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Strategic HR Analysis and Recommendations for Southwest Airlines

Executive Summary

The HR strategy project for Southwest Airlines aims to assess and enhance the organization’s HR practices. Through a comprehensive analysis of current strategies and issues, three key HRM implications were identified: talent management, employee development, and diversity and inclusion. The following business strategies are recommended to address these implications: implementing a robust talent acquisition and retention program, enhancing employee development initiatives through coaching and mentoring, and fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion. These strategies align with Southwest’s overall goals and are designed to optimize HR practices, ultimately contributing to the organization’s success and competitive advantage. By adopting these strategies, Southwest Airlines can strengthen its HR function and effectively address current challenges and future workforce needs.

Analysis of Current Strategies and Issues

Based on the analysis of current strategies employed by Southwest Airlines and additional research, it is evident that Southwest Airlines has successfully implemented a cost leadership strategy, focusing on offering low-cost flights while maintaining high levels of customer service (Mitchell, 2019). This strategy has enabled them to differentiate themselves in the highly competitive airline industry. However, Southwest Airlines faces some challenges and issues in its HR practices. Firstly, talent management is crucial for sustaining their cost advantage and providing exceptional customer service, requiring effective recruitment and retention strategies. Secondly, employee development is vital to ensure a skilled and motivated workforce. Lastly, diversity and inclusion practices must be strengthened to foster an inclusive and diverse work environment. Hence, addressing these challenges and enhancing HR practices will further strengthen Southwest Airlines’ competitive advantage and position in the industry.

Identification of Southwest Airlines’ Strategy Type

According to Mitchell (2019), Southwest Airlines follows a combination of strategies to achieve its competitive advantage. One of the key strategies employed by Southwest Airlines is a cost leadership strategy. The airline focuses on reducing costs and operating efficiently to offer customers low fares, making air travel more affordable for a larger customer base. Southwest Airlines also adopts a differentiation strategy (Evans, 2019). The airline strives to differentiate itself from other carriers by emphasizing its unique attributes and customer-oriented approach. Southwest Airlines has built a strong brand image based on its fun and friendly customer service, streamlined operations, and commitment to customer satisfaction. This differentiation strategy helps Southwest Airlines stand out in the highly competitive airline industry, attracting customers who value the airline’s distinct features and services. Hence, combining cost leadership and differentiation strategies helps Southwest Airlines to position itself competitively in the airline industry.

HRM Implications for Southwest Airlines

The three key HRM implications for Southwest Airlines include the following;

First Talent Management (Evans, 2019). Southwest Airlines’ cost leadership strategy heavily relies on the quality and performance of its employees. To sustain its competitive advantage, Southwest Airlines must focus on effective talent management practices (Anlesinya et al., 2019). This includes attracting top talent through targeted recruitment strategies, implementing robust training and development programs to enhance skills and capabilities, and establishing retention initiatives to retain high-performing employees.

The second is Diversity and Inclusion. Enhancing diversity and inclusion practices is an important step to help Southwest Airlines leverage the benefits of a diverse workforce (Mitchell, 2019). By adopting a culture that upholds the importance of diversity, and inclusivity, Southwest Airlines will be able to tap into a wider pool of talent, perspectives, and experiences. Hence, implementing inclusive policies, diverse hiring practices, and creating an inclusive work environment will enhance employee satisfaction and drive innovation and better customer understanding.

The last key HRM implication for Southwest Airlines is product development. As Southwest aims to maintain its cost leadership strategy while remaining competitive in the industry, HR needs to support the development of new products and services. HR can contribute by identifying skill gaps, implementing training programs to enhance employees’ product development capabilities, and fostering a culture of innovation and creativity. Hence, by aligning HR practices with product development goals, Southwest Airlines can enhance its offerings, meet customer demands, and stay ahead of the competition.

Development and Justification of Business Strategies

Here are three business strategies that Southwest Airlines should consider implementing to address the identified HRM implications:

  1. Talent Management Strategy:
  • Targeted Recruitment: Develop strategies to attract top talent through targeted recruitment efforts aligned with Southwest Airlines’ values and customer-focused culture.
  • Robust Training and Development: Implement comprehensive training and development programs to enhance employees’ skills, knowledge, and capabilities, ensuring they are equipped to meet the organization’s needs.
  • Retention Initiatives: Establish initiatives that promote employee retention, such as competitive compensation packages, career progression opportunities, and a supportive work environment (Evans, 2019).
  1. Diversity and Inclusion Strategy:
  • Inclusive Policies and Practices: Implement inclusive policies and practices that promote diversity and equal opportunity throughout the organization (Mitchell, 2019).
  • Diverse Hiring Practices: Welcome and hire employees from different walks of life, including both rich and poor, and of diverse races and genders, as this will help foster partnerships with diversity-focused organizations.
  • Inclusive Work Environment: Foster an inclusive work environment that values and respects individual differences, encourages diversity of thought, and promotes collaboration among employees.
  1. Product Development Strategy:
  • Identify Skill Gaps: Conduct a thorough assessment to identify skill gaps required for product development and innovation within the organization.
  • Training and Upskilling: Implement training programs to enhance employees’ product development capabilities and provide them with the necessary skills and knowledge to contribute effectively.
  • Cultivate a Culture of Innovation: Foster a culture that promotes innovation and creativity by encouraging idea generation and cross-functional collaboration and providing resources for experimentation (Mitchell, 2019).

Determination of an HR Strategy

Overall HR Strategy includes;

  1. Talent Acquisition and Recruitment:
  • Implement targeted recruitment strategies aligned with organizational values and culture (Evans, 2019).
  • Emphasize diverse hiring practices to tap into a wider pool of talent.
  1. Training and Development:
  • Develop effective training and development programs to enhance employee skills and capabilities.
  • Foster a culture of continuous learning and career development.
  1. Diversity and Inclusion:
  • Foster an inclusive work environment that values diversity and promotes equal opportunity.
  1. Set the Groundwork:
  • Establish a clear and comprehensive HR vision, mission, and goals aligned with the overall organizational objectives (Boyatzis et al., 2019).
  • Conduct a thorough assessment of the current HR practices, capabilities, and resources to identify areas for improvement and development.
  • Develop HR policies, procedures, and frameworks that align with legal requirements, industry standards, and best practices.
  1. See Things Through:
  • Ensure effective communication and collaboration between HR and other departments within the organization to align HR strategies with overall business goals.

In conclusion, this paper has examined Southwest Airlines’ current HR strategies and identified key areas for improvement. Southwest Airlines can improve its competitive advantage by clearly emphasizing its key HRM implications, such as talent management, diversity and inclusion, and product development. Also, it can improve its success by outlining its growth strategies like adopting inclusive policies, setting a clear groundwork for its HR team, and targeted recruitment. Hence, by implementing these strategies and continuously adapting HR practices, Southwest Airlines can strengthen its workforce, promote a positive work environment, and stay ahead in the dynamic aviation industry.


Anlesinya, A., Dartey-Baah, K., & Amponsah-Tawiah, K. (2019). A Review of Empirical Research on Global Talent Management. FIIB Business Review8(2), 147–160.

Boyatzis, R., Smith, M., & Van Oosten, E. (2019). Coaching for change. Harvard Business Review, 97(5), 151–155.

Crane, B., & Hartwell, C. J. (2018). Developing employees’ mental complexity: Transformational leadership as a catalyst in employee development. Human Resource Development Review, 17(3), 234.

Evans, L. (2019, April 6). Southwest Airlines Generic Strategy, Intensive Growth Strategies & Competitive Advantage. Panmore Institute.

Mitchell, C. (2019, May 30). Southwest Airlines SWOT Analysis & Recommendations. Panmore Institute.


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