5.0 Guiding Principles

The CAF Retention Strategy was developed with the fol­lowing guiding principles in mind. These principles are also broadly applicable to how we conceive of ways to improve and manage retention outcomes. Guiding influ­encing activities, while reflecting on these principles in our individual interactions, will help the organization and individuals alike to positively influence retention out­comes across the CAF.

5.1 Leadership Responsibilities 

The influence leaders have on shaping the CAF members’ experience is far-reaching. Leaders at all levels are positioned to pro­mote, encourage, and support healthy personnel retention at all stages of members’ careers. Leaders are a substantial influen­cing factor of retention, they can mitigate and protect members from harmful issues. However, ineffective leadership can nega­tively influence retention. As such, our CAF leaders are responsible as the first line of defence against unhealthy attrition. A key component of leadership is the establishment and maintenance of trust between a mem­ber and their Commanding Officer (CO), such that con­cerns can be brought forth and are subsequently addressed efficiently and effectively. Without this trust, true and effective leadership is not possible. Every leader will embrace their responsibility to consider retention when they deal with their personnel and understand that early, effective, and frequent intervention can offset unhealthy attrition. Leaders are empowered, and directed, to imple­ment retention efforts.

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”

- Colin Powell , prior Commander of the US Army Forces Command. 

5.2 Credibility

Credibility is “the quality or power of being trusted and believed in.” The Strategy’s credibility will be the key to its successful implementation. With evidence-based infor­mation, clear and consistent communication, and effective leadership, the Retention Strategy will be – and will be seen by members to be – a reasonable, effective approach to keeping valued members in uniform. This will, in turn, strengthen the credibility of the organization.

5.3 Value, Diversity, and inclusion

Every Canadian has the right to a non-discriminatory workplace. Further, “Diversity in the CAF is about cham­pioning, respecting and leveraging the unique differences, backgrounds, talents, and cultural perspectives amongst members to enable an inclusive environment where every­one feels empowered to contribute their full potential in the execution of their military duties” (Department of National Defence, 2017b, p. 2). All military personnel possess valuable knowledge, experience, and perspectives that represent force multipliers during domestic and inter­national operations, bringing unique skills and adding further capabilities to the CAF. A diverse and inclusive institution is, and will continue to be, a driver of success. Being an inclusive workforce demands that every member be not just able, but encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work, including the full spectrum of their talents and professional potential, and be invested in their con­tribution to effectively deliver our organizational mandate. The Strategy will support the diversity and inclusion of every member of the CAF, including directing actions to bring to light the concerns of underrepresented populations. This demand sets a high bar in program implementation: that programs and activities are equitable for all CAF members regardless of their various intersecting identity factors such as background, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. GBA+ will be conducted and its findings will inform the development of Retention Strategy Action Plans to ensure that any developing practices or efforts are implemented in ways that are equitable and support all members of the CAF in their careers.

5.4 Employment with Dignity

Dignity, the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect, is fundamental to well-being. Workplace dignity is reflected in respectful and inclusive interactions with leaders and teammates, and organizational practices and processes that support members feeling respected, included, and having fulfilling work. The CAF must work to ensure that all CAF members respect the dignity of all persons within the CAF, regardless of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, language, rank, component, or any other element of a person’s identity. Efforts under the Retention Strategy must integrate these concepts as part of their development to ensure that they support employment with dignity, reflecting the CAF members’ commitment to serving in the Forces. While CAF members have a job to do, they are first and foremost individuals who require, deserve – and will receive – autonomy, respect, and a safe work environment.

5.5 Strengthen Families

Military service places unique demands on members’ families. Therefore, retention decisions, policies, and programs must recognize and respond to familial needs as appropriate. The CAF will recognize the unique needs of all military families, including but not limited to, families with diverse dependent-related circumstances, same-sex families, service couples, and families with exceptional circumstances. Non-service couplesFootnote 23 have pressures and demands that in many cases exceed those of service couples. Research shows that non-military partners to CAF members suffer economically from postings and are impacted by the demands of a CAF lifestyle in different ways than service couples. The differing economic pressures and demands of non-service couples impact attrition amongst CAF members who must balance the needs of partners who have civilian employment not easily transferred between provinces or regions of the country. The influencing factors of retention are widespread and many initiatives and activities, such as Seamless CanadaFootnote 24, will support the overarching efforts. In addition, the retention governing body will consider retention efforts from the perspective of the needs of families that are from different segments of the CAF community.

5.6 System Flexibility and Individual Choices

Today’s CAF member is looking for more choice in career planning. While operational success remains the primary objective, the CAF must balance institutional and service requirements with members’ personal aspirations to the extent possible. Retention initiatives must be flexible enough to reasonably adapt to members’ needs, providing an enriching career that enables personal aspirations. Existing and in-development efforts, such as the Adaptive Career Path, must be leveraged to meet the needs of the members while also supporting the institutional goals of the CAF.

5.7 A One Force Approach

The Strategy will consider the entire force, with the solutions proposed taking into account the complexity of the retention challenges across the various occupations, demographics, and components of the CAF. The CAF will embrace and engage members across the entire force. We will start by removing the barriers that impede efficient movement between Reg and Res Forces. We will also more broadly consider the value of retaining the core CAF member talent that exists within services such as the Canadian Rangers, COATS, in addition to leveraging the ability to retaining our members within these parts of the organization or even within the public service of the broader Defence Team. Flexibility and mobility will allow us to balance the needs of the institution and those of our members, while retaining them, with their talents and skills for the purpose of supporting the defence of Canada.

5.8 Effective Communication

Communication will be frequent, two-way, and shared with members of the CAF so that they understand the benefits and services designed to retain them as members. Easy to understand benefit packages will be developed so members understand the breadth of services and benefits available to them and their families. Further, there must be clear communication upwards to leadership regarding the needs of members in advance of and throughout their careers, including how to implement effective retention measures to meet those needs, and how doing so ultimately impacts the operational effectiveness of the CAF.

5.9 Evidence-Based

Retention efforts to combat unhealthy attrition will be evidence-based and supported by research. Anecdotes can provide insight and direction, aiding in detecting attrition factors that may not be currently seen in the data. Anecdotal evidence must be interpreted as potential guides for additional research and must be carefully considered and assessed to ensure collective efforts are appropriately directed. Other sources of evidence such as, but not lim­ited to, focus groups, interviews, and secondary related sources for data must also be incorporated to ensure a full picture of the issue. Current evidence related to retention and attrition is limited and does not accurately reflect the experience of all CAF members. Going forward, actions will be taken to regularly collect a fuller picture of the experience for all CAF members. Efforts under the Strategy will be based on research into actual attrition rates, differentiating between healthy and unhealthy attri­tion, and examining factors influencing members’ deci­sions to remain in the CAF or depart from it.

5.10 Targeted Retention 

Retention is a complex issue and varies according to environment, geographic region, occupation, career stage, family situation, gender, age, and other identity factors. Retention cannot be “one size fits all”. This Strategy will support the targeting of specific occupations, at specific locations, at specific ranks, and at a specific time in order to fulfill the requirements of the CAF to deliver on its mandate. It will also support targeting specific circum­stances, demographics, and other factors, as appropriate. Targeted retention will incentivize members, striking a balance between the needs of personnel and those of the institution. Targeted retention and other efforts under the Retention Strategy do not represent an end state. Rather, the Strategy will be employed as an evergreen effort, to be flexible in its response to retention and attrition research, addressing existing factors of attrition and pre-emptively addressing potential factors of attrition as identified.

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