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Employee Stories: SWAG Deck

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At Southwest Airlines, gratitude is a way of life. We especially love recognizing our Employees for all their hard work and dedication to our Company and Customers. Our Employee recognition program—Southwest Airlines Gratitude (SWAG)—encompasses all the ways we recognize our Employees. It’s the place Employees go to see the recognition they receive, send recognition to others, and spend the SWAG Points they earn. SWAG Points are the common currency for recognition at Southwest. Employees can turn the SWAG Points they earn into meaningful rewards in the SWAG Shop like Guest Passes, Rapid Rewards® points, dozens of gift cards, thousands of merchandise items, or tickets to concerts and events. In 2014, our People earned more than 1 billion SWAG Points, and were able to turn their points into something that was meaningful to them.  Here’s one such story from Jay Oros, Manager of Corporate Security:
I absolutely love three things:  the sun and soaking up some rays, being around great people and their families, and entertaining at my home.  Over the years, there have certainly been some memorable events at our home ranging from birthday and graduation parties, to family reunions, Super Bowls, and, of course, NASCAR parties. Some of these gatherings have become pretty sizable events, and we realized we needed some more space to entertain. Last spring, my wife, Jill, and I were sitting by the pool enjoying a cold beverage when she suggested we add a deck to the back of the pool.  We talked about different designs and features, deciding in the end that we needed just enough space to support a canopy to get some shade from the Texas heat. I told Jill we’d have to start budgeting for this project, seeing that construction material is not cheap—and then it hit me:  SWAG! I had redeemed SWAG points in the past for a new roller bag, and remembered they could also be redeemed for gift cards.  I jumped onto the computer and placed an order for my initial batch of Home Depot gift cards. As time went on, we continued our busy lives, and I continued to stock pile Home Depot gift cards. Unfortunately, last November, we lost Jill to an unexpected cardiac event.  You can imagine how life was no longer “business as usual” as our son Justin and I had our worlds turned upside down.  We made it through the holidays with the support of friends and family, and then here came a new year!  It took the first few months of 2015 to get into a routine with our new life. One evening in March, I found myself sitting beside the pool getting ready for another round of spring and started re-thinking the deck idea. I was ready to start entertaining again, and had been selected to host our annual “Jam Fest” in June, where Southwest Employees and Contractors get together every year to play some songs on our various instruments. Now that I had a deadline to incentivize my planning and building, I dusted off the ol’ Home Depot gift cards, purchased some basic supplies, and went to town on the initial work. deck1 Little did I know that Dallas would experience one of the wettest springs in history, but I pressed on with getting poles set and hanging lumber for the frame. deck2 My father offered to help me.  He may be 80 years old, but he can still sling hammers and run circles around the best of us—I owe all my construction acumen to him. deck3 The rain persisted, but we pressed on and could successfully pull off Jam Fest. It was a hit with everyone, and helped me get back in the saddle to entertain. deck4 At the end of the day, it’s just a deck.  But this simple structure has much more meaning.  From the original thought being generated by two people kicked back enjoying each other’s company, to the opportunity to spend time with your father while completing the project, and the satisfaction of seeing other people enjoying themselves. And, of course, it is also just one example of the awesome programs that Southwest Airlines offers called SWAG. When I tell people that the Company paid for this deck, they ask “Why?” and I reply: “You’re not going to believe this … I simply went to work!” Come have a cold one on the SWAG deck!             
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