The WestJet Story: Recognition is Who They Are

June 26, 2018 Aaron Kinne


Listening to WestJet’s Stacey Rodgers – both on the Workhuman stage and on WorkHuman Radio (embedded above) – it suddenly dawns on you. At great companies like WestJet, a Canadian low-cost airline, creating a culture of recognition isn’t something they do.

It’s who they are.

As Stacey, WestJet’s program manager of leadership & organizational effectiveness, sums it up, “[Recognition] has been built into who we are.”

It makes smart business sense to instill recognition – and the human work culture it advances – as a core of a company’s being. In her WorkHuman 2018 breakout presentation, Stacey noted that, according to Gallup, more than 65% of workers are disengaged. Another 16% are actively disengaged – which means they could actively hurt your organization’s reputation, culture, and bottom line.

But it’s the 51% of workers Gallup calls “simply not engaged” that particularly concerns Stacey. Why? Because, as she puts it, “These people are harder to spot. These are the people who may come in with a smile on their face … and they’re putting in only the minimum amount required.”

And if you’re wondering why all this matters – after all, they are hitting their targets – try these numbers on for size: Each year, disengaged employees cost America some $450-$550 billion dollars in decreased productivity.

That’s one reason why at WestJet, recognition is the centerpiece of who they are. In fact, WestJet employees deeply identify themselves with the company’s mission – so much so that they call themselves “WestJetters.” As Stacey explains, “That’s who we are. We’re WestJetters. That says, ‘I’m part of something. I’m part of something bigger than myself.’”

“As human beings, we all want to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves – that the work we do is connected to something. And it matters.”

The numbers testify to the company’s commitment to building a human work culture. In 2017, using the Workhuman recognition solution, 13,000 WestJetters sent 70,000 “High Fives” (recognitions). That equals approximately five “High Fives” sent and received for every WestJetter!

At WestJet, building a culture of recognition is also manifested in the way the organization approaches continuous performance development. In her WorkHuman Radio interview, Stacey notes, “We spend time on the skills they need to have as leaders to develop their people. And one of those skills is around feedback.”

In a nod to the WorkHuman presentation of Dr. David Rock, she shares her outlook on feedback: “Stop giving feedback and start asking for feedback … Pointing your finger – even if your intention is good – might still show as a judgement to the other person.”

In both her on-stage presentation and radio interview, Stacey emphasized the notion that great companies take an active role in defining their culture.

As she puts it, “We create our culture with intention … if you don’t focus on your culture, it will grow anyway. And you just might not end up with the culture that you want.”

About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.