really great research on leadership competencies. So I think it was a study of 550 different roles and 360 unique competencies.

Iseult Morgan 33:55

Yes, on the numbers.

David Klein 33:57

The reason I know that is because it's integrated into our leadership curriculum and I taught the class earlier this week. But we've now integrated those competencies into how we lead as an organization. So I talked a little bit earlier how engagement drove that mission, drove that purpose. We've defined our mission as organization: What do we do? We've defined our values: How do we conduct ourselves? We've defined our strategic priorities: What is our focus? We've now introduced for leaders saying, There's a missing piece to that pie, and it's how you lead. And that's these leadership competencies.

David Klein 34:28

And the beauty behind all this is, it's all built on the same language. It's all built on the same discussion points. So as you bring these to leaders, it's familiar and they could just get right in and start to function better and, again, drive that performance. So we're really proud of that, and have seen it really, to the earlier question, fuel our momentum and our growth over the, over the past few years. It's been really exciting.

Iseult Morgan 34:51

It's beautiful. And in growth, it's so important to have structure -- more, more critical to have structure in growth than it is normally, which is always important. And I love that you're using these tools and structures to create that, like the Q12. And your Communication really coming out with all this business language talk. But just this lovely way you guys have artfully integrated it and kind of warmed the water slowly with your leaders especially, and letting that trickle down through sort of the strengths-based culture without being a capital, capital "S" Clifton StrengthsFinder culture.

Iseult Morgan 35:31

So with that, you know, oh, and the other mention you had, I just was reading that leadership vision. I have to mention, as a practitioner, it's just such a joy to be able to experience a culture like Spirit's when I get to visit, hopefully again soon one day, down in Florida. Just really having that leadership vision feels so present, and really energizing in the, in the office. So I think that you guys do -- have done a beautiful job partnering with your executive team to really bring this to life. So I just wanted to plug that in there.

Edward Kayton 36:05

Thank you.

Iseult Morgan 36:07

And David, I was wondering, kind of building upon this, what steps you're taking right now currently to really understand where your team members are at. I know that we were speaking before the session started here about Spirit's COVID numbers -- I'm sorry, not Spirit's, but Florida's COVID numbers, specifically, knowing that a lot of your people are right there in the thick of it. How are you helping them deal in, in today's working environment?

David Klein 36:36

Definitely. So, you know, it's obviously tough. And we're all trying to figure out what the, the path forward is. But what we do know is we need to listen to people. We need to hear them, and we need to understand them. And what I love about our organization is we are truly an empathetic organization; we care about our team members. What we've decided to do, though, is put a little more metric behind that. We know leaders have to have conversations they've never had before. We're at home now. We're seeing families, we're seeing pets, we're seeing animals, we're getting pulled away. We're dealing with sickness, we're dealing with with, with a ton of things.

David Klein 37:12

So we've actually recently launched a pulse survey through Gallup Access, which is the tool we use, to really understand better wellbeing, performance needs and communication needs during times of crisis. It actually closed yesterday. So I was looking at some results this morning. And I'm really excited and ready to dig in even more. But we're using that pulse in, in two ways, in two very purposeful ways. Way 1 is for us as an organization, as an HR team, as a leadership team to understand, What does our organization need from us, from a wellbeing, performance and communication perspective? What can we do to support them through this change?

David Klein 37:50

But we also know managers don't know how to have those conversations. They're difficult conversations; they're uncomfortable conversations. And what we're hoping is to use these pulse results to fuel midyear conversations. So now as a leader, I have this information in my hands about my team's wellbeing. And I now can use data, what I'm used to doing as a leader, to inform an action. And in this case, the action is a midyear conversation. So we're really hoping that's a purposeful way to, again, use the tools to have practical application and engage team members in a whole different way.

David Klein 38:23

I'd be remiss if I didn't also just mention the diversity climate that we're in right now, and all that's happening. And that's integrated with this as well. So through the pulse, we also asked an inclusion index. So three questions about inclusion. When I talk about listening at the beginning, we're also listening to our minorities. We're listening to women, we're listening to the LGBTQ+ community, we're listening to our veterans, to understand what they need to drive engagement. Because we also recognize that it's not one-size-fits-all; everybody brings different experiences, different, different strengths, different approaches to work every day. And we need to understand how we lean into that and customize that. And we see this all again integrated into a way of listening, gathering data, having conversations and driving great change. And we're doing it, and we're really, really proud of it.

Iseult Morgan 39:13

I love that you brought up the sort of the data analytic approach. And clearly, Spirit is no exception to leveraging that, not only with their, you know, business model overall, but really doubling down on the human aspect of it internally, as well -- really unlocking that. So, great to hear that piece of it. Edward, as we kind of wrap up for a little bit, before we maybe open up to some audience questions, there's a couple other items I'd love to hear about. One of which is really just kind of connecting us back what you were speaking to earlier around the guests. So I was just wondering really, Have you seen -- what impact have you seen on that guest experience, from what you both were just discussing around this sort of strengths-based, engagement focus culture that you've created?

Iseult Morgan 40:03

Absolutely. It's a great question. And I saw that there was a question in the chat that was similar. So I will, I will try to tackle both. What your, what is obvious right away on metrics -- and, as I'm sure many of the listeners know -- airlines are known for a lot of different types of metrics. We have metrics that are self-imposed that we create. We have metrics that are Department of Transportation metrics, and universal airline metrics. So we look at a lot of numbers. And we actually do a lot of analysis and, and certainly pay attention to that sort of data.

Edward Kayton 40:57

So we're seeing a lot of things, and I'll share some, some things that our listeners can research and confirm online. We're one of the, one of the more proud airlines to say that we lose the least amount of luggage -- we're actually the No. 1 in United States. And so if you think about that as a metric, the care that a Ramp Services Agent that handles your luggage from that conveyor belt once you tossed it on there, to, to ensuring that it actually gets on a plane -- that's, that's caring. That's ownership. That's engagement, right?

Iseult Morgan 41:43

You bring a tear to my eye. It's so personally emotional.

Edward Kayton 41:47

Absolutely. It does make a difference. You know, somebody was asking about, you know, How do you justify the cost of using some of the, you know, Gallup instruments? And we are a lean organization; we're functioning on the lean margin. But you do notice things right away. We hired over 2,000 people last year. I need to make sure that those 2,000 people that we hire are the right people. I can't afford to have turnover. So my turnover statistics dropped significantly since we started to use selection instruments.

Edward Kayton 42:27

So metrics is how we are convincing leaders that we need to continue to use the technology and the instruments. We obviously make business cases; we obviously do all of that. But seeing a drop in complaints, an increase in guest compliments, rankings that are published publicly, you know, we're always coming in the middle of the pack or higher, are always good indicators that we have an engaged talent force. And we're very proud of that. I think that the fact that we have changed the culture to where we would like to have repeat guests; where we focus on the Spirit Signature Service and try to have that welcomed experience for our guests are all indicative of the fact that, that the instruments are working and are helping us make the right decisions. That we intimately know our team members and are able to individualize our approach to them that is most resonant to them, tapping into their strengths and coaching them so that they can continue to excel and reach that, that exponential growth. I love that phrase, I continue to use it.

Iseult Morgan 44:07

I love just having Google Alerts for Spirit. I don't know if I ever really talked to you guys about this, but I just see just so many more and more really positive stories about your flight attendants and gate agents. I'm thinking of the one where the gate agent was like starting a whole like dance flashmob type of thing during a delay that had nothing to do with you, or even just people commenting on how they're trying out Spirit for the comfy seats but will come back for that service. So it's just great to hear that come to life.

Iseult Morgan 44:39

Yeah, Spirit has always allowed for individualized expression. And, you know, we allow flight attendants to be a little bit quirky with their announcements and, you know, to be able to, for their personality to, you know, to come through, you know, as they service our guests. I think that's always important. It's also, you know, inherently drives a diversity and inclusion at its core, right? Because if you are, if you're allowing for an individualized expression, and you're welcoming and embracing that, it certainly paves the way for a very strong foundation of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

Iseult Morgan 45:31

What a beautiful sentiment. I think my last question, and David, I might start off with you, if you don't mind. Where do you see yourself going next on this journey?

David Klein 45:42

Yeah, you know, it's interesting. I, I listen to how we're speaking to this. And it sounds like we have this beautifully well-orchestrated plan. And the fact is, it starts a little lumpy, and it grows from there and, and --

Iseult Morgan 45:55

Not bumpy?

David Klein 45:56

Bumpy and lumpy, all over the place. But, but I say that because you have successes, and you have leaders that, that buy, buy into this. And then that spreads and, and it becomes really broader, to the point where then it be -- then it's something that you can, you can start to see across the organization. So, so the truth is, when we, when we launched engagement, and when we had that, we have some leaders that are great at communicating results, getting into action plans and doing really meaningful next steps.

David Klein 46:25

When it comes to strengths, we have some leaders that are behind the tools 100%; some leaders that speak the language, but don't truly understand the tools yet. And when it comes to selection tools, we have some leaders that say, I do -- I never want to see somebody who comes through as a "Do not recommend." We have others that say, "I want to see those that are not recommended from your talent." ...

Edward Kayton 46:52

I'll just finish David's thoughts. It just allow -- we allow for those differences. We do not say, "Absolutely not, you cannot hire", we still allow people leaders to make decisions. We want them to make informed and smart decisions that are based in science versus perception. But we, we allow them to make mistakes, because I think that that's how they learn. And, you know, we've, we've proven time again and again that, that the instruments certainly work.

David Klein 47:29

We have, and then so where that fuels and where we're going next on that is now we're to a point where there is belief -- deep in the organization -- in all of these tools. And I think we all know the sum is greater than the parts. So we've brought these parts up as individuals. And now it's how do we weave them through and really integrate them through? And I had mentioned it earlier, but we're using our leadership curriculum for that in many ways.

David Klein 47:54

So what we've started doing is launching Spirit's first leadership curriculum, "Leading the Spirit Way," with the competencies, as mentioned, as the foundation. And we're educating on, on leaders on how do you first become self-aware? How do you use strengths to understand yourself? How do you then use that to engage a team, understanding their strengths, but then also using the levers of engagement to drive and engage a team? How do you select and hire the best talent, understanding that there's things behind the scenes, under the water, that you don't fully see? Those might be the talents. And then how do you also understand their skills and bring this all together into an integrated talent strategy that really helps us maximize productivity?

David Klein 48:35

I saw the question come through about we're -- being a low-cost carrier and how do we prove the case out for these? Because margins are tight, and every penny we spend is passed through on to our guests. And the fact of the matter is, as we -- what Edward was saying earlier: We show the results. We show the impact. It helps us -- the selection tools help, help us save time with recruiting. The engagement tools help us drive productivity. Strengths helps leaders squeeze more out of their team members by understanding how they lean into their strengths. So the fact of matter is, is yes, we're spending money. But we believe, and we have proven the case that we're saving more, and we're really proud of that.

Iseult Morgan 49:15

That's certainly savvy. And I saw Jim join back in with us.

Jim Collison 49:19

Yeah, there's been a lot of good questions out there. You guys brought up kind of pulse surveys, which I think, when we think about responding to needs today, right, I mean, Q12 is great in the sense that we get a kind of a feel for the organizations based on our standard questions. But you brought up pulse surveys. So can you talk a little bit -- David, maybe you can start -- talk a little bit about how are you using pulse surveys right now internally? Are you doing it externally as well? And, and how -- what are you learning from those pulse surveys?

David Klein 49:49

So I'll say the focus of our conversation today is really about the internal, internal surveys. Our, our teams do do a lot of surveying to our guests -- understanding things like NPS -- all those business metrics that you need to do. But when we're talking about our pulse surveys, it's about our team members. We just -- we recently did launch one of our first purposeful pulse surveys. And that's what I was referencing. And we measured a few things on this pulse survey. So we measured inclusivity. There's an Inclusivity Index in Gallup Access that we leveraged. There's a Resiliency Index. So if you're familiar with the engagement survey, it's the first three questions on the Q12 -- Q1, Q2, Q3. I believe it's Q8 and Q9 as well.

Iseult Morgan 50:31

That's correct!

David Klein 50:32

Oh, good. I got it wrong on our call last week. So it's the Resiliency Index. And then we also did the Wellbeing Index, to give us both answers about important information that is, that we want to know about our team members, but also allows us to index self, index ourselves and benchmark ourselves against the Gallup Database, which is honestly a big reason why we leveraged this. We also added some custom questions into that around people's reactions to COVID, people's working home, their connection to culture, and some of those elements. So it was a combination. It was, it was an 18- to 19-question survey, depending how you did it. Took 3 minutes; was really effective. We achieved 77% participation, which I'm really proud of as well.

Jim Collison 51:20

Can you guys talk about what you learned from that? I mean, maybe one or two insights that, that you may have pulled out of that?

David Klein 51:26

It closed yesterday, so I saw a spreadsheet of results so far. What I learned, honestly, is that communication is really good right now. People are in good shape. I haven't done a full comparative on our last engagement survey. But overall, when I look at the Q12 elements, they seem to be up a little. People know what's expected them, people feel communicated, people feel connected to our business. That's amazing. The wellbeing elements, I'm seeing a little more choppiness in, which you would expect. And it's, it's highly variable, based on types of parts of the organization, levels in the organization. More to be seen with that. But initially looking strong, which I'm really excited about.

Iseult Morgan 52:11

And if I could add to maybe David's answer, we really think through anything that we do, especially when it comes to survey work. And if you think about it, times are uncertain. We don't know anything about COVID. We have no idea what it's going to do to the business. We have no idea what's going to happen tomorrow. But, so -- what would a person want in an environment like that? Well, I want somebody to care about me. Maybe we should actually ask you, "How are you feeling? How are you faring in this environment? What are you most worried about? What's important to you?"

Edward Kayton 52:58

I think that the concept of simply kicking off a pulse survey, asking those kind of questions inherently illustrate to your audience that you actually care about them as individuals. So besides insights, and besides -- and in addition to results that will shape the way we do things going forward, I also would like to send a message to our people: "Hey, we care about you. I want to know how you're doing. I want to know how you're feeling. I want to know what do you need more of? What do you need less of?" And to David's point, keeping lines of communications open, listening. And it was important for us. And we tapped into Iseult, and with a lot of very passionate discussions, we came, I think we came out with a perfect pulse survey. So thank you.

Jim Collison 53:59

No, it's a great question. We got a lot, a lot of insight around that, I think, you know, to be able to quickly get the needs of those individuals in the organization through pulse to be able to ask though, the one or two questions of how are folks feeling? You guys mentioned a lot of inclusivity in there as well as other words, looking at different groups across the board. Iseult, any other -- as we think about where -- our time is coming to a close here, and as we cheesily "bring, bring this in for a landing," is there any other final questions? And let's thank our guests for coming as well.

Iseult Morgan 54:35

Oh, how could I? How could I end higher than that airline pun that you just discovered? I cannot. Well, no, no more questions for me. I just want to again thank Edward and David so much. I know it's incredibly busy times in normal times, especially now. So thank you for giving us all a little bit of a taste of what's going on in your world, and it's a beautiful one. And I'm so happy to be a part of it and honored to work with you both.

Jim Collison 55:06

David, Edward, before we go, any, anything we missed, or any final thoughts, any last words, from you guys, before we wrap this up?

Edward Kayton 55:14

Well, a big "Thank you!" and for allowing us to share your story. We are absolutely humbled and honored to partake in your podcast, and maybe share some of our experiences. We certainly want you to come fly with us; we have a super-safe airline. So come on down to sunny Florida and, and isolate on the beach. One of the questions that I see that, that Mark was asking that I wanted to tackle -- Mark was asking, you know, What were the challenges in convincing senior management around the use of the instruments? We didn't have to do a lot of cajoling, what, only because of the way we positioned the instruments. I was actually using instruments to confirm and provide insight, not to make decisions. So it was easy. You know, if you think about the story that I've shared, where they, where they know the talent and people they work with, if, if that person later took an assessment, once they get a debrief, they just got confirmation and maybe even more insights about the individual and how to tap into them to get the optimum output out of that person. That was the most convincing. So hopefully, I answered Mark's question, I think.

Jim Collison 56:48

Yeah. But thanks for doing that as well. David, any, any final thoughts?

David Klein 56:50

No, thanks for having me. I was thinking of a corny pun I could use, and I've come up with a list, but I don't want to end it on a, on a corny note. So just appreciate the time. The great questions and the great dialogue.

Jim Collison 57:01

Well, let -- thanks for letting me end it on a corny note. I appreciate it. Iseult, thank you for joining us on your first Called to Coach. We hope to have more of these as well. Thank you, Edward, David for coming on, as well, and being a great representative, both for you and for us. We appreciate it. You guys hang tight for me one second.

Jim Collison 57:18

With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we do have available, now on Gallup Access. If you have some questions about this, head out to If you've just taken -- maybe your Top 5, you can log in there and have access to all these resources that are available to you there. If you have any questions at all, you can always send us an email. Like maybe your organization wants to be part of this as well: will get you routed to the right person to be able to have that conversation. You can join us in our social groups as well. Facebook, we're on -- all one word. And if you want to join us on LinkedIn, just search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches" and we'll let you in that group as well. Want to thank you for joining us today. If you're listening live, thanks for coming out live. Had a good, good crew out today. If you're listening as a podcast, chances are we have another one for you. Just hit Play or Forward, and they'll -- that one will be there as well. Thanks for coming out today. With that, we'll say, Goodbye everybody.

Edward Kayton's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Focus, Input, Relator, Responsibility and Individualization.

David Klein's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Communication, Discipline, Arranger, Includer and Maximizer.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030