Sometimes corporate culture manifests itself in a make-your-own-taco party in the office kitchenette. Sometimes you can see it when an outdated phone bank is converted into an on-site ice cream shop. And sometimes it’s on display when senior leaders pick up paintbrushes to turn formerly bland office walls into electric blue work spaces. These are examples of the “Culture Blitz” at work at Southwest Airlines Company, where a 40-year culture is still going strong and is further invigorated by traveling teams who volunteer every year to visit hundreds of employees to show their appreciation. And it’s infectious.
Mary Widen is a Southwest Culture Blitz member who will never forget the first time she “hokeyed” an airplane. (Although the hokey is in fact a line dance, at Southwest it’s also the name of the small carpet sweeper used to clean the plane between flights.) It’s traditionally the responsibility of the flight attendants to clean the plane, but once in a while Culture Blitz members take over this task and give the flight attendants time off and bags of snacks. “The flight attendants were in shock—you would have thought I had given them a bag of jewelry. They were yelling ‘thank you’ at me long after I had walked away. It was their unexpected good moment of the week, and they were so grateful. And that refuels you. And those good feelings last long after the hokeying is complete. People keep in touch after, and that makes Southwest feel like a real family,” says Widen.