“Culture is the DNA of the Company”: An Interview with JetBlue’s SVP of Talent, Rachel McCarthy

On last year’s list of the best companies to work for in the US, JetBlue secured an impressive spot in the top 25, coming in at number 21. In 2017, however, the low-cost airline buckled its seat belt, secured its tray table and soared all the way up to the number 3 spot.

So what is it about JetBlue that has led to such impressive results? The company’s focus on community service, its dedication to diversity and a family feel among colleagues have all received praise from employees in reviews published on Indeed. But perhaps one employee summarized it best: “The culture in JetBlue is like no other. They really value their employees and their customers.”

The word “culture” is bandied about a lot these days. But at JetBlue it goes much deeper than providing great snacks and game rooms to employees. To learn more, we spoke with Rachel McCarthy, JetBlue’s Senior Vice President of Talent & Learning.

A culture of crewmembers

JetBlue was founded on “bringing humanity back to air travel,” says McCarthy. At the very start of the company, the founders put the firm’s mission in the forefront, identifying five core values that JetBlue would stand for: safety, caring, integrity, passion and fun.

“They help form the foundation of who we are,” says McCarthy. These five values are realized in interesting ways. From interns to the CEO, everybody at JetBlue is a “crewmember”, while managers, directors and executives are “crewleaders.” A philosophy of “servant leadership” keeps crewleaders in close contact with crewmembers.

“As a senior leader, you’re there to serve your crew,” McCarthy explains. “Our executive team’s offices are exactly the same size as a director’s. We have a very open plan office here in Long Island City, and the offices are all in the center. We do not have the windows. We let our team sit by the windows.”

Crewleaders also get hands-on to make sure their teams are successful. Senior leaders can also be seen working shifts on planes and in airports, tagging bags or helping customers carry their luggage.

“We help check customers in at the airport. We’re serving food at barbecues on holidays for our crew, or running food to the gates at Thanksgiving,” says McCarthy.

You can even find senior leaders putting on blue gloves and picking up trash in the planes.

“It doesn’t matter what level you are in the company, the expectation is we all pitch in and we’re a team and we’re going to work together. So, everyone cleans the plane.”

The importance of “giving back”

A wider sense of community is also crucial to JetBlue’s distinct culture, where “giving back” is an important value.

Not only do employees go on team volunteer outings (planting trees in Long Island City, for example), but they can also enjoy the company’s annual celebration recognizing team members who’ve logged 150+ hours of service in the past year.

The company’s commitment to service also involves directly giving back to employees. In fact, JetBlue has its own nonprofit – the JetBlue Crewmember Crisis Fund, which is dedicated to…

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