Anne Wiseman, VP of Human Resources at FORUM Credit Union, shares the key trait they are looking for when hiring, what surprises her about their employee engagement, and how they stay on the Best Places to Work in Indiana list.
Anne Wiseman is the VP of Human Resources at FORUM Credit Union, headquartered in Fishers, IN. Anne is celebrating her 20th year with FORUM Credit Union this year and is proud to share that FORUM has earned a Best Place to Work in Indiana distinction the last 12 of those 20 years.
Earning this award year after year is both valued and appreciated by Anne and the team at FORUM. With 13 locations and nearly 400 employees, FORUM listens to the feedback they receive from their employees to help position them for steady growth ahead.
We discussed Forum’s recruitment strategies, their dedication to employee development, and how they retain employees for decades.
What are you doing at FORUM Credit Union to highlight and promote your workplace culture to meet the recruiting needs for the number of locations you have?
Recruitment is a constant focus for FORUM as they currently have 13 locations and are continuing to grow.
Approximately 40% of their open positions are filled with internal candidates who are promoted to new opportunities in the organization. To support this continued growth, they have dedicated two full-time employees on the HR team to focus on talent acquisition and the full recruitment process.
The talent acquisition team shares information about the organization, their people and their culture through social media channels to help promote what it is like working at FORUM Credit Union. This also includes what they are doing to get involved in the community with activities and charitable efforts.
When it comes to keeping in touch with candidates that are applying to be part of the FORUM family, they communicate often to keep them informed of how their application is progressing. They take pride in their constant communication with these candidates as it represents the service approach they take not only externally with customers, but with their employees as well.
Which of your recruitment strategies have you found to be most beneficial and effective for you?
“A quick response always helps.”, replied Anne
They work to get back with candidates as quickly as possible. Through use of a recruiting app, the candidate can use the automated scheduling tool to select interview time that works best for their schedule.
Anne’s team also shares what it is like to work at FORUM with the candidates so that candidates can affirm if this may be the right place for them.
“No one wants to go into the recruiting black hole. We work hard to stay in communication.”
If candidates find they are not selected for the specific opportunity for which they apply, they are encouraged to apply for another role that may be better for them. The recruiting team at FORUM works very hard to keep their communication with the team very open and honest.
FORUM has been recognized for many years as an award-winning workplace. How has this impacted your recruiting efforts?
“It definitely helps! We have been on the Best Places to Work in Indiana list 12 times.”
They have found an increase in their visibility to candidates by maintaining this award status. Candidates share with Anne and her team that they are looking at lists such as Best Places to Work to see what organizations they may want to apply to. This includes candidates who may be looking to move to the Indy area as well as spouses of FORUM employees who may be relocating.
Knowing what a great recruitment tool this is, they proudly display this award on their website, job postings, and signage within their branches.
“It’s instantly recognizable, and credible. It has definitely been beneficial to us.”
FORUM has also earned a Training Top 100 award. They have a talented team that focuses on employee development. This coupled with the Best Places to Work award shows candidates who search their website that FORUM invests in their employees and are dedicated to providing development opportunities.
As an organization that has employees with 10-20+ year tenure, FORUM has found this to be a tremendous return on their time and investment in their employees.
Retaining employees for 10, 20 or more years, takes a strong effort. How are you keeping your employees engaged, and wanting to stay with your organization?
“It starts in the hiring because we definitely want to hire people that enjoy helping others.”
They are looking for qualities in the hiring process that show an aptitude for growth. Anne explained that FORUM offers a career lattice, not a career ladder. They focus on personal development as much as they do professional development. Also, they understand opportunities may present themselves in the form of a lateral move, which enables employees to learn skills in other areas of the organization.
Through employee recognition, incentive structures, accessibility to approachable leaders, Anne feels this makes a big difference in employee engagement.
Talk about your onboarding program and what you are doing early on to get your employees engaged.
From the time the offer letter is accepted by a candidate, that new employee received a preview booklet of their benefit package. They stay in touch with that candidate from the time the offer is accepted to the actual start date by sending a welcome postcard, FORUM swag gift, the hiring managers reach out to talk with or invite the new hire to meet in person. They allow their teams to be creative when welcoming their new staff.
Their new employee orientation is done in-person, even if they are a hybrid employee. During this time they get to meet the leadership team, learn about the history of FORUM, and have lunch with the executives.
“We set them up for success!”
In addition to meeting the leadership team, they also receive systems training, and resources to prepare them on the job. Perhaps one of the most empowering items shared with a new employee is FORUM’s mission, so that they can feel part of something bigger than themselves:
“To help our members with their financial dreams.”
How do you measure your employee engagement?
Anne said measuring their employee engagement is not an exact science, but she does feel it is appreciated by their employees. They look at the number of referrals, length of service, turnover data, and various data analytics to review all information.
Although Anne feels it can be tricky to quantify their exact engagement after evaluating engagement surveys, benchmarking and data they already have, they evaluate it all to learn what they should consider changing and what may be causing issues.
For example, through their employee engagement surveys they learned the employees were not pleased with the temperature in their building, saying it was too cold. They listened and acted. Now their employees receive a FORUM ¼ zip jacket delivered to them on their 90 days (¼ anniversary). How clever!
What has been the most surprising thing about employee engagement at FORUM Credit Union.
Anne was surprised by the employees’ responses of how much they value each other.
“They’ve built friendships and they never, ever want to let their colleagues down.”
During a big systems conversion, some employees had other opportunities that they turned down or postponed, because they did not want to let their teammates down or leave them without support during this big initiative. When employees are asked what they like the most about working at FORUM, their reply is, “It’s the people I work with.”
“I was amazed at the extent of their loyalty.”
What role has your leadership team had on this award-winning workplace journey that has lasted over a decade?
“They have been incredibly supportive of wanting to be a part of this.”
All of the senior leaders started at a different role at FORUM. Are you seeing a pattern here with their practice of promoting from within? They really live it!
Their CEO believes in the mission of the credit union, to help others, and encourages everyone to support their members’ financial dreams. They take this one step further with employees by encouraging them to reach for their career dreams. The CEO personally hands our birthday cards and anniversary gifts himself.
The leadership team is transparent on information specific to what is going on within the organization. On the FORUM employee’s intranet, they have an Executive Update banner where they provide information such as recaps from the executive team meeting, projects and assessments that are taking place, updates on organizational goal performance, financial perspective of the organization, and community involvement.
These leaders are also very open with employees about how they were promoted into the roles that they currently have. They encourage employees to consider other opportunities within the organization, to participate in FORUM’s Emerging Leaders program, to shadow others to learn from others in the organization.
“It’s about building relationships and connections. It can make a huge difference in their career.”
How do you maintain FORUM’s place on the Best Places to Work list?
“We are constantly evolving”.
Anne further explained that they are constantly looking at what they are doing now, what they could be doing differently, how they can get better and that they ask for employee feedback.
FORUM launched a podcast in 2022 called Career Dreams podcast. This is for their own employees, and anyone who may want to list. They want to reach more people, leveraging the technology they have, to involve others and lead differently. This was one of their reactions to having a way to reach out to all employees now that they have more working hybrid and remote.
Another way they maintain their award status is they simply listen to their employees. In a recent employee engagement survey, they received responses that employees want to spend more time together. Specifically, they wanted to get back to gathering and connecting as they did when they hosted employee cookouts. They are listening to these requests and planning events and training that respond to the employee feedback for events and development.
Talk about your process with reviewing employee engagement survey data.
They find it very helpful to benchmark against themselves. They are not just competing against other banks and credit unions; they are also looking at their own data. Specifically, they are looking at spikes and declines in measurement areas.
When reviewing data, they do ask themselves what changes need to be made. They are also looking at if they need to review how they communicated information. They consider what needs to communicate differently rather than simply changing what is shared.
After you analyze the data from the engagement survey, how do you share that information with your employees?
Anne shares the reports with their executive leaders first, including the employee comments. The data is analyzed for trends initially before presenting the information to the employees.
They then present a high-level report to the employees including areas that they scored well as well as areas that need improvement. They invite the employees to respond to follow up questions so that they can get further details from employees on areas where they would like to see improvement.
Their biggest focus is creating a safe space where employees can voice their opinions.
“I want people to feel like they have an anonymous way to share how they feel.”
What do you do to celebrate when you win the awards?
Because they are in various locations, they started in earlier years celebrating at each location with a breakfast or lunch for employees. Due to concerns with health and the recent pandemic, they ordered in individual wrapped meals. The meal isn’t the primary focus – it’s gathering employees to celebrate together.
Best Places to Work in Indiana hosts an awards banquet. FORUM conducts a lottery draw to determine who on their team gets to attend the awards banquet.
“Our employees like that they’ve had an opportunity to go and participate and be part of the event.”
What advice do you have for a company that is applying for a Best Place to Work award for the first time?
Anne feels it is best to share what is unique about your organization as well as the progress you are making with your company. She encourages people to share the incremental steps they are doing to make improvements within their company.
“Share what is good and what is improving, because I think that makes a difference.”
In closing, I ask all organizations being interviewed for this Award-Winning Workplace series this question…What is your success story that you want the striveHR audience to know about FORUM Credit Union, and how you have not only earned, but maintained an award-winning workplace status.
Anne said FORUM has several success stories.
They continue to evolve and to invest. They invest in their employees, so they have the development needed to be successful. They invest in their technology to ensure employees have what they need to do their job.
Their dedication to promoting from within has been a big success story for them.
When hiring new employees, they hire people that want to help others, which supports their mission.
They provide opportunities for their employees to connect with others, build relationships, build mentorships, and connect with the community.
They help members with their financial dreams, and they help employees with their career dreams.
Anne has learned that to get employee feedback you must earn their trust as a listener first. She has also learned that there is not only one way to measure the engagement of your employees. This is why they have placed such a high value in obtaining feedback from employees through engagement surveys year after year. When you dedicate your intentions to employee engagement through methods such as surveys, your commitment to the work is evident through your sustained efforts. It’s a repetitive cycle of listening, acting, measuring and reporting back that shows your employees you are focused on fostering a workplace culture where you value their ideas and input. The moment you stop, you may see your feedback stops as well. As you continue repeatedly with the cycle of listening, acting, measuring and reporting back, you gain trust and your employees feel heard.
Anne Wiseman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | LinkedIn
Did hearing this success story motivate you to learn more? Check out the 6 Perks to Becoming an Award-Winning Workplace.
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