Budreau Fosters Culture of Learning, Collaboration
When Jenny Budreau was a child she dreamed about being a teacher.
Although she dismissed it when she got older, somehow, along the way during her 30 years at the $962 million FORUM Credit Union, she's become a teacher who has helped influence and foster a culture of caring, learning, service and collaboration.
Since joining the Fishers, Ind.-based credit union right after college, the latest Women to Watch honoree has lived by 10 simple words: “If it is meant to be, it's up to me.” She got her start in the branches and worked her way through the areas of retail, business development, training and human resources. In her current role as COO, she oversees the 113,000-member credit union's retail efforts, human resources and organizational development.
“Whether it's personal or professional growth it's your responsibility to make it happen. No one else can do it for you,” Budreau said. “Never stop learning and don't back down from challenging yourself. I stumbled into credit unions and have been open to working in a lot of different areas across the organization.”
That belief in oneself she said holds particularly true for women looking to get ahead. “Never miss an opportunity to connect and collaborate with other women leaders,” the FORUM COO said. “We can step into greater roles if we let ourselves.”
As someone who enjoys inspiring, engaging and connecting with others, she takes lifelong learning seriously and has helped FORUM remain focused on the education and training of its team.
For example, some six years ago Budreau spearheaded the FORUM Future Leaders program, to identify, develop and engage potential leaders from within. More than 20 individuals apply annually to be among the 10 to 12 selected to participate. The program consists of educational opportunities, mentoring with FORUM leaders, job shadowing and project work.
“I believe that having exposure to different parts of the business helps individuals identify where their true talent may be, while giving them a glimpse under the hood,” Budreau said. “If we want to attract and retain that top talent, we need to focus on what our people need to be successful and engaged. Leaders should always be asking how do I develop my team so they continue to grow day to day.”
Over the past several years the FFL program has helped improve retention and encouraged promotion from within the credit union. In addition, FORUM was recently named a Best Places to Work in Indiana for the third consecutive year, ranked third among the large company category and was the highest ranking financial institution for this category in the state.
Two years ago she created the Service Revolution, which focused on member appreciation, employee recognition, and creating opportunities for employees to work together from different teams.
Designed around the focus of helping members live their financial dreams, the Service Revolution has brought both member- facing and back-office teammates together in serving FORUM members through fun activities from grilling hot dogs, serving refreshments in the lobby and drive-thru to creating a fair like atmosphere at designated locations.
Service Revolution Days have helped energize the team while having fun in the workplace. To further its reputation in the community, Budreau also launched FORUM Spirit. Each year staffers nominate charities and vote on one charity of choice. Throughout the year the entire organization rallies around making a difference for the charity of choice.
For example, FORUM purchased a minibus for a local homeless shelter for families so children could get to activities like sports and camps. This year the credit union is helping an organization that comes to the aid of abuse victims.
“The real credit goes to the great team and culture we have here –not just one person,” Budreau said. “You don't have to be in management to be a leader. It's about finding opportunities to challenge yourself. As you stretch, you learn.”
The FORUM executive also credited the collaborative environment to a foundation of listening and communication.
“Reach out to others early in the process, be organized so no one feels like their time has just been wasted, and don't wait until you have a problem to build relationships. Network and get to know people before you need something from them,” she said. “If you want the buy-in then you can't walk in with sweeping assumptions and push your idea. Remember it's not about you but the people working with you as a team to accomplish something great.”
Breaking down those silos has helped create and build a cohesive unit at FORUM, fostering an environment where employees have been excited about working together to resolve issues.
Collaborating across departments in some capacity has simply become part of the culture.
“I think that we enjoy what we do permeates throughout the organization,” Budreau said. “When we do make changes we share the compelling reason and purpose for that change and how it will benefit our members, employees or the organization as a whole.”
Never one to back away from a challenge, Budreau has always strived to lead teams to find solutions and identify key takeaway lessons from every experience.
“Many of our initiatives at FORUM came from a need to be creative due to limited resources, people, money, etc. So our approach has always been ok how can we accomplish this,” she said. “It's about how can we compete? How do we continue to evolve and deliver the services our members want and need across different channels?”
Budreau added that to remain relevant credit unions can't afford to simply pay lip service or ignore the tough challenges ahead.
“We all know we need younger members but are we doing it? Have we taken steps to have them in our boardrooms for example,” she said. “We’ve got to start listening to those younger voices, to somehow have them be part of making those forward thinking decisions that will better position us in the future.”
It starts with building awareness of the credit union difference. “Instead of what is a credit union, we need consumers to start thinking, ‘who needs a bank when I could be part of a credit union?’” the FORUM COO said.