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Activity title

Retention in the Armed Forces

Activity Reference

HFM-ET-176

Panel

Human Factors and Medicine

Security Classification

PUBLIC RELEASE

Status

Planning

Activity type

ET

Start date

2018

End date

2019

Keywords

attrition, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, Retention, turnover

Background

Military personnel are a critical component for the effectiveness of the Armed Forces within which they serve. Although attrition of valued personnel is costly for most organizations, it is more costly in military organizations than in the general labour force due to the unique factors related to military service. In particular, many of the requirements of military service require skills and knowledge that can only be acquired through institutionalized military experience and cannot be acquired outside of a military context. Further, to this, Armed Forces do not generally make use of lateral entry options, but instead require that personnel be selected, trained, promoted, and retained from within the organization. As such, personnel retention of trained and valued personnel is a critical objective for the Armed Forces, one that is continually challenged in today’s competitive and changing labour context (affected by factors such as demographic change, increasing diversity and aging populations, globalization, and technological advances). This initiative aims to examine key retention-related challenges facing today’s modern militaries, as well as practices, strategies, programs, and policies for facilitating the retention of military members. A main focus will be on developing empirical methods for collaborative cross-national inquiry to inform this critical personnel issue.

Objectives

The overall objective of this activity is to build on the existing research through analysis of the recent research on retention-related issues in the armed forces, as well as development and actualization of primary empirical research, to provide an analytically rigorous understanding of this critical personnel issue. The immediate objectives of the ET are to: • Explore the potential for establishing a Research Task Group (RTG) and identify subject matter experts as potential members; • Develop the terms of reference (ToR) for the RTG; and • Formulate a program of work for the prospective RTG, including deliverables and timelines. The formative objectives of the ET and prospective RTG are to: • Review and assess current knowledge and research in the area of retention, to identify the main work and organizational factors related to retention and attrition in the military; • Examine key group differences that affect military retention (e.g., sex, age, rank, ethnicity, military occupation); • Share and exchange methods, tools, and capabilities for empirical research in the domain of military retention; • Develop a multinational study on military retention to identify nation-specific and common drivers of retention and attrition; • Conduct an international survey of subject matter experts to inform the influencers of retention and attrition and strategies for increasing retention (tapping into the perspectives of military scholars, human resources professionals, military policy makers, military leaders, and military career/occupational managers); and • Identify retention-related practices, policies, programs, and strategies and assess their efficacy or potential efficacy, to generate recommendations for increasing retention. Note that this activity builds on the previous HFM RTG-107 on Recruiting and Retention of Military Personnel (published in 2007; which focused more heavily on recruitment and on the review of published literature and existing documentation), by updating current issues, focusing more specifically on the key issues related to retention, and most importantly, conducting primary research to empirically validate and build on current knowledge in this domain. This activity will also complement the work of SAS-128 RTG-063 Modelling Personnel Flows: Identifying Potential Solutions to Recruiting and Retention Strategies (to be completed in 2019), which is based on modeling and forecasting personnel flows and manning issues (e.g., using the ORIGAME simulation platform) to help explain the attrition patterns and forecasts proffered by the SAS group through a social-scientific perspective, as explicated in the above objectives.

Topics

• Work and organizational drivers of retention and attrition in the armed forces (including the relational and transactional drivers); • Effects of individual and demographic influencers of retention (e.g., sex, age, ethnicity, military occupation); • Exchange of methods, tools, and capabilities for empirical research in the domain of military retention; • Development of a broad multinational empirical study on military retention to identify nation-specific and common retention factors; • Development of an international survey of subject matter experts to inform the drivers of attrition and strategies for increasing retention (tapping into the perspectives of military scholars, human resources professionals, military policy makers, military leaders, and military career/occupational managers); and • Identification of retention-related practices, policies, programs, and strategies and assessment of their efficacy or potential efficacy, and consequent recommendations for increasing retention.

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