Profile | Kelby Tansey
By Grant Stewart
Southwest Airlines employs more than 62,000 people across the country, so how could one compare its culture to Harding University? According to Kelby Tansey (’16), manager of recruitment marketing for Southwest, the company puts its employee community at the forefront, a value Harding shares.
When Tansey received Southwest’s highest employee recognition, the President’s Award, in 2022, this value of community was revealed even further. Recipients are nominated by their peers and then selected by their leadership.
Tansey was honored for her work in building a team and navigating them through a strong recruitment need in the tough labor market of early 2021. Tansey and her team of five employees innovated several new methods for recruiting and hiring quality employees during this time, including setting up Southwest’s very first employee referral system within two weeks. This system has generated 36,000 referrals since August 2021.
Tansey has been a member of the Southwest family since 2015, when she started as a community affairs and grassroots intern. In spring 2016, she returned as a community programs and engagement intern. In May 2016, she moved to Dallas, the day after graduation and started her full-time career at Southwest.
For future Harding graduates and others looking for jobs, Tansey advises doing research on a company’s culture before applying or accepting a position.
“Pursue those companies where you really value their culture, even if it’s not necessarily your dream role,” Tansey said. “The right company culture can be more helpful for your career in the long run if you go somewhere with a great fit for your values.”
That’s how Tansey’s career developed at Southwest. After graduating from Harding with a marketing degree, she began working as a people coordinator, rising through other positions to take on her current role.
Tansey continues to look for more ways to grow Southwest’s culture and workforce with great employees. This year, her team found new ways to share company values with potential employees through an employer brand framework and a fresh career site. They also refreshed the use of Southwest’s candidate relationship management system, which streamlines the hiring process by finding and nurturing talented non-applicants to contact. This system has contributed to approximately 3,000 new hires in 2022.