For over 40 years, Southwest Airlines has been profitable in the difficult airline industry, which has been done largely by using simplicity and uniformity of operations to overcome the difficulties faced by other carriers. Simplicity means that fewer things can go wrong to foul the whole process.
While other airlines may employ the use of a dozen different types of planes, Southwest generally uses only one type: the Boeing 737. That’s uniformity. The advantages of this are many. Stocking parts for repairs is just for a single plane, and mechanics need only to know how to repair that one plane. The reduction in training costs alone must be significant, not to mention storing parts and managing their availability. With every plane being the same, flight crews are ready in an instant if a plane is removed from service and replaced with another of the same model. If there is a slight difference in seating configuration, no problem at Southwest—you board by groups and sit where you please. Other airlines have to struggle with reissuing boarding passes and the disgruntled customers who lost an aisle seat and are now stuck in the middle. With Southwest, just pick a new seat and off you go.
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Rather than using large hubs, most of Southwest’s flights are point to point, which allows them to avoid delays and cancellations that other airlines experience if their hubs are dealing with bad weather or have slowdowns. These issues do not affect Southwest’s whole system. Uniformity and simplicity seem to equal profitability.
Interviewing after Wicklander-Zulawski Training
So let’s consider the management of an organization’s interviewers. How many people do you have who are allowed to conduct an employee interview? What are the criteria for allowing them to be selected to interview an associate? How are they evaluated?
If you only manage a few interviewers, it is probably not a big deal if there is no uniformity in the interview process. When it was just Doug Wicklander and Dave Zulawski, it was easy for them to know what was going on in the interview room right there in the office. As the company began to grow and expand geographically, it was time to change.
We often hear supervisors say, “When they come back from your interviewing course, I just tell them to take what WZ says and use what feels right to them.” That would be like having us work on your brakes—got a few extra parts leftover, but we’re pretty sure it will stop when you press on the brake pedal. Sometimes we also hear, “OK, that’s what they said, but here is what I do.” Either way, the Wicklander-Zulawski training is going to be less effective. Add to that what people forget, and the problems escalate.
Much of the research on memory and its retention by a student can be disheartening from a training standpoint. Research on memory indicates that upwards of 70 percent of the information presented in a training environment is lost in the first 24 hours. With all we have to remember, such as where we put our keys, the brain does not know what information is important to retain and what can be dumped. However, when the learner is asked to recall information in the days following the learning experience, they are capable of remembering more of the information for a longer period of time.
In fact, Professor Henry Roediger and his laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis conducted a study where students were asked to read several essays. Afterward, some were asked booster questions forcing them to recall the material, and some were asked to reread the essays. Those who were asked to reread the essays did significantly poorer in retention of the material than those who were tested using the review questions. There are hundreds of additional studies clearly showing that using the material in the weeks after training can dramatically improve a learner’s retention of the material.
So what happens when the learner returns from a Wicklander-Zulawski training seminar? Is there a monitoring and measuring program in place to test the learner’s knowledge and retention? Is the material put into practice right away?
This focus on the material after the program tells the brain the material is important and needs to be retained for future use. What happens when the learner returns from training under the guidance of a supervisor who does not remember the material or is using some watered-down modified version and evaluating the learner or, in this case, the new interviewer? A lot of those called on to evaluate interviewers within an organization are long removed from the field, and their initial training in interviewing is probably dated. So are they reinforcing the class’s learning objectives or passing on some potentially bad habits?
If we examine some of the top sports camps in the world, there is a lesson we can learn. These camps focus on doing the basic fundamentals correctly, which leads to success. We have several people who come back to our Wicklander-Zulawski training classes annually because they work alone and want to refresh what they used to do or had forgotten. Essentially, they lost their golf swing.
Another reason to monitor training is to minimize liability. Over the years, interview and interrogation training has gone from the extreme of no training whatsoever to mentoring with a senior interviewer followed by in-house training, then external training, and ultimately monitoring and measuring performance supporting the interview training. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have a moving target on training over the years, and we now face the question of how we are sure learners are actually applying the methods taught in class. How would your organization answer this question?
Many organizations now prefer uniformity of interviewing styles. Read more in the full article, “Uniformity?“, which was originally published in 2016. This excerpt was updated August 3, 2017.