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Activity title

Personnel Retention in the Armed Forces

Activity Reference



Human Factors and Medicine

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attrition, job satisfaction, Military personnel retention, organizational commitment, retention strategies


An ET meeting on Retention in the Armed Forces (HFM ET-176) took place in January 2019 in Germany with participants from 9 nations. Existing research on military personnel retention is often ad hoc and not systematic and the ET agreed that this issue could be well-informed through an RTG. This activity will also build on HFM RTG-107 on Recruiting and Retention of Military Personnel (published 2007) that focused heavily on recruitment and the review of published literature by providing an update on current issues, focusing more specifically on the key issues related to retention, and most importantly, conducting primary research to empirically validate and extend existing knowledge. This activity will also complement 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 personnel flows and manning issues (e.g., using ORIGAME simulation) to help explain the attrition patterns proffered by the SAS group through a social-scientific perspective


The overall objective of this activity is to build on existing research on retention-related issues in the Armed Forces, as well as to conduct primary empirical research, to provide an analytically rigorous understanding of this critical personnel issue. More specifically, the RTG objectives are to: • Review and assess current research to identify the main work and organizational factors related to retention and attrition in the military (e.g., relational and transactional drivers, push and pull factors, and limited employment contracts). This will result in a comprehensive review and synthesis of the main factors influencing retention and attrition in the armed forces. • Share and exchange methods, tools, and capabilities for empirical research in this domain. • Develop and conduct a multinational personnel survey on military retention. This will result in a cross-national scientific survey instrument to measure personnel retention and the drivers thereof. Ultimately, it will result in cross-national data set and scientific results of the main factors affecting military personnel retention, including examination of both cross-national similarities and differences. • Conduct an international survey of subject matter experts to inform the factors affecting retention and attrition and to identify strategies for increasing retention (tapping into the perspectives of military scholars, human resources professionals, military policy makers, military leaders, and military career/occupational managers). This will result in a scientific survey instrument geared at subject matter experts, and a summary of subject matter experts’ knowledge and recommendations to inform policies, strategies, and policies for improving military personnel retention. • Identify and provide recommendations of retention-related practices, policies, programs, and strategies for increasing retention.


• Work and organizational drivers of retention and attrition in the armed forces (including the relational and transactional drivers, types of employment contract(s), and ‘push’ and ‘pull’ drivers of retention). • 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. This will fill current knowledge gaps, as delineated in the expected achievements section above.

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