4.0 Looking to the Future - Retention in the CAF
A career within the CAF is not an easy undertaking. There are high expectations placed on members in their support of the CAF in missions and postings. In return for this dedication of service, the CAF must respond with care and support that demonstrates to members that their dedication is valued. It is with careful consideration that our leaders must best support the needs and desires of our members while meeting the operational needs of the CAF.
Retention is multifaceted and its factors truly touch on every aspect of a CAF member’s journey. The research on attrition, retention, and experiences of CAF members and their families, as well as secondary research literature coincide and will help us shape our actions going forward. It directs our focus and provides general guidance on how to make improvements. However, it is not enough to use this information blindly or attempt to apply quick-fix solutions to immediate problems. Further analysis will be needed. Change at the organizational level will require in-depth policy and program analysis to determine what is effective and what needs to change to better speak to the influencing factors of retention. Clarity of communication regarding work being done, as well as options, programs, and benefits that support the retention of our members, remains an issue and, as such, further assessment needs to be done on how to best improve communications with our members. In addition, work must be done to develop a retention monitoring framework to ensure that the efforts made are effective and adequately address concerns. Most importantly, these changes require the support of our leaders. Without this support, not only will these retention efforts fall to the wayside, the retention issues which have existed for decades will likely continue in some form in the future.
This Strategy will proactively guide the institution in retention efforts, maintain evidence-based decision-making, provide guidance and tools on how to identify and address areas of retention-related concerns, and support continuous analysis and improvements. It views retention-related data – attrition data, retention/exit survey results, stand-alone studies, and information from focus groups and interviews – as symptoms to be investigated further, in order to identify areas of concern in which the influencing factors of retention can be addressed. Additional analysis, guided by the identified factors and attrition issues, must be conducted by the responsible parties to better determine which factors apply to the stressed demographics, and what type of solution will best meet members’ needs while still meeting the requirements of the CAF. It is not possible to prevent every member from leaving, nor should that be the goal. Rather, the Strategy will support healthy attrition (such as when a member reaches CRA or when there is a lack of fit between the member and organization) while addressing dissatisfiers causing unhealthy attrition. Further, the Strategy will support expanded considerations on “retaining talent” – for example through component transfer (to or from the Reg Force) there is an opportunity to retain talent within the CAF more broadly, or even the potential to retain talent through public service within for the broader Defence Team to the support the defence of Canada.
The Retention Strategy is part of a suite of strategies that support the CAF (e.g., the CAF HR Strategy, the THW Strategy). Some of the programs and initiatives stemming from these other strategies will also support retention. With the existing programs, initiatives, structures, and processes, as well as other synergistic strategies in development, it is crucial that the governing bodies of these various factors work in collaboration, to encourage alignment and prevent redundancy. As such, the Retention Strategy acknowledges the areas of potential coordination in the relevant LOEs below and supports the development of a governing body that can further the collection and coordination of retention-related information.
Retention is a dynamic leadership challenge. Leaders must be encouraged to incorporate influencing factors of attrition and retention in meeting personnel needs and must be provided with the information and tools to do so. Further, not all tasks in the CAF are equally desired, and the needs of service and operations must take precedence over other factors. The key leadership challenge remains to support the needs of the individual while meeting the demands of operations and reduce the impact that decisions have on group morale, cohesion, and structure. The organizational support resulting from the efforts of the Strategy will buoy leadership decision-making so that it is better balanced and better armed to effectively tackle and address the requirements of the CAF, and the personnel needs of our members. In order to implement effective retention efforts, the CAF must incorporate the concept that the opportunity for retention efforts resides in every stage of a member’s career. The approach going forward is to incorporate the consideration of influencing factors of retention such that the CAF becomes an organization that better supports members in their careers and, to the extent possible, their lives.
It is critical to identify future retention requirements before it is too late to react, the impact of a shortage is felt, and the organization is negatively impacted.
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