Remaking a Company for the Digital Natives

Financial services company USAA wants its employees engaged — and it’s turning to social for the tools.

The Gallup Great Workplace Award was created to recognize companies that have figured out the best ways to create an engaged workplace culture. In 2014, USAA was one of just 36 companies worldwide to receive the award.

That’s a feather in the cap of Renee Horne, the vice president of social business at USAA, who joined the company in 2012. She is part of the team of people who recognized that social business tools could be used for talent recruitment and new employee engagement at USAA, the Texas-based Fortune 500 company that offers a variety of financial services to military members and their families, from auto insurance and credit cards to life insurance and more.

“Social media gives us an opportunity to provide a showcase into what it’s like to work at USAA,” with videos, photos and live feeds on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Social tools also are fueling internal communities where USAA’s 26,000 employees can share ideas and find answers from colleagues they’ve never met.

In a conversation with Gerald C. (Jerry) Kane, an associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and guest editor for MIT Sloan Management Review’s Social Business Big Idea Initiative, Horne details the increase of digital natives in the USAA workforce, the use of metrics to measure social’s impact, and the coming rise in demand for social strategists.

So how did USAA get started with social business?

What’s interesting for us is [that] we have always been a word-of-mouth company, for more than 90 years. We started where military officers were self-insuring, and basically through word-of-mouth, with one telling the next about USAA. That was largely how we grew — until more recent years, of course.

Like most major brands in the mid-2000s, we established a presence with social media communities, third-party platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We were largely focusing on increasing brand affinity and monitoring to better service our members and maintain our reputation.