3 Hiring Lessons Inspired By The Airline With A Heart

I'm featuring an article by my friend and colleague Milan Ford today. This article is a goldmine of hiring lessons for church leaders building and running teams. Enjoy!

By Milan Ford

As a search consultant for Vanderbloemen Search Group, I travel quite extensively each month in order to meet with our church clients, discover their staffing needs, and to eventually interview potential candidates in-person on their behalf.

Because of this, I am often asked by friends, family members and other frequent travelers whether or not I have a particular preference when it comes to airline carriers, hotel chains, or rental car companies. And while my choice for each varies from city to city based upon cost, reward options, or whether my previous experience has been a favorable one, there is one airline carrier that I have grown to love and fly more than any other:

Southwest Airlines.

Beyond its lively colored planes and the occasional comedic attempt for YouTube fame by flight attendants, the following are three unique features of the Southwest Airlines business model that have transformed me into a raving fan and served as a creative source of inspiration whenever clients ask me how they can effectively hire new staff faster.

1. Keep It Simple

With over 4,000 flights per day to 72 cities in 37 states, it may surprise some people to discover that Southwest Airlines features a fleet of planes made up entirely of Boeing 737s. According to Seth Stevenson, frequent contributor to Slate Magazine, Southwest has an amazing ability to ‘swap planes faster’ in the event of delays or maintenance issues, since their on-board and ground crews are fully trained to service just one type of plane.

It is important for churches to remember that when it comes to hiring, simplicity and productivity go hand in hand. A recent study conducted by Staffing.org showed that nearly 47% of all job candidates say that they avoid particular employers who have a confusing or highly difficult hiring process. And of those polled, over 44% said that they were driven away by vague or over-bloated job descriptions, also admitting that they ‘bailed on a job’ when interviewed by too many people, some of which knew less about the job then they did.

By taking the time to simplify job descriptions, and to evaluate, decrease, and commit to training the number of people involved in your interviewing process, you may discover that you can ‘swap’ through candidates a lot faster, and save costs as well.

2. Make Room For Baggage

If there is any one feature about Southwest Airlines’ business model that is widely celebrated the most, it is their ‘free baggage policy.’ Customers who fly with Southwest are permitted to check in two bags for free, and while many believe that this is just a great marketing ploy by the airline to draw business away from those that still charge, in reality, it is in fact an effective strategy by Southwest to save time.

According to Chris Wahlenmaier, V.P. of ground operations at Southwest Airlines, ‘When you charge people to check bags, they try to carry more on…the results are more bags being checked at the gate, right before departure. And that wastes time."

A big hiring mistake many churches make is not inquiring more about a candidate’s personal story before scheduling an actual interview. More often than not, candidates are selected for interviews based solely upon their resume and experience, who they know, or who may know of them. And while resumes are one tool to predict future performance, churches should also create earlier opportunities for candidates to provide more information about themselves before ‘taking flight’ to meet in-person.

Whenever possible, aim to create questionnaires that ask questions like:

·      What is the biggest misconception people have about you?

·      Describe the pastor or organizational culture that will NOT get the best out of you.

·      Give us an example of a workplace conflict that you encountered with another staff member (or pastor), and how you successfully resolved it.

·      If I were to ask anyone at your current (or previous) church, what you do that drives them crazy, what do you believe they would say?

When churches enable candidates to share more about themselves earlier on, the ‘baggage’ a resume cannot show about a candidate can be detected before an interview is scheduled. And as Southwest has proven time and time again, the more baggage you check earlier on, the less time you will waste.

3. Leave Your Seats Open

The last creative hiring tip inspired by the Southwest Airlines business model is their commitment to ‘open seating.’ While the concept of no seat assignments can drive some business travelers crazy who have grown accustomed to the perks of flying first-class, not to mention the Clint Eastwood-like facial expressions some passengers wear in order to gain an empty seat near them, open seating is yet another way Southwest Airlines has been able to increase its profits by boarding planes faster.

By enabling passengers to choose the seat that’s open instead of searching for the seat (or number) they were assigned, Southwest has trimmed its boarding times by an average of 15 minutes, the fastest of all major US airline carriers.

Perhaps more important than any church’s interviewing is its ‘onboarding one.’ A study by HR.com showed that 40-45% of senior level executives or managers leave their positions within 18 months of their start dates due to poor onboarding. When your employee’s first days in the office only involve an aggressive download of church policies, papers to sign, and meetings to attend, you run the risk of  ‘delaying the flight’ of a new position.

Don’t be afraid of breaking your 30-day onboarding goals for new employees into 90 or 120-day intervals in order assimilate a new person with care and a sizeable amount of fun! Keeping your onboarding process ‘open to change’ and flexible will help candidates not only find their seat on your team faster but stay fastened in for the long haul.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a plane to catch…

What other hiring lessons can we learn from Southwest Airlines? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tim Stevens1 Comment