by Nathaniel E. Urban
The purpose of this case study is to analyze the ethical perspectives found within the organizational culture of the United Services Automobile Association (USAA). USAA is an insurance and financial services company whose customer base primarily consists of United States military and their families. The case study will look at the qualities of The USAA Standard and will later describe how USAA trains its employees to act ethically when handling the particular needs of their customers. A critical analysis will include a discussion of the ethical standards of an organization that I am currently a part of.
The qualities of The USAA Standard that employees are expected to demonstrate include loyalty, service, and trust. Employees are expected to remain loyal to the needs of their customers first and to offer the best support possible. Service is one of USAA’s core values that reminds employees that their service to the customer is of greatest importance. Employees are to be communicating with honesty and to, “Keep my commitments to promised actions”, in order to build trusting relationships with co-workers (USAA, 2015). Other similar qualities include encouragement, curiosity, innovation, and honesty.
The USAA Standard aligns with the relationship-based ethical perspective, which assumes that ethical behavior is built and cultivated through high quality and honest communication. Four of the six sections of the standard make at least one reference to how an employee’s communication should be with a co-worker or a customer. Their communication should contain empathy, transparency, the ability to test new ideas, and open enough to discuss questions that may improve the company’s work. Communication also leads to better relationship development with a customer due to how information and emotions like empathy are exchanged.
The training of USAA employees is unique because it provides particular capabilities of how they should act ethically with their customers who are mostly military members. USAA is dedicated to their customers and they want their employees to understand the perspectives of the customers they serve. The training process for USAA employees is, “Essentially a ‘boot camp’ for employees, a 10-week experience, simulating the challenges that military personnel experience every day. Trainees are given stern commands, heavy gear to wear, and military standard meals ready to eat (MREs) for lunch” (Fleurke, 2009). The training allows employees to acquire a sense of support and compassion with the majority of USSA’s customers before they begin to respond to the respected needs of a customer.
The 10-week experience also includes running several miles in formation and marching together daily which is, “One of many things USAA does to better educate its employees about the armed services” (Shevory, 2014). A better understanding of a company’s customer makes for a better service that an employee can provide to that customer. A USAA employee is exposed to a minor glimpse of what the life of military member is like. “The company takes every opportunity to remind employees what USAA’s customers’ lives are like” (McGregor, 2005). The 10-week experience does not only include physical challenges. USAA employees include hundreds of military veterans who share their experiences during training.
My fraternity, the Phi Kappa Psi Ohio Theta chapter, is an organization that is run similar to a business; the chapter has funds, a public relations image, parliamentary procedures, fundraising events, and so forth. In order to guide the decision making process in all of these areas there is a set of ethical standards in place so the chapter is able to grow and secure its future. Four ethical standards of the chapter are to give aid and sympathy, deepen one’s integrity, represent the spirit of all fraternities, and bring honor to oneself and the fraternity.
These ethical standards are essential to the chapter because they are what every member can personally devote time to and what can guide important chapter-related decisions. A member giving aid and sympathy draws back to Phi Kappa Psi’s founding principle of the great joy of serving others. Deepening one’s integrity means that a member has the maturity to do what is morally right and sometimes difficult. For a member to represent the spirit of all fraternities means that he carries himself in such a respectable manner that he is a representation of what every fraternity member should appear as. Bringing honor to oneself and the fraternity means that a member restrains himself from doing anything that could potentially harm his character or the reputation of the fraternity.
I would train my fraternity’s new members to adopt these ethical standards by leading them in an in depth study of what these standards may already mean to them and what they mean to other members of our chapter. It would basically be a several weeks-long study of discussion, reflection, and practicality on these standards. A new member, like a new employee, “May understand the culture of your organization, but may be unsure of how to embrace it” (Carabelli, 2016). The importance is for the new members to learn what we have learned and the only method to do so is for us to teach them. The crucial part is that our new members are educated on the standards that have guided our chapter for years before us and that they teach the same methods to the new members after them.
Carabelli, C. (2016). How is Organizational Culture Passed to New Employees? Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/organizational-culture-passed-new-employees-14078.html
Fleurke, X. (2009, January). Walking a Mile in the Shoes of Your Customer. Retrieved from http://www.corporate-ethics.org/walking-a-mile-in-the-shoes-of-your-customer/
McGregor, J. (2005, October 1). Employee Innovator: USAA. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/53782/employee-innovator-usaa
Shevory, K. (2014, September 1). Boot Camp for Bankers. Retrieved from http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/boot-camp-for-bankers/
USAA. (2015). The USAA Standard. Retrieved from https://www.usaajobs.com/docs/USAA-Standard.pdf