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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment 8 Military Advertising and Recruiting This chapter examines military recruiting practices in the context of recent trends in the interests of the youth population. It focuses on the role that advertising by the military Services’ plays in providing information to the youth population and promoting youth interest in military service, as well as the role that recruiters play in identifying prospective applicants for military service. The chapter begins with an overview of the current situation, which identifies a 15-year decline in overall level of youth interest in military service as a significant factor affecting the success of military recruiting. Message strategies employed in advertising and recruiting techniques are examined in terms of their likely effects on the level of youth interest in military service. The military recruiting process is briefly described. The chapter concludes with a brief look at recruiting practices in private industry to determine if there are lessons to be applied to the military situation. CURRENT SITUATION IN MILITARY RECRUITING Scale of Military Recruiting The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is the nation’s largest employer. There are 1.2 million men and women on active duty, who are supported by 672,000 civilian employees. By way of comparison, Fortune Magazine reports the number of employees for each company in the Fortune 500. The largest employer is Wal-Mart Stores with 1.3 million employees. McDonald’s is next with 395,000 employees. United Parcel Service is third with 370,000 employees.
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment With the possible exceptions of extraordinarily large employers with very high turnover (e.g., Wal-Mart Stores), most businesses and organizations hire far fewer than the 200,000 people the military Services enlist on an annual basis. Military recruiting is among the most challenging human resources staffing operations conducted by any large-scale organization. In addition to the size of the recruiting effort, the military Services must also meet high standards unlike those of many civilian employers. Successful applicants for military service must demonstrate the physical and mental capabilities to master complex military systems and operations as well as meet high moral standards, age limits, and citizenship requirements. In addition, successful applicants for military service usually place high priorities on service to the nation, teamwork, dedication to duty, and readiness to face personally challenging circumstances—priorities that are often not shared by the entire youth population. A DoD briefing presentation reported that the total mission for U.S. military recruiting mission was 203,522 for FY 2002. This total recruiting mission included 79,000 for the Army, 53,000 for the Navy, 37,283 for the Air Force, and 34,239 for the Marine Corps. The recruiting mission for the enlisted Reserves totaled 74,950. To meet its manpower needs, the DoD engages in an array of recruiting activities to inform and interest members of the youth population concerning military service. The recruiting process involves national and local advertising to efficiently supply information on a widespread basis; informational visits by recruiters to schools and student groups; traveling military exhibits to provide information to schools and the public; direct mail advertising and telephone solicitation to identify interested youth; web sites to provide information on military services; and contacts and visits with recruiters to qualify leads and to assist youth in gaining needed information about the decision to enlist and the selection of a particular Service. Environment for Recruiting Military recruiting is challenging not only because of the scale of the recruiting mission, but also because of the current environment in which recruiting takes place. Alternatives to military service are more attractive to many young people. As shown in Chapter 3, an increasing proportion of high school youth is attending college, and the recent economic conditions have provided ample employment opportunities for students who opt not to pursue college education or delay post secondary education. Although surveys indicate public confidence in military leadership and the military as an institution, military service is not seen as one of the more attractive choices for young people following high school. How-
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment ever, since September 11, 2001, there has been a greater interest in military service (Wirthlin, 2002). Trend in Propensity to Enlist Figure 6-4 shows that the propensity to enlist among high school males has been declining since the mid-1980s. In this key group for recruiting, the proportion saying “definitely will” enlist has declined from 12 to 8 percent during that time period. Although there is a decline in those saying “probably won’t,” the percentage of those saying “definitely won’t” has increased. Thus, the proportion least interested in military service has increased during the past two decades from about 40 to about 60 percent. A similar trend is noted for young women in Figure 6-5. The decline in the proportion of “propensed youth”—those saying they definitely or probably will enlist—means that the Services increasingly find themselves in competition with each other to meet their recruiting goals. If the recruiting focus remains on this declining group of propensed youth, the message strategies for military service advertising and military recruiters may become increasingly competitive, focusing on claims that differentiate one Service from another. In such a recruiting environment, enlistment bonuses would become an important means of attracting (or buying) applicants. Importance of the Negative Propensity Groups The vast majority of youth now say they do not plan on enlisting. Current events such as the Gulf War of 1990–1991 show only short-term effects in terms of arresting or altering the long-term trend of declining youth interest in military service. The continuing transition between “probably won’t” and “definitely won’t” responses is of particular concern because it has been shown that an important proportion of those who do eventually enlist come from these two groups. A RAND Corporation study examined enlistment behavior following the Youth Attitude Tracking Survey (YATS) from 1976 to 1980 and found that 46 percent of those who enlisted came from the two negative intention groups (Orvis et al., 1992:17). A subsequent study from the Monitoring the Future Project examined accession into the armed forces during the first five or six years after high school. This study based on data from graduates of the high school classes of 1984 through 1991, found that, among males, 32 percent came from the negative intention groups. For females, 62 percent of those who enlisted came from the negative intention groups (Bachman et al., 1998:64).
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment Indeed, the proportion of propensed youth has declined to the extent that the Army (the service branch with the largest annual recruiting mission) must enlist youth from the negative propensity group to fulfill its manpower goals, because there are not enough propensed youth to meet the Army’s goals. This circumstance is particularly challenging because the least interested “definitely won’t” group now comprises over 60 percent of high school seniors. Another indication of the increasing difficulty of meeting recruiting goals in the current environment is the rapid increase in the costs of military recruiting over the past decade. For example, the annual investment in advertising expenditures and recruiting bonuses has increased by a more than threefold factor in the years from 1993 to 2000 (see Figure 8-1). Figure 8-1 places the recent increase in military advertising in the context of yearly advertising expenditures since 1976. This figure also shows that advertising expenditures are largely allocated to meet the recruiting goals of the individual Services. A relatively small proportion of military advertising expenditures has been allocated to joint Services advertising. Other than a continuous period from 1982 to 1992, there is an irregular pattern to joint Services advertising, with frequent gaps showing little or no investment in this advertising approach. The decreasing size of the group of youth with a propensity to enlist coupled with the increasing amounts invested in advertising and enlistment incentives points to a new marketplace dynamic. While military recruiting once relied on communication strategies focusing on “selective demand” as the dominant approach, the new market situation calls for greater emphasis on the stimulation of “primary demand.” Strategies to encourage selective demand portray the unique or differentiating characteristics of competing brands (such as the specific military Services), while strategies for primary demand focus on information that promotes favorable reactions to the entire category of products (such as general interest in joining any military Service) (Borden, 1942:167). Message strategies that stimulate primary demand convey information that highlights the benefits of the promoted product or service and are designed to increase the interests of a larger group of potential consumers. For example, communication strategies to stimulate the primary demand for military service would convey information designed to increase the salience of values or goals that can be uniquely satisfied by military service, such as duty to protect the country, self-sacrifice to maintain a free society, and the noble virtues of effective military service. These factors can differentiate and promote military service as an attractive alternative to other pursuits available to youth. This approach could
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 8-1 Enlisted advertising resources FY 1976–2003 in current dollars. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Defense (2002). be an important role for joint Services advertising, although the message approach employed in previous joint Service campaigns has not focused on the unique attributes of military service. In some cases, the absence of information to support primary demand in a product market can be associated with contraction of the demand for the product. The American public’s transition from coffee to soft drinks is
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment a notable example of this process. Thirty years ago, when soft drink consumption was accelerating, coffee marketers continued to concentrate on “selective demand” message strategies, such as “less bitter than other brands.” The coffee brands competed with each other rather than recognizing the need to promote public interest in coffee as an attractive and satisfying beverage. Moreover, in addition to information provided by military advertising and recruiting, youth may encounter information concerning the military from family and friends, teachers and advisers, news media, books, movies, music, and other information found in popular culture. The visibility of the military in the day-to-day information environment is largely influenced by world events and the work of writers and producers in the entertainment media. Certainly, the extensiveness of this information and the nature of its content (favorable or unfavorable concerning military service) is an important factor in the degree of youth interest in military service. The decline in the proportion of the youth population that has a family member (parent or other) with military service experience is a example of decline in the general information environment of the youth population. MODEL OF THE MILITARY RECRUITING PROCESS The model in the figure presents a schematic of the primary factors involved in military recruiting (Penney et al., 2000:1). The model indicates that recruiter production—that is, a recruiter’s level of success in meeting recruiting goals—is a function of recruiter performance in the context of current youth interests in military service, as measured by the propensity to enlist. The model in Figure 8-2 indicates that propensity to enlist is primarily influenced by military advertising and by a range of environmental factors, such as the youth employment rate, the size of the youth population, youth attitudes and knowledge concerning the military, attitudes relating to occupational prestige and career choice, the relative attractiveness of military compensation and benefits, and the interests of youth in pursuing further education. Recruiter contacts may also influence the propensity of members of the youth population, but that linkage was not featured in the diagram as originally proposed by its authors (Penney et al., 2000). Recruiter performance is seen as a function of three factors: (1) personal characteristics such as level of interest in the recruiting mission, communication skills, and problem-solving skills; (2) training and development programs to prepare them for the recruiting mission; and (3) technical and organizational support in the form of information and resources (e.g., presentation materials, promotional materials, leads on po-
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 8-2 Model of military recruitment. tential applicants, and procedures for keeping and organizing information on applicants). The challenge faced by recruiters is demonstrated by the data in Table 8-1. This table makes apparent how many contacts are required to enlist one person. For example, the Army reports that, on average, recruiters TABLE 8-1 Stages in the Recruiting Process from Lead Generation (Contacts) to Accessions (Contracts) Recruiting Stage Army Navy Marine Corpsa Leads/contacts 120 80 90 Appointments scheduled 17 21 b Appointments conducted 10 7 15 ASVAB tests 2.3 2 b Qualified applicants 1.5 b b Contracts 1.2 b 1 Accessions 1 1 b aMarine Corps information shown represents command expectations; actual experience is available only at the local level. bData not tracked or not made available. Comparable data for the Air Force are not available.
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment make 120 contacts with specific individuals for every non-prior service soldier accessed into active duty. From those 120 contacts, 17 appointments are scheduled, and 10 appointments are actually conducted. From those 10 appointments, 2.3 applicants take the enlistment test (the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery [ASVAB]), and 1.5 applicants pass all the enlistment qualification standards. Of those 1.5 qualified applicants, 1.2 will sign an enlistment contract, and 1 new recruit will actually enter the Army. Each of these stages present opportunities to examine and possibly improve recruiter performance. ROLE OF ADVERTISING IN MILITARY RECRUITING Informing Interests and Tastes The purpose of advertising is to distribute information designed to influence consumer activity in the marketplace. Advertising messages convey information to support and promote consumer choices between or among competing brands (Hallmark greeting cards versus American Greetings) and between or among alternative product categories (greeting cards versus phone calls). This information may be in such forms as appeals or claims, product demonstrations, and imagery. Often the messages employ creative approaches to expression in order to attract the attention of consumers and to engage them in the content of the advertising. Effectively designed advertising messages, placed in appropriate mass media, provide an efficient means of reaching large numbers of people. Some economists view advertising as a wasteful expenditure designed to interfere with consumer sovereignty. Others view advertising as an economic force that sustains individual brands, product categories, and society’s overall propensity to consume. In his critical assessment of the “new industrial state,” economist John Kenneth Galbraith described the role of advertising as “the conditioning of attitudes necessary for the operation and prestige of the industrial system” (Galbraith, 1967:210). Galbraith also spoke to the importance of advertising as a means of supporting primary demand for a product category. “Were there but one manufacturer of automobiles in the United States, it would still be essential that it enter extensively on the management of its demand. Otherwise consumers, exercising the sovereignty that would be inconsistent with the company’s planning, might resort to other forms of transportation and other ways of spending their income” (1967:207). Galbraith’s assessment of the “management of specific demand” points to the importance of advertising message strategies that can provide information about products and about the value or importance to consumers of the benefits
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment delivered by products. The absence of consumer access to sufficient information of this kind inevitably leads to declining consumer interest. This is the current situation for U.S. military recruiting. Fairfax Cone, founder of a leading advertising agency, further emphasized the role of advertising with the observation “I don’t think anyone would use advertising if he could see all of his prospects face-to-face. It is our belief that advertising is good in ratio to its approximation of personal selling” (Wright and Warner, 1963:468). Cone’s observation leads directly to the role of advertising in military recruiting. It is to support military recruiters as they identify prospective applicants and as they inform and assist those individuals who show an interest in military service. Advertising messages can help stimulate the interest of the youth population in military service and provide information bearing on the particular Service a youth might select. The model in Figure 8-2 indicates that the primary role of advertising in military recruiting is to support recruiting by influencing youth attitudes about military service (as reflected by measures of the propensity to enlist). Indeed, it seems likely that military advertising may be the most audible voice in society conveying information about careers and life in the military. The concept of propensity to enlist applies to military service in general and to the individual military Services. Hence, propensity can be seen, in advertising terms, as a measure of the primary demand for military service when applied to the youth population’s overall interest in military service, and selective demand when specifically applied to youth interests in the specific Services. Amount of Military Advertising Turning to the amount of military advertising, Figure 8-1 shows the advertising expenditures for four military services and joint services advertising since 1976. The pattern of advertising expenditures shown in the figure suggests three phases: a period of growth leading to a general leveling in the years 1986 to 1990, a decrease of 44 percent from 1990 to 1993, and an increase of 318 percent from 1993 to 2000. Figure 6-4 showed that propensity to enlist by began a pattern of continuing decline beginning in about 1984. The noticeable decline in advertising expenditures between 1990 and 1993 suggests that, at that time, the budgeting of military advertising may not have been based on considerations relating to the direction of youth propensity to serve in the military. The reduction in advertising expenditures coincided with a period of drawdown in the scale of the military. Thus, planners may have merely questioned the need to continue to advertise.
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment The propensity to enlist has not increased despite a 318 percent increase in advertising over the seven-year period from 1993 to 2000. This suggests that the elasticity of advertising may be low; however, a more material question to ask is about the message strategies employed in military advertising and their effectiveness in promoting propensity.1 One might hypothesize that the recent increases in military advertising reflect increasing competition among the Services to attract youth in the declining positive propensity groups. Rather than focusing on market expansion, or primary demand, it appears military advertising has continued to concentrate on selective demand (individual Service advertising) within the declining positive propensity groups. Message Strategies in Current Military Advertising2 The traditional approach to the selection of a message strategy is to identify a customer need that is important and widely held and then to stress a product or brand attribute that is responsive to that customer need. It is desirable that the selected attribute be unique to the advertised brand (Overholser and Kline, 1975:82). The message strategies employed in military advertising have substantially focused on what recruiters call the “package” or “offer” made to applicants for military service. Army advertising is particularly noteworthy in this regard because it is the most likely of the military Service advertising to be seen by the youth population. For example, during the five-year period from 1996 to 2000, advertising for the Army constituted 45 percent of all military advertising in the United States. The message strategies in Army advertising have generally focused on how military service can provide youth with job skills, college credits, and money to pursue education following military service (Eighmey, 2000), material considerations for youth making comparisons among specific military Services (selective demand) as well as for youth making choices among military service, civilian employment, and further education (primary demand). These package-oriented considerations do not involve attributes that are unique to military service or to primary demand. That is, few messages focus on the aspects of military service that are unique, such as the higher level of public service associated with duty to country. A review of the content of current advertising for the Army indicates the apparent audience to be youth who are dissatisfied with their current circumstances and who would welcome a challenge to become something 1 Econometric models make no distinctions between dollars and impressions. 2 Data from the DoD on the effectiveness of individual or joint Service advertising campaigns was not available.
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment more. Recently produced television and web commercials present basic training as a kind of a quest with stages of accomplishment, such as marksmanship, teamwork, and live fire situations. Although the copywriting and art direction have changed recently, the basic message strategy remains “Be all you can be.” “An Army of One” was recently adopted as an advertising campaign idea; however, most recently this idea has become secondary to such claims as “212 ways to become a soldier.” The inclusion of references to web site goarmy.com in Army advertising contributes to the evaluation of this advertising through measures of visits to the Army web site, profiling of the visitors, and number of inquiries turned into leads for recruiters. The strength of the Army advertising appears to be in its appeal to restless youth who want something more. However, that may not be sufficient. Within the message content of Army advertising, there is little that addresses either selective demand, the aspects of the Army that differentiate it from the other Services, or primary demand, the broader issues of the virtues of duty to country, service to others, heroism, and self-sacrifice for freedom and the benefit of others. A review of the current content of advertising for the Air Force indicates the apparent audience to be intrigued with engines, technology, and speed. These are not restless youth; they have self-assurance. Success in basic training is a given. Within this area of interest, the appeal is “Cross into the blue” where “Nothing you do is ordinary” and “Everything is different and important, especially you.” The visuals focus on sophisticated planes and equipment. Like Army advertising messages, the Air Force offers youth a transforming experience. However, the offer of a transformation is pitched at a higher level. Also, the advertising copy “When you cross into the blue, everything is different and important, especially you” indicates the potential for this advertising to attract the interests of youth with no propensity to enlist. An “out of the blue” idea is generally unexpected yet welcome. A review of the content of current advertising for the Navy indicates the apparent audience to be youth who may perceive their present circumstances to be ordinary and are seeking to escape. Navy advertising responds to this group of youth by showing dramatic action visuals of Navy ships, equipment, and people. The advertising promises that life in the Navy will be anything but dull. The message challenges youth with the question, “If someone wrote a book about your life, would anyone want to read it?” The promise of the advertising is that the Navy will “accelerate your life” and that “you will do more in a few years than most people do in a lifetime, if you are ready.” There is an implied promise that a youth’s life will rocket forward and that the educational experience in the Navy will substitute for college or graduate school.
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment assist in the process of assigning goals to individual recruiters (or, in some cases, teams of recruiters). The increasing sophistication of available market data, down to the zip code and block level, allows recruiting management to set goals that, by design, are equally difficult for each subordinate recruiting organization to attain. In addition to the numbers of potentially qualified youth in each recruiting region, recruiting management considers economic and employment factors and past productivity of each region in establishing goals. Each level of recruiting management receives its goals from the next higher level, assigning goals to the next lower level in turn. Eventually, this process results in a recruiter’s being given a goal for new contracts for the month. Incentives for Production As with most sales forces, military recruiters generally participate in an incentive system to recognize high performers. Unlike most sales forces, however, military recruiting incentive systems do not include financial rewards such as commissions for meeting or exceeding goals. (Recruiting duty itself does bring with it increased compensation in the form of special duty assignment pay. Such pay is not contingent on meeting or exceeding goals; rather, it is paid at a standard rate to all recruiters and based only on the length of time they have been assigned as recruiters.) Instead of monetary incentives, explicit rewards for exceeding goals take the form of plaques, trophies, watches, and other items of nominal value. In addition, military decorations may be awarded based on performance. Military promotions, which determine the recruiter’s salary, may be contingent on successful performance. Office Locations Military recruiting organizations are national in scope, with recruiters located in communities in every state and territory (and on military installations overseas). Each Service uses market information to allocate its assigned recruiters to office locations, with the intention that every recruiter has sufficient market to be successful. The Army Corps of Engineers generally leases space on behalf of all Services’ recruiting efforts. Use of a common lessor and the same market information often leads to recruiting offices in adjoining space at any given location. Because the Services differ dramatically in the numbers of their recruiters, some Services have only one or two recruiters in an office, while another Service might have four or more. Until recently, the costs of leasing office space took precedence over appearance of that space when the leasing agent was finalizing the specific building in which to locate an office. DoD
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment supports the idea of offices that will provide a “contemporary, inviting atmosphere,” in high-traffic locations (Sellman, 2001). Staffing Issues Recruiter Selection Process As in many other respects, the Services differ in the manner in which they select and assign personnel to recruiting duty. Some of these differences may be minor administrative issues. For example, Service members in certain career fields may be ineligible for recruiting duty because their Service needs their specific skills elsewhere. Other differences represent more fundamental issues. For example, until very recently, the Air Force relied solely on volunteers to fill its recruiting ranks, whereas the Marine Corps identified all candidates centrally. The Army and the Navy relied on a mix of volunteers and centrally identified candidates for recruiting positions. More recently, the Navy has been moving toward an all-volunteer recruiting force, while the Air Force has had to rely on some non-volunteers to fill its recruiting ranks. Regardless of whether the Service is using volunteers or not, the recruiter selection process typically involves a review of the candidate’s military record and interviews by the candidate’s current supervisors and commanders. Health screens and family financial checks may also be part of the process. Some Services are gathering data on various measures purported to provide good predictions of sales success in other contexts. It is not always the case that major weight is given to an evaluation of a candidate’s potential for success in a sales occupation when the candidate is finally approved for recruiting duty. Rather, the Services typically rely on the recruiter training process to identify those approved candidates who are not likely to be successful as recruiters. In response to recruiting difficulties in recent years, the Services are currently investigating alternative methods for selecting recruiters. Borman and colleagues (2001) describe a number of initiatives are being tested that involve the use of ability or interest measures as a predictor of recruiting success. They note promising developments using in-basket (a work sample test in which the candidates respond to the contents of a job incumbent’s in-basket) and situational judgment (scenarios used to test the candidate’s decisions among multiple courses of action) tests and behavioral job analysis to improve the recruiter selection process. At the same time, they note research initiated in the 1970s—but never implemented operationally—that found reasonable validity predicting military recruiting success for personality constructs (including “working hard,”
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment “spontaneity,” “leading and showing off,” and “leading and influencing”) and interest constructs (including “extraverted interests” and “sports interests”). As noted above, studies of military recruiter effectiveness and predictors of recruiter effectiveness have been undertaken many times over the years. McCloy et al. (2001) reviewed literature specifically addressing military recruiter selection and noted encouraging results for to the prediction of recruiting success. Borman et al. (2000), Penney et al. (2000), and Bearden and Fedak (2000) all reviewed the links between sales success and the military recruiting job. All noted past research establishing the validity of numerous measures in the prediction of sales success in general and success as a military recruiter specifically. However, current practices of recruiter selection generally do not incorporate any formal predictor of sales success. Recruiter Training Each Service operates an extensive in-residence training program for new recruiters. In the Army, this course lasts for seven weeks and is designed to teach the skills, knowledge, and techniques to succeed as a U.S. Army or Army Reserve recruiter. The course has six major segments: Introduction to recruiting Management Eligibility Prospecting and sales techniques Communication skills Computer skills The largest segment is devoted to the study of sales techniques and communication skills. Although there is some practice with fellow trainees, there are no simulated exercises involving real-life applicants. In addition to these six segments, the course also covers a number of special topics, including recruiter expectations, computer program awareness, extremist group awareness, physical fitness/stress management, recruiting support command, public speaking, uniform inspection, quality of life/family support programs, MEPS orientation, knowing the competition, ethics, enlistment standards, advertising, and the Internet. After graduating from the in-residence training program, new recruiters then enter an on-the-job training program with their peers, supervisors, or designated training personnel.
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment Summary of Military Recruiting Issues The military Services have been recruiting in an all-volunteer force environment for 30 years. In that time, they have developed and refined their recruiting processes into systems that depend upon a network of active-duty, uniformed recruiters in local offices as the sales force for the recruiting effort. The Services have significant market analysis data available to guide their efforts when they select office locations and assign goals to individual recruiters or recruiting teams. They support their recruiters with substantial advertising resources. The combination of local presence plus advertising support provides the recruiting sales force with their leads. The process for converting a lead into an active-duty accession involves losses at every step along the way. Some of those losses are unavoidable and result from the recruits’ inability to meet the physical, mental, and moral enlistment standards required by law or policy. At the same time, recruiters vary in their ability to convert fully qualified leads into accessions. Several factors may affect sales performance: Are people chosen for sales positions based on the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for success in sales? Are people adequately trained on those tasks required for success in sales? Do adequate incentives exist to motivate success in sales? Klopp and Hemenway (2001) note that military recruiting organizations may not be structured as effective sales organizations, while Robershotte and Zalesny (2001) conclude that one high-priority recommendation for future research should be to develop an effective model for selecting and training military recruiters. Similarly, Orvis and Asch (2001) recommend that military recruiting organizations should rethink recruiting management, including the use of incentives and rewards. In considering the military recruiting sales force, it is not clear that these issues have been resolved in a manner that maximizes the probability of recruiting success. RECRUITING PRACTICES IN PRIVATE INDUSTRY One way to evaluate the effectiveness of military recruiting activities is to compare them to the recruiting strategies used in private industry for the same target population. Yet in many ways, this comparison is easier said than done. The difficulty of obtaining accurate, factual information in the private sector makes the foundation for the comparison weak. More-
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment over, the size differences in the number recruited affect what is feasible. Personnel qualifications for military service and congressional restrictions on inducements to join limit military recruiting strategies in ways that are different from the private sector. Many civilian employers do not publicly discuss their recruiting practices. In some cases, the organization’s own practices are not well defined or understood. In other situations, the recruiting strategies are well thought out but are considered a competitive advantage that should not be shared or given away. Much of the published information on recruiting practices is found in the popular press, which frequently omits clear definitions of processes, costs, and effectiveness. The sheer size of the military’s recruitment effort creates problems that are not often found in the civilian sector. For example, many processes are not scalable. An Internet application system that can handle 500,000 hits for information may not work for 5 million hits. Similarly, some recruiting techniques may simply not work. A small firm might use its executives to directly contact promising applicants. The military services would be hard pressed to use their highest ranking officers in that way. In addition to the size problem, the military Services also experience a geography problem; they must recruit everywhere in the nation and then often move the new employees to distant locations for training and work assignments. Civilian employers often target their recruiting of hourly and nonexempt (from overtime regulations) employees to their existing employment locations, and many simply do not relocate hourly and nonexempt newly hired employees. The Services must also restrict their recruiting to a specific population. As discussed in Chapter 5, some groups of people (disabled elderly, physically unfit, recovering drug addicts, former criminals, etc.) usually do not meet minimum qualifications for military service. The Services are looking at methods to attract applicants from sources that can be considered nontraditional. Although the military has experimented in reducing the standards for military service, most new recruits still meet stringent cognitive, physical, and moral standards. Furthermore, the Services cannot use inducements that are common in private industry during times of tight labor markets and booming economies. Opportunities to Improve Recruiting Strategies The popular press is full of innovative approaches to recruiting in the private sector. These approaches are not unknown to the military services. In fact, the military may actually use them in a more effective manner than private industry.
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment Radio Broadcasts According to an article in Workforce (RAS Recruitment Systems, 2000), radio broadcasts are effective because they reach people who may not be actively looking for a job and are not reading job advertisements. Moreover, radio advertisements can be targeted to receptive listeners in a language and a medium they understand. The military Services are well aware of the power of radio broadcasts. Recruiting commands use a combination of paid radio and public service announcements to bring their message to potential applicants—ads placed on radio stations popular with the youth market. Employee Referrals Another way to reach good candidates is through existing employees. While some companies believe referred candidates are more successful in the application process, others are simply looking for another means of enticing candidates to their company. A number of companies (e.g., Capital One, MasterCard International) report paying the referring employee for successful hires. (see Hays, 1999; Leonard, 1999). As noted earlier, referrals from current applicants who are already in a recruiter’s delayed entry pool constitute a productive source of leads. In addition, the Services also make clear to those members already in the military that they should be on the lookout for prospective applicants. Informal referrals to military service occur frequently and appear to be effective. At the present time, however, there is no explicit incentive— especially no financial incentive—for either current applicants or Service members to provide referrals. Newspaper Advertising Other Than Want Ads At least one company (Capital One) does not believe want ads are effective in attracting the kinds of applicants the company needs. Their rationale is that it is unemployed people who read the want ads, and the best candidates are already employed. In contrast, ads in other parts of the newspaper attract a different kind of candidate (Hays, 1999). Here, too, the military recruiting commands often use print media ads that are not traditional newspaper want ads. The military services have extensive advertising campaigns targeted toward recruitment. In addition to specific recruitment-oriented advertising, there is also general military awareness advertising and publicity about military events. While general military “awareness” advertising is not very prevalent, military
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment publicity is quite common. Publicity can be both positive and negative in orientation, and consequently it can help or hurt recruitment efforts. Voice Response Units Voice response units, which allow the individual to call and interact with a computer, have grown in popularity because they allow the candidate to interact with the company at their convenience. They can be programmed for many tasks but often are used to provide information about the company and available jobs, conduct basic screening, and collect contact information (Hays, 1999). There is some anecdotal evidence, however, that in highly competitive labor markets, the impersonal nature of this approach has a negative effect on candidates. Line Executives Higher-level employees like line executives are often useful in conveying the importance of the candidate to the company and convincing the candidate to continue in the employment process. Nestlé Food Co. uses line executives for recruitment particularly with key professionals (Micco, 1997). While high-level military officers may not directly recruit new Service members, many of them are highly visible, particularly in times of war or military actions. It may be useful to ensure that these visible military leaders publicly convey the importance of military service to issues like national security and that the message and messenger are communicated to potential recruits. Experiential Education Programs Many employers use “experiential education programs” like co-op programs or internships and find them effective. In a cost-benefit analysis of school-to-work programs conducted by the National Employee Leadership Council and the National Alliance of Business, organizations were found to break even or achieve considerable gains with school-to work programs. Despite the costs of program development, start-up, ongoing program administration, recruitment of students, wages, training and supervision and training materials, the other costs associated with recruitment, training and supervision, and turnover were reduced, and higher retention and productivity benefited the organization (Overman, 1999). To a large extent, the military Services have led the way in combining training and employment since military service usually merges continued training in an occupational specialty and paid practice of that skill.
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment Internet Like voice response units, the Internet provides an effective recruiting tool for many organizations that can provide information about jobs and the organization, collect candidate information, and do some screening. A tremendous amount has been written in the human resources literature regarding the use of the Internet and its effectiveness for recruiting. According to a survey by the Employee Relocation Council (ERC) conducted between June and August 1999, 89 percent of companies rely on the Internet for help in recruiting new employees. Most used the Internet to post job openings and provide information through the organization’s home page, but many also used the Internet to search for resumes to contact (Albus, 1999). Based on the responses of 435 respondents to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in August 1999, 9 percent of new hires came from the Internet. This number increased to 15 percent of new hires for software developers and manufacturers (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 1999:1, 5). The primary appeal of Internet recruiting seems to be its 24-hour availability and cost savings. According to a 1999 research report published by Creative Good, which studied the electronic recruiting experiences of six large companies (Baxter, Cisco, Citibank, Granite Rock, Procter and Gamble, and Trilogy) a company using the Internet saved $2,000 in advertising costs and $6,000 in time spent looking for new hires by reducing the hiring cycle time by 60 days (Creative Good, 2000; NUA Internet Surveys, 1999). Despite these advantages, the Internet has drawbacks for both the military and civilian businesses. There are a number of frequently mentioned concerns: Limited Applicant Pools. The use of the Internet clearly limits the applicant pool to those who have access to equipment and the skills to navigate it. Moreover, Internet recruiting may be more effective in attracting candidates for some occupations (e.g., technical, computer) than others. Disparate impact may be an unintended consequence, particularly when the definition of the labor pool broadens dramatically with an Internet recruiting strategy. There is no evidence that the Internet taps into a better, more qualified applicant pool. Nor is there evidence that the Internet increases the probability that a candidate will be attracted to the organization or accept a job offer. A Society for Human Resource Management white paper (Overman, 1999) also raises the issue that local and regional candidates, who may be more reluctant to move for hourly, nonexempt positions, are not targeted through the Internet.
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment Negative User Reactions. Job seekers may become frustrated with delays in downloading materials and may not complete their investigations of an employer. Others may progress further but fail to complete online applications because of obstacles in the application process (unfamiliar jargon, unexplained abbreviations, need for browser “plug-in,” etc.). Some job seekers prefer the personal attention that is associated with face-to-face recruiting, which is lacking from many Internet recruiting applications. Increased Competition. Because the Internet is an inexpensive medium for communicating employer information, many can participate even when resources are limited. Thus, large employers and the military may find themselves competing through the Internet with smaller firms and search firms for the same individuals. In addition, information distributed through the Internet is usually available to anyone with an interest. Thus, recruiting and employment practices are revealed to competitors. Inaccurate Information. The Internet provides many sources of information about an employer. Typically, only one source is controlled by the employer—its own web site. Thus, a candidate may be exposed to negative or inaccurate information from a wide variety of sources and lack the skills or knowledge to differentiate accurate information from inaccurate information. Like private employers, the military Services have embraced the Internet as a recruiting tool and use Service members to staff chat rooms and field Internet-generated inquiries. Improving Efficiencies in the Recruiting Process While the military Services cannot alter minimal qualifications or use unusual inducements, they have embraced new approaches to recruiting and often could serve as a role model for private organizations facing large hiring demands. Another approach to improving recruiting outcomes and reducing costs in private industry is analyzing the process and identifying opportunities to make the process itself more efficient. In tight labor markets, some companies find that neither traditional nor nontraditional approaches to attracting qualified candidates work when labor is in short supply. These organizations have tried to improve the recruiting process itself. Three possible approaches are centralization, outsourcing, and record keeping to support analysis of the process itself.
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment Centralization Centralization of recruiting involves operating certain recruiting activities from one or a few locations. While certain functions (e.g., talking face to face with an applicant) require distribution of personnel, other functions (e.g., answering questions sent via the Internet) can be concentrated in one area and may increase the promptness and consistency of responses and reduce costs. The popular literature cites several descriptions of centralization. For example, Marriott centralized its recruitment in three locations: Washington DC, Arizona, and Massachusetts. In September 1998, Marriott placed a staff of 10 in downtown Washington DC, to hire 5,000 people to work in 127 hotels, senior living communities, food distribution centers, and airport and highway food service concession services. However, no data indicating the effectiveness of this change or the cost savings involved were provided. Outsourcing An alternative to centralizing and consolidating existing recruiting practices is outsourcing parts of the recruiting and selection process. For example, in 2000, the giant employer, Wal-Mart, hired Personic, an Internet software company, to hire employees via the Internet and track applicants through the entire hiring process (<http://www.personic.com/news_articles_05.cfm>). Presumably there are economies of scale when one firm concentrates on a narrow group of tasks, such as recruiting, reference checking, drug testing, etc. Moreover, skilled Service members might be better deployed in places where outside contractors cannot perform their duties. The potential efficiency of outsourcing has not gone unnoticed by the Service recruiting commands or Congress. Using contract recruiters in place of active-duty soldiers or using contractors for telemarketing activities for recruiters are innovations being tested in FY 2002. Record Keeping to Aid Process Analysis Another approach to improving recruiting processes is to analyze what methods work best; however, such analysis requires detailed, accurate records. Ideally, the literature would report the costs and the effectiveness of a strategy or recruiting improvement in increasing the number of qualified candidates at various steps in the process. Thus, organizations could choose recruiting strategies carefully and deploy the money saved toward more exposure with existing recruiting techniques, additional recruitment efforts, or research. However, few if any of these analy-
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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment ses have been published by individual companies. Instead, there are data on which strategies are most frequently used and which are rated most important. Analysis of recruiting processes requires complete and accurate data on each step of the recruiting process (Who was contacted? How was the person contacted? How many times was the person contacted? When did the person drop out of the recruiting process? Why? etc.). The military services may be the only organization in the United States capable of such detailed record keeping. SUMMARY The propensity among young people to enlist has declined since the mid-1980s, making recruiting more difficult. One way to facilitate recruiting is through advertising, by increasing overall propensity and as a result enlarging the pool of potential recruits. Our analysis suggests that in order to be most effective in increasing overall propensity, advertising messages should focus on the intrinsic and unique benefits of military service, such as patriotism and duty to country, and should be provided jointly across the Services. Service-specific advertising campaigns then could continue to be keyed to immediate recruiting goals and focus on more immediate extrinsic benefits, such as pay, bonuses, and education. A second way to facilitate recruiting is to improve the recruiting system. The Services have well-structured selection and training programs for recruiters. The recruiter selection systems, however, are optimized for administrative convenience rather than for mission effectiveness. There exists in the recruiting force today huge variability in mission effectiveness. Personnel selection research suggests that marked recruiter performance gains are possible through the design of more rigorous recruiter selection systems. The recruiter training systems provide the fundamentals of successful sales techniques but offer limited opportunities for practice and feedback. Law and policy limit the types of rewards that are available to recruiting management to increase the incentive for effective performance at recruiting duties. There has been little innovation in developing effective recruiter reward systems within existing constraints.
Representative terms from entire chapter: