It’s all about your people

I’m a Southwest Airlines loyalist and proud of it.  I’m also a road warrior with hundreds of travel days each year… and that’s just for work. I’ve traveled all the big airlines – even made it to elite status with one, and frankly other than a few upgraded seats they still left me high and dry on too many occasions to count.

That brings me back around to my love for Southwest. You could say they get to the heart of the matter. Herb Kelleher once said, “The business of business is people,” and that’s not any different for credit unions.

The question I pose to you is this — are you intentional about making your people a priority? Does your structure, decision-making process and support systems demonstrate that your people are truly important?

Here’s what I’m talking about.  I recently had a conversation with a credit union leadership team about their key initiatives for the year. With smiles on their faces and in unison they responded, “our people.” They went on to add, “we want to help develop our people, we want to promote trust and integrity by letting our people know how important they are!”

This warmed my heart and I couldn’t wait to hear more. I responded, “This is so exciting! How do you plan to achieve this goal?” And here’s where the conversation went south… not Southwest.  Each person had a different take on how to achieve this initiative, with everyone talking over each other. One person would finish, and another would say “no, here’s what we are going to do” then another would jump in with a totally different idea. It became much like navigating through a maze, and I felt like I was part of a shell game. As they talked this through – they came to the agreement that they would make a big announcement at the next all staff meeting that this was going to be the year of the employee. They all sat back, smiled at me in satisfaction as if they had accomplished something – like maybe building a plan.

As a consultant, my job is all about asking challenging questions to encourage deep thought and to make recommendations based on my expertise and best practices.  I wanted to learn more, and I also wanted to encourage some deeper thought, so I started with a few key questions like,

What additional educational opportunities do you plan to offer to help employees feel appreciated?

Will you provide training or learning opportunities outside of the credit union?

What conferences will you make available to your team?  

What do you have planned around acknowledgment or recognition?

What will you specifically do to build trust and integrity?

What kind of budget have you planned?  

My questions were geared to be conversational and thought provoking, however what I received back was anything but positive.  The leaders became irritated and negative, and let’s just say we’d lost the loving feeling.

Without a plan to walk your talk, you run the risk of creating unrest, dissatisfaction, mistrust and resentment in your people. Not to mention the costly increase of employee turnover. Don’t say something is a priority if it is only an idea and you are not willing to put your time and money where your mouth is.  

Southwest Airlines strives first to create a positive and motivating employee experience by concentrating efforts on building a great workplace focused on the needs of their people. They have invested time and money into training their staff and developing the expertise needed for a world-class airline.  Southwest Airlines allows and encourages staff to “do what it takes” to create a caring, wonderful, stress free and cost-effective travel experience for their customers. The first focus is on staff – the second in on their customers — like me, a Southwest cheerleader. This culture drives employee loyalty as well as customer loyalty, and that’s a positive to their bottom line – which by the way has been in the black all but one year out of the past 40.

If it’s all about the PEOPLE – Invest in them

  • Provide training for routine and challenging job situations by providing development around the industry, competition, relationship building skills, sales and service

If your goal is a sound and successful organization – then you must be willing to have a heart and show some love.

Jayne Hitman is a performance strategist and business development manager for CUNA Creating Member Loyalty™ (CML). To learn more about member experience strategy or CML, contact Jayne at or 608-231-4354.