Imagine sitting on a porch on a comfortable afternoon, with family, friends, and neighbors all around you.
The menu includes homemade fettuccine alfredo and refreshing beverages. The discussion is lively, the atmosphere welcoming.
This pleasant experience repeats itself most weekends at the home of Ruth Montana, director of human resources (HR), at $2.9 billion asset Keesler Federal Credit Union, Biloxi, Miss.
“I love cooking and entertaining,” she says. “I enjoy spending time with family. I truly value family.”
This welcoming spirit carries over naturally to Montana’s HR role at the credit union.
“Keesler feels like family,” she says, adding that she’s appreciated credit unions since she joined one at the age of 21. “I knew, right off the bat, that credit unions were special. They’re easy, very family-oriented, and they have very personal connections with members.”
Montana’s six-year tenure as Keesler Federal’s HR director has been marked by many accomplishments, including spearheading the credit union’s KEEP (Keesler Employee Education Program) initiative.
The program launched in 2018 when one of the credit union’s strategic objectives was to create a culture where trust, teamwork, accountability, and service to the member is a way of life. To achieve this objective, leadership began focusing on team member development.
For Montana’s part, she researched resources within the Biloxi community. And in conjunction with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s workforce development team, she learned about a Department of Labor-registered bank branch manager apprenticeship program, which consisted of a combination of classes and on-the-job learning.
KEEP is the first financial industry-registered and the only online-registered apprenticeship program in the state of Mississippi. It provides a career path for managers, assistant managers, and financial service representatives to become branch managers.
Participants earn a nationally recognized credential, academic credit toward post-secondary credits and degree, and certified job proficiency.
Keesler Federal pays the entire cost of program coursework, with assistance from the State of Mississippi in the form of workforce enhancement training dollars.
Montana is also a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)-certified training and development specialist and an active volunteer locally. She is past president of the local SHRM chapter, Gulf Coast Human Resource Association, and continues to volunteer as a certification director.
“I care about people. I truly do,” she says. “Working in HR lets me connect with so many people on so many different levels, while providing coaching, guidance, and support when they need it.
"I have an open-door policy, and most people are comfortable approaching me because they know I’ll listen and be fair. Relationships are a priority for me.”