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Reserves - Retention Rates and Mismanagement

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I'm writing a paper for a university course and want to hear other reserve members thoughts on retention. My goal is to outline some issues that are present with retaining reservists and how we can fix those issues. Any feedback is much appreciated but please keep in mind that I am focussing on the RESERVES only.

I'm currently a reservist with an engineer regiment and have been for about four years now. One thing I've noticed is that most people don't make it past three years in the reserves, or past corporal. My thinking is that there is a variety of issues going on.

1) The first issue is that reserve units don’t manage expectations with what will happen during the training year. Too often I’ve been told we will conduct a Gucci explosives ex only for it to be replaced with a bridging ex in the winter, or a PWT3 range with the addition of pistols to lure people to coming only to be revealed at the range that there isn’t enough ammo for anyone under the rank of Sgt. Not to call this explicit lying, but it does reduce trust and morale in the junior ranks.

2) The second issue is with managing member commitment, and often the unit expects more than you can put in. If you can’t attend an ex you need to provide a memo with a legit excuse rather than just saying I have personal commitments, or I need a rest. Some people can’t handle a high tempo with school, or a demanding career and the only “legit” excuse is for people that either are new parents or students who have conflicting exams. Even I was once told to put off a course for a year by my troop warrant instead of going non-effective or else, he’d see it his personal mandate to release me from service… so encouraging. This can also be said for pushing troops to take courses over the summer, basically using their vacation time for training.

3) The third issue is the mundanity of the reserves. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve check toboggan stores over this past winter (at least 15) during training nights. The training nights seem to be useless when the same activities are conducted every training night, usually encompassing a maintenance task that ends up just being a method of killing time where no maintenance occurs.

I’ve recently seen most of the motivated guys in my unit leave due to a combination of the above issues. I think becoming frustrated by the lack of real training and the senseless “maintenance” has taken a toll on those that are there for all the right reasons, which is one reason why I would consider releasing. If you have thoughts on the questions below or other advice, it would be much appreciated!

Questions:

1) Does your unit look the same, or does it function better? Why and how is it better?
2) What do you think the issues are behind retaining troops in the long term?
3) Do you think the reserve units require too much time from troops (exercises, training nights, summer courses)?
 

daftandbarmy

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CountChocula said:
I'm writing a paper for a university course and want to hear other reserve members thoughts on retention. My goal is to outline some issues that are present with retaining reservists and how we can fix those issues. Any feedback is much appreciated but please keep in mind that I am focussing on the RESERVES only.

I'm currently a reservist with an engineer regiment and have been for about four years now. One thing I've noticed is that most people don't make it past three years in the reserves, or past corporal. My thinking is that there is a variety of issues going on.

1) The first issue is that reserve units don’t manage expectations with what will happen during the training year. Too often I’ve been told we will conduct a Gucci explosives ex only for it to be replaced with a bridging ex in the winter, or a PWT3 range with the addition of pistols to lure people to coming only to be revealed at the range that there isn’t enough ammo for anyone under the rank of Sgt. Not to call this explicit lying, but it does reduce trust and morale in the junior ranks.

2) The second issue is with managing member commitment, and often the unit expects more than you can put in. If you can’t attend an ex you need to provide a memo with a legit excuse rather than just saying I have personal commitments, or I need a rest. Some people can’t handle a high tempo with school, or a demanding career and the only “legit” excuse is for people that either are new parents or students who have conflicting exams. Even I was once told to put off a course for a year by my troop warrant instead of going non-effective or else, he’d see it his personal mandate to release me from service… so encouraging. This can also be said for pushing troops to take courses over the summer, basically using their vacation time for training.

3) The third issue is the mundanity of the reserves. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve check toboggan stores over this past winter (at least 15) during training nights. The training nights seem to be useless when the same activities are conducted every training night, usually encompassing a maintenance task that ends up just being a method of killing time where no maintenance occurs.

I’ve recently seen most of the motivated guys in my unit leave due to a combination of the above issues. I think becoming frustrated by the lack of real training and the senseless “maintenance” has taken a toll on those that are there for all the right reasons, which is one reason why I would consider releasing. If you have thoughts on the questions below or other advice it would be much appreciated!

Questions:

1) Does your unit look the same, or does it function better? Why and how is it better?
2) What do you think the issues are behind retaining troops in the long term?
3) Do you think the reserve units require too much time from troops (exercises, training nights, summer courses)?

That's a great topic, and not just for the reserves as many of the motivators for staying in any organization are very much the same.

You should look into the effects, positive and otherwise, of leaders too. My experience has been that the better the leadership, especially at the senior Officer and NCO ranks at the unit level, the better the retention. For example:

Don’t Let Lazy Managers Drive Away Your Top Performers

https://hbr.org/2018/11/dont-let-lazy-managers-drive-away-your-top-performers
 

MilEME09

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Another item to look at is work/life balance. When your a shift worker, like my self you have to take your time off to go on EX or sometimes even training nights. Add in the family dynamic, kids, etc... It can place a lot of stress on a member if not handled correctly.
 

BDTyre

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My chain of command has been very supportive of me needing to take a night off and understand that due to having two young kids, weekend exercises aren't likely to happen for me at this time. They are also more than happy to give me extra class A days outside of the normal Wednesday nights by doing weapons issues on weekends - it's a bit of extra money but I am not committed to the entire weekend. When my wife was not well when pregnant with our second child, they understood and were even willing to let me leave training nights early or miss them without complaint. The end result is that I'm not frustrated and I feel that my time and family are just as valuable as my commitments to the regiment.
 

mariomike

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CountChocula said:
I'm writing a paper for a university course and want to hear other reserve members thoughts on retention.

Retention issues are also discussed here,

Divining the right role, capabilities, structure, and Regimental System for Canada's Army Reserves 
https://army.ca/forums/threads/24381.3300.html
133 pages.

Work balance in the CAF Reserves
https://army.ca/forums/threads/120550.0

Does my civilian job work with Reserve Service?
https://army.ca/forums/threads/120072.0

Reserves with a full time job
https://army.ca/forums/threads/125175.0

Shift Work and Reserve Training
https://army.ca/forums/threads/84673.0

time off work: for reserve training 
https://army.ca/forums/threads/1444.0

etc...
 

Remius

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One way of looking at it is also what the institution wants vs what the troops want.

Also some troops' perception of things is skewed.  That may be a leadership issue with keeping everyone properly informed.

As well there is a serious lack of SMESC. 





 
 

daftandbarmy

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CanadianTire said:
My chain of command has been very supportive of me needing to take a night off and understand that due to having two young kids, weekend exercises aren't likely to happen for me at this time. They are also more than happy to give me extra class A days outside of the normal Wednesday nights by doing weapons issues on weekends - it's a bit of extra money but I am not committed to the entire weekend. When my wife was not well when pregnant with our second child, they understood and were even willing to let me leave training nights early or miss them without complaint. The end result is that I'm not frustrated and I feel that my time and family are just as valuable as my commitments to the regiment.

I would classify that under 'good leadership'  :cdnsalute:
 
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