Outside the Box: Companies should honor military service beyond Veterans Day

I’ve always revered those in the military. Growing up in India, I admired my grand uncle who served in the British Indian Army and trained at the Royal Military Academy. Even now, I proudly display his mementos of valor and great moral character at my home.

Though many of my ancestors and relatives served in the military, I took another path and became a banker in New York. During and after the 2008 financial crisis, I served as the CEO of CitiMortgage. And now I am the CEO of Caliber Home Loans, the third-largest non-bank lending firm in the U.S. Through my time in corporate America, I’ve learned not only how important (and intelligent) it is to hire veterans, but how the private sector can support and honor these heroes and their families.

Here are three ways that your company can do the right thing, by serving those in the armed services:

1. Hire veterans and reservists: Soldiers and sailors are incredibly well-trained not just at doing one job — but performing many roles. During their careers, military professionals must move locations and change their assignments often, which makes them quick learners. So, when you’re looking to hire someone for a role, don’t let the lack of “sector” experience deter you from hiring someone in the military. Because when you hire someone in the military, you are bringing someone into your organization that has the right values — and they can always learn how to perform the tasks and duties of a job.

For example, one of my colleagues serves in the U.S. Army Reserve. Specialist Reema Khan recently returned from 20 weeks of active duty service, in which she completed Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training. In her civilian career, she is a senior business analyst who works in mortgage operations. Remarkably, she excels in two careers, while some of us, myself included, find it daunting to perform well in just one. Khan is admired and respected at my company, and indeed we actively look to hire veterans and reservists like her. Talented candidates with military backgrounds can be found through organizations such as Hire Heroes USA and Recruit Military.

2. Institute strong policies for reserve personnel: When reservists who work at Caliber Home Loans are called to active duty, we make up the differential in their compensation. Indeed, reservists can experience a pay cut when they serve on a full-time basis, and this can put them in a difficult situation financially, as they must also help provide for their families.

There are federal laws that support Employment Rights of the National Guard and Reserve. But these should be the baseline, and the private sector can go above and beyond by making sure reserve personnel don’t have to think twice about serving their country. Your organization could commit to keep your reservists fully compensated while they’re deployed. Doing so will not only boost morale but also help your firm attract talented reservists who will want to work at your company.

3. Public thanks: They say those in the military can be “quiet professionals.” They’re not looking for public praise and attention. Rather, military professionals are focused on doing their job and keeping the rest of us safe. Accordingly, it’s important for companies to hold events that recognize the services members in their midst. We hold an annual Veteran’s Day lunch at Caliber Home Loans, in which we invite leaders from the military community to speak and share their wisdom. It’s one of my favorite events because we are reminded of the values that are important to cherish as citizens.

Take the time this Veteran’s Day to publicly recognize the reservists and veterans in your midst. Doing so will send an important message to everyone in your organization that you honor and salute those who serve.

Sanjiv Das is the CEO of Caliber Home Loans. He was the CEO of CitiMortgage during the 2008 credit crisis.

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