The Future of Military Recruiting

The future of recruiting lies in awakening military leaders to recognize and understand key trends and the impact these trends will have on the future of the Military. When leaders can understand the trends that will shape the future they can more effectively position themselves to adjust to the changing demands, which will ultimately prepare them to be more effective in fulfilling the mission of their organizations. According to researchers and writers such as Cetro and Davis, in their report “53 trends now shaping the future” as well as Karoly and Panis, trends such as; an increase in internet usage, increasing migration patterns from lesser developed countries, an increase in cooperation and reliance among organizations, political extremism as well as increased focus on globalization are some key trends that will help to shape the future environment in which recruiters will work.

This article seeks to enlighten readers about some off the key trends that the United States military recruiters will encounter within the next five to ten years and the ramifications of these trends on the military. It provides information that can assist military leaders in taking a proactive approach to the future by strategically analyzing the future in light of these trends and thereby better positioning themselves to accomplish their missions.

After more than 5 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the fight against the global war on terrorism, the United States military continue to face with the dismal prospect of gaining recruits to join the fight for freedom. Historically, military recruiting is considered to be one of the toughest jobs in its industry, and the current challenges they now face give credence to that fact.

According to the federal government recruiting has become more difficult over the years; as a result, US Strategists at the Pentagon have made numerous attempts to attract brighter and younger recruits to no avail. For the past four years they have allocated an enormous amount of money as sign on bonuses, they have lowered the passing grade for enlistees; yet there are still major challenges that the US Army recruiting faces, such as: lack of interest by high school graduates, failure to attract students with good grades, and according to Morgan in his article “Army recruiting and the military recruiting gap,” competition with Colleges/universities and other industries. While the measures imposed by the military has alleviated some of the shortfalls, as the future looms closer and we barrel into another era, recruiting numbers are expected to continue to decrease. The legal requirements to serve within the military have undergone numerous changes to date, and is currently open to people between the ages of 17-42, with a score of above the 30 percentile. Military recruiters usually focus on recruits who are of “high quality” that is, high school graduates who score well on the entrance examination, however, the shortfalls now besieging the military have forced them to enlist recruits of lower caliber; all this in order to successfully combat the shortfall in recruiting quotas. Military leaders must now strategically prepare for the future if they are to meet their quotas for the next five to ten years, how? They must analyze prevalent trends that will manifest themselves in the future in order to successfully meet the quotas required for the proper execution of military plans.

According to Cetro and Davis, as well as a report from Karoly and Panis- RAND researchers, technology will be among the key trends that will affect the recruiting environment within the next five to ten years. Access to the internet has increased dramatically and according to Alterbox will continue to increase at about 18% annually. As we move into another year we will therefore encounter a population who is more “web” literate. As schools move to connect and utilize the internet as a tool for education, we now have a school population which is increasingly more adept at navigating the web. According to Sinkler, not only will the next generation rely more on internet they will also expect cyber-service and instant responses. They will view the internet as a way to connect to the world and with each other. Military leaders must therefore prepare recruiters to be “web” ready in order to recruit prospective enlistees.

Even as military leaders move towards preparing web literate these leaders will also need to analyze the changing demographics that will evolve in the next five to ten years. The National Intelligence Council predicts a decline as well as an aging population which will significantly reduce the size of the eligible military population pool. This reduction however will be alleviated by an influx of legal immigrants. America is viewed as having preeminence economically over other countries according to Lobe, a thought that will continue to dominate for the next few years. This “economically” stable country will attract migrants from poorer countries which will significantly change the demographics.

This increase of migrants will be responsible for a more diverse ethnic workforce. Orvis from the RAND-Aroyo center posits that by 2015 the size of the eligible population to be recruited will change dramatically, with a significant increase in the Hispanic and Asian population. According to the US census bureau the increase in Hispanic population may double its size to 31 million by 2015. Since the inception of the US military the focus has been placed on recruiting those that were born in America however in recent years that focus has changed; and as we continue into the next five years, this focus will continue to dictate the ethnic composition of enlistees. Mullings asserted that “the composition of recruits by race has not changed significantly since 2005. Data prior to 2005 are incompatible due to the change in categorization. Whites comprised 80.8 percent of active-duty Army recruits in fiscal year 2007; blacks made up 14.9 percent of recruits; Asians 3.2 percent; and American Indian/Alaskan Natives 1.0 percent. Recruits who were of Hispanic ethnicity declined from 11.8 percent in 2005 to 10.7 percent in 2007.” With an increase in the number of Hispanics by analysts in the next few years, leaders will need to find ways to attract enlistees from this quickly growing group. The future of successful recruiting depends on recruiters’ ability to analyze these demographic patterns and to be sufficiently knowledgeable about tactics that will attract enlistees, irrespective of their ethnic origin.

As the focus on tailoring recruiting skills increase to target different ethnic groups, recruiters must also become aware of the impact of globalization in the years to come. Globalization in a literal sense signifies international unity. It can be viewed as a process by which “international people” are combined into one society. This process is a combination of economic, technological, socio-cultural and political forces. The power of globalization will have a marked impact on the future of recruiting. Sinkler believes that the eligibility population within the next five years entertains goals that are considered as more global in focus, “they tend to direct their energies toward the resolution of global problems or to issues that might be more aptly described as promoting the welfare of humanity at large” (Sinkler, 2004). As internet usage increase most of the eligible recruiting population will be characterized as being globally aware of numerous cultures and customs of other societies. The military is therefore charged to aspire to create an organization that caters to national as well as international in order to attract recruits.

As the move towards global trend continues, cooperation and reliance among various groups/organizations will increase in the coming years. Sinkler in his article posits that this generation is more connected to family….Recruiters will therefore need to strategize to successfully target parents, teachers and other influential parties in the lives of potential recruits in order to be successful. They will need to work with the media and other influential channels in order to enlist recruits.

September 11, 2001, gave birth to the need for leaders to study the issues involved in political extremism. According to an article in the Washington post dated March 2008, US intelligence have been quoted as saying that as economic conditions improve globally, there will be an increase in the gap between the haves and the have nots…this gap is projected to widen drastically in the next fifteen years. This widening gap will contribute to severe economic stagnation, political instability as well as cultural alienation in some countries. The chasm created by these factors will contribute to different forms of extremism including political extremism. Some analysts believe that much of that violence could be directed against the United States whose position in the global world in 2015 will peak. “That pre-eminence will undoubtedly attract opposition, and not just from discontented groups and individuals who could use anticipated advances information, communications, and weapons to mount terrorist attacks, or ”information warfare”, against US territory and interests – a major concern of the present administration” (Washington post). This trend is probably the most singular decisive factor that will strongly impact the recruiting environment.

Conclusion

As military recruiters move into the future, they will encounter numerous challenges in enlisting recruits. In order to be better prepared and equipped to deal with the challenges of the future, military leaders will profit considerably by analyzing the key trends that will define the recruiting environment. Trends such as increase internet usage, globalization, change in demographic will evolve as the future unfolds. As the new trends emerge military leaders will need to position themselves so that they are ready to embrace a more unique type of recruits. The onus is on military strategist to identify these challenges and rise above them by being prepared.