Unless you are part of the armed services, you might never have heard of insurance company USAA, based in San Antonio. Its customers are military personnel and their families. The company ranks 189th on the Fortune 500 list, with revenues of just under $12 billion, and its automated call-distribution system, the largest in the world, handles more than 16 million transactions a day.

It would be a mistake to believe that because USAA is so huge, it doesn't offer its employees and customers that personal touch. Not only does USAA treat its employees right, but its employees treat its customers right, which is reflected in an astounding customer retention rate of 97 percent and extremely high employee retention.

It All Starts With Values

USAA's company values are expressed to employees in the form of “PRIDE principles.” Among them:

  • LIVE THE GOLDEN RULE — Treat others with courtesy and respect.
  • BE A LEADER — Everyone can be a leader, even if you only lead yourself.
  • PARTICIPATE AND CONTRIBUTE — The success of USAA is everyone's responsibility.
  • PURSUE EXCELLENCE — Relentlessly search for improvement.
  • WORK AS A TEAM — Teamwork promotes innovation and encourages creativity.

Family-Friendly Perks

The company's outstanding benefits were designed with families in mind. The majority of USAA's full-time employees work a four-day, 38-hour workweek. At its Sacramento offices, USAA has built a 14,000-square-foot child-care facility with room for 126 children — one of five child-care centers it has established.

The company also puts employee fitness high on its list of priorities. At its Hampton Roads, Va., offices, a fitness center offers a full range of aerobic workout equipment and weight benches, saunas, steam rooms, and stocked locker rooms. Outside is a jogging trail that crosses a short bridge to the company recreation island, complete with a covered picnic area and volleyball, basketball, and tennis courts.

Training and Development

Another company priority is employee training and development. New hires receive an extensive orientation and 10 weeks of company training. USAA has an in-house training staff of more than 200 employees. At its San Antonio headquarters, 60 different classes are offered on-site by six different area colleges.

This is just a glimpse at a truly exceptional company. An overarching culture of concern for its employees is illustrated not only in its value statement but in the benefits and incentives offered. As employee David Hooker, described it, “I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather go; I can't think of another company I'd enjoy nearly as much as I enjoy it here.”

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego; best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees; and a frequent presenter to management groups and conferences. For more information, visit www.nelson-motivation.com.