Attrition: Another Casualty Of the Recession

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July 8, 2009: The U.S. Army is no longer paying $2,000 bonuses to troops who persuade someone to enlist. It was three years ago that the army established the bonus program, mainly to attract more recruits to the reserves (who were having a hard time attracting new recruits, what will all the reserve units being activated and sent to Iraq.) The active army lowered their standards a bit, and made their numbers. But even there, the bonus program helped. The bonus program was actually an addition to the Recruiting Assistant program (which allowed troops to work briefly with recruiters to attract more people to join.)

By 2007, the Army National Guard was on track to get the 70,000 new recruits it needs that year, and nearly 30 percent of those were brought in via the Recruiting Assistant program. The army has known, for a long time, that the best recruiter is a soldier, or a veteran. The Recruiting Assistant program takes advantage of this because the Recruiting Assistants tend to stay in touch with the men and women they have recruited, which is a big plus for the new recruit, trying to navigate army life for the first time.

 The Recruiting Assistant program has also been successful with the active duty army, but not as much as in the National Guard and reserves. The spectacular success of some of the Recruiting Assistants caused the army to rethink some of its recruiting methods. While the most successful Recruiting Assistants tend to be very good with meeting and connecting with strangers, they have also developed some useful new techniques for getting potential recruits interested. For example, while full time recruiters deal with about ten prospects, for each recruit they sign up, Recruiting Assistants average only three prospects for each sign up.  There is obviously some new thinking at work, and it's getting results. The army has since adopted some of the Recruiting Assistants techniques, and changed the screening process for selecting soldiers for recruiting duty.

The Recruiting Assistant/bonus program is a better fit for the reserves, as most of the recruits for these units have traditionally come via referrals from people already in the reserves. In rural areas, a reserve units becomes something of a social club, and a good paying part time job. But even in urban areas, the reservists tell their friends about their military experience, and the word gets around. With the bonus program, the reservists have an incentive to follow up on any interest. Some of these Recruiting Assistants have earned close to $100,000 a year, although for most, the take is zero, or under $10,000. Nevertheless, several hundred thousand active and reserve troops have taken the two hour on-line training (about recruiting procedures and paperwork involved), and given it a try. While less than a third make a go of it, the program has been a critical factor in rebuilding National Guard and reserve strength after the exodus of so many troops who did not re-enlist because of the many overseas deployments.

 


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