24 February 2008

Military Recruiting

I've never been interested in sales, so I knew that I should avoid recruiting duty if at all possible.  I could talk with potentials about the positives and negatives, types of duties, financial aspects... just as a recruiter does.  What I would have a problem with is closing the deal.  I have too much respect for personal choice to pressure someone, something a good recruiter (or salesman) must do at times.  I would also have a problem with signing up someone who was likely to screw up.  I know that's the wrong attitude.  The military can help someone who is struggling get control of their life, develop self-discipline and maturity, and otherwise stop being a screwup.  But most of us have had occasion to say, "The recruiter who signed this dirtbag up should turn in a stripe.", or words to that effect.  I didn't want to be that guy.

The way recruiting works now, military members (enlisted and officers) get pulled from their specialties and become salespeople for 2-4 years or so, depending on how they do and how much they like it.  Meanwhile, their specialty goes forward while they lose proficiency.  How they perform as recruiters affects their career, and in the case of sharp operators that downright suck at sales, very negatively.  Even if they do well, "punching the ticket" rarely makes up for the loss of proficiency and currency within their usual specialty.

What I'd like to see happen is that recruiting be contracted out.  There are several large personnel companies that are capable of handling it.  You can still detail active-duty military to recruiting since meeting and talking with our military folks is the best advertising.  Just make it for 4-6 months of temporary duty near their hometown (or another open station-of-choice, don't send them where they don't want to go... not for this.)  They can still get their ticket-punch, recruiter badge, down-time to attend school or stabilize family, etc...  all without losing currency in their specialty.

For the contractor, a graduated payment system will ensure a good mix of recruits and not just warm bodies.  Figure out what a fair compensation is for signing up someone who will make it through their first enlistment.  The contractor gets paid 30% when the recruit successfully completes their basic and advanced individual training.  Payment of another 25% if the recruit completes their first year post-basic and AIT.  The remaining 45% gets paid at the end of four years, no matter how long the active duty commitment .  The actual total payment, percentages, and when distributed are for example only.  When MEDCOM was negotiating the contract for TRICARE, there were tons of people involved, not just a retired nurse spitballing.

I've talked about this with several folks over the last 10 years and every one of them liked the idea.  Why didn't I ever submit it to the "echelons above reality" that might act on it?  That's a great way to become the "project officer"... I've already said I'm not a salesman.  Anybody want to try?

Posted by: Stashiu3 at 23:10:00 | Comments (15) | Add Comment
Post contains 510 words, total size 3 kb.

1 Speaking as someone who was never in uniform, but whose profession is retail sales--there is a basic problem with this approach.  I sell men's apparel, and I make it a point to wear only clothes from my company when I'm selling.   It's a unspoken demonstration to the customer (and sometimes it becomes openly spoken) that I believe in the product I'm selling.  I'm literally putting my money where my mouth is. 
Applied to the problem here: you need a member of the service to sell the service--a person who believes in what he's selling enough to commit his life to it.  I'm pretty good at what I do, but no matter how bad you are as a salesperson, you, Stashiu, could be a better recruiter than I could be, simply because you are in uniform and I am not.
Additionally, you would be able to do the job better because you'd be able to judge better who is and who is not good material.
At most, you would need to make sure the recruiters were ex-servicemen (in which case they'd have to prepared for the challenge of, "Well, if it's that good, why didn't you stay in?") because that's the kind of expertise you would need.  The salesman needs detailed knowledge of what he sells, and a civilian who's never been in the service (like myself), or was in the service fifteen years ago, doesn't have that knowledge. 
It might be a good idea, however, to make recruitment a mandatory station on the career path, with everyone at a certain grade doing their stint for a set time period.  That way, no one would be penalized for time spent away from their specialty--unless they decided to make recruiting their specialty, of course.

Posted by: kishnevi at 25 February 2008@20:17:24 (zxjPs)

2 Very good points sir. That's why the hometown recruiting duty would be necessary. Let the uniforms do the talking without worrying about making a quota. Personnel companies are in the business of matching up candidates with positions, that's what they do best. I'm sure that former/retired soldiers would be happy to start their next career working with these companies. The key point is that the incentives to get quality candidates would reward the civilian recruiters who best identify who will succeed. Having experience in the military is not the only way to gain experience in assessing personnel, but if it is an advantage, the personnel company would hire those types as recruiters.

Making recruiting a specialty is interesting, but goes against the current trend of the military. Most jobs that can be done by civilians are being contracted out to civilians. That way, military resources can be focused on the Combat Arms, Combat Support, and Combat Service Support. For example, many nursing positions in fixed facilities are being converted to civilian positions so that the active-duty nurses can be assigned to deployable units.

I truly would suck as a salesman though... I could do it, but if you don't enjoy what you're doing it comes through. The nice thing about being a hometown recruiter would be having more of a teaching role. That I would do well at because I love to teach.

Posted by: Stashiu3 at 25 February 2008@20:45:41 (tarqT)


The only other problem I can see comiong from civilians "in charge" of recruitment is you will the get those kids with selective hearing, or who never asked any actual questions, and who upon arriving in bootcamp/The Real Army, feel they were lied to.

Now, granted that the left is unlikely to enlist period, but I would wager that very rapidly you would have lawsuits from parents and PO'd PFCs wanting out, when three questions asked before signing on the line and repeating the oath would have gotten them the info that they didn't belong in the military...

That said, love the site (though not thrilled I had to register with mee.nu to comment).  I'm from Patterico's.  Bet you can figure out who.

Posted by: swj719 at 26 February 2008@11:45:28 (xNyOl)

4 but I would wager that very rapidly you would have lawsuits from parents and PO'd PFCs wanting out

Which, if that happened, would mean the recruiting company wouldn't get paid because the performance criteria wasn't met. That's the incentive to sign up candidates likely to be successful.

That said, love the site (though not thrilled I had to register with mee.nu to comment). I'm from Patterico's.

Drat!!... Drat!!Drat!!Drat!!Drat!!Drat!!

You should not have had to do that and thank you for letting me know. I will try again to open it up to anybody. You should be able to just put any old name and email, just like at Ace's.

Bet you can figure out who.

Scott maybe?

Posted by: Stashiu3 at 26 February 2008@12:47:40 (tarqT)

5 Test of comment without logging in.

Posted by: Sockpuppet at 26 February 2008@12:52:19 (tarqT)


swj719, it looks ok... did it prevent you from commenting unless you registered?

Posted by: Stashiu3 at 26 February 2008@12:56:12 (tarqT)


*nods*  Yeah, I can post, but as I said, I signed up...

*shrugs*  no matter.  Was just annoying the first time.  Not an issue any more. 

Posted by: swj719 at 28 February 2008@09:38:05 (xNyOl)

8 I never thought of outsourcing recruitment but I like it for at least 2 reasons:  First, it makes me uncomfortable that recruiters have quotas.  Quotas open the door to claims that recruiters used undue influence or outright lies, and more than a few allegations like that are not good for the military's image.  Second, recruiting the right person for the right job is difficult, especially in technical fields.  It makes sense to have recruiters who specialize in specific job areas and have access to appropriate military personnel as needed.

On the other hand, these issues are primarily designed to make the military more efficient at recruiting.  Do we really care if the military is efficient, or do we care more that it is self-sufficient?  Otherwise, at some point we might as well outsource the military altogether.

By the way, it looks like the registration requirement has been dropped because it let me comment without registering.

Posted by: DRJ at 01 March 2008@16:18:06 (KBxnL)


DRJ, good to see you

Do we really care if the military is efficient, or do we care more that it is self-sufficient?

It's never going to be self-sufficient since you have civilian companies making the bullets, tanks, MRE's, etc... and I don't think we want it to be anyway.  The military community is too isolated from regular America as it is.  If a professional recruiting company is contracted, it's in their best interest to make the military culture more accessible to the mainstream American culture.  The more people can identify with the military, the better supported they will be.  It's already in the military's interest to do this, they're just notoriously bad at it... mostly because it's not a full-time job and there is no long-term investment in doing so.

The military has, for years now, been moving towards outsourcing non-combat functions.  The supply and logistics system is vastly changed from when I came in and those companies involved must provide guarantees of performance in case of a suddenly increased demand.  It's not perfect, but what is?  It still works better and is more cost-efficient than what came before it.

Healthcare is the same way.  It used to be that all active-duty, retired, and dependents got their care from the military treatment facilities or the VA.  Almost no exceptions because it came directly out of the local operating budget.  When TRICARE came in, the contact contained three levels and made getting outside care much easier (and again, more cost-effective).  It's not perfect, but it works better than what came before.

Recruiting should be outsourced as well for many of the same reasons.  As it stands, it's inefficient and cost-intensive.  Combine that with its effect on technical and tactical proficiency and overall readiness and you have more problems than you need when military personnel should be focused on the war on terror.  Keep the trigger-pullers and their immediate support focused on where the fight is, not on the things a civilian contractor can do much better because it's their career.

Posted by: Stashiu3 at 01 March 2008@17:59:56 (tarqT)

10 Then why hasn't it been outsourced yet?  Is it the institutional reluctance to change or is there some other reason?

Posted by: DRJ at 01 March 2008@19:40:41 (KBxnL)


As far as I am aware, it has never been suggested (other than by me) and I've said already why I never submitted it formally.  If it can be shown to save money, there is a program that will pay a (substantial) financial reward for suggestions that get implemented.  There's just no amount of money that would have made it worthwhile for me to do so because you generally become a project officer for it.

Anyone else is welcome to submit it though.  They can even pretend it was their own idea, I don't need credit for it.

Posted by: Stashiu3 at 01 March 2008@20:34:00 (tarqT)

12 Okay, but can you play devil's advocate and think of any reasons why it shouldn't be outsourced?  In addition, is there a middle ground like having military personnel who are career recruiters?

Posted by: DRJ at 02 March 2008@16:42:27 (KBxnL)


I can't think of any reasons it shouldn't be outsourced that I haven't already brought up.  I've been thinking about this for well over 10 years and believe that it would work better than what is in place.  Even if the company wanted to intentionally undermine the military, the graduated payments would make it so unprofitable to recruit substandard personnel that they would go bankrupt.  The potential for infiltration or sabotage of our military forces would remain the same (low risk), assuming the personnel company was properly vetted.  I wouldn't want to see a Soros-owned company get the contract without significant oversight, just as an example.

The middle ground under what I proposed would be the company hiring former military if there was an advantage to doing so.  There is another possibility however.  The Junior ROTC programs frequently hire recently-retired military and essentially re-enlist them for duty at the high school.  They wear their uniform with the rank they retired at.  I'm not sure if that service adds to their military retirement benefits or if they continue to be eligible for promotion, but those details could be worked out as part of the contracting process.

That way, those military folks who enjoy recruiting, and are successful at it, would have an option to make that their primary duty without worrying about losing currency and proficiency in their present specialty.  Interesting variation, but secondary to outsourcing.  Personally, I wouldn't want to see it happen simply because the Hometown Recruiting portion should be a sufficient military presence and having active-duty (or quasi-active-duty) career recruiters takes resources away from the mission unnecessarily.  Soldiers should be concerned with soldiering, not sales.

Did you have a specific reason for asking?  Some potential drawback that I may have missed? 

Posted by: Stashiu3 at 02 March 2008@17:11:04 (tarqT)

14 No, perhaps like you, I'm a conservatives that doesn't like change unless I've thought it through.  Because you've thought about this for 10 years, you are more likely to have thought of the pros and the cons.

Posted by: DRJ at 03 March 2008@15:44:10 (KBxnL)


I'm a conservatives that doesn't like change unless I've thought it through.

Amen to that.

Posted by: Stashiu3 at 03 March 2008@16:22:24 (tarqT)

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