Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers
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The military recruitment and retention challenge studied by reservists

Early August, the reservist community came together in Sofia, Bulgaria to discuss “Recruitment and retention of reservists into NATO operations”. The issue is highly relevant, as countries around the world face challenges in recruiting for their militaries.

This means to take a more detailed view on recruitment and retention of reservists. Therefore the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR) organized this symposium to bring together national military and political decision makers, employers and academics to share experiences and best practices. Many NATO member and partner nations are undergoing transformation from conscription to professional Armed forces. This, combined with an increasing number of overseas deployments, carries the risk of creating a “disconnect” between society and its defence. It is more and more recognized that reservists are key contributors to promoting defence attitudes within the civilian Society. In May the former NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, put it this way when addressing the reservists of CIOR: “Your dedication and commitment as reservists, make your countries’ armed forces more effective. And this in turn, makes NATO more successful“

The program of the symposium was organized into three panels. The first one handled the general issue of global security and the increased need of reservists to face current security threats. Military representatives from Switzerland, France and the Netherlands contributed with impulse presentations to the panel. The result of the panel was fundamental. In the 21st century the distinction between internal and external security of a nation is irrelevant. This development involves a shift from classical analysis of risks and threats to an interdependency-based analysis and now includes e.g. economical and financial crisis, market instability, migration or supply shortfall around the globe.

After the general introduction to global security developments, the second panel focused on recruitment and retention. In the centre of the focus the reservist as a civilian employee was analyzed from both military and civilian perspective. For both sides the work-life balance has to be taken seriously for recruitment and retention. Communication between the military and business worlds is essential. To handle this challenge the military world started programs known as employer support to show the advantages of military training and utilization. The panel was manned with representatives from Australia, United States and Canada and also regarded a perspective from participants of the CIOR Young Reserve Officers Workshop (YROW). As the key target group for recruitment activities of the military and business young reserve officers combine academic and leadership skills on a high level.

The third panel summarized the results of the first two panels. On a question and answer panel the participants from Norway, Denmark, United Kingdom and France interacted with the audience and vice versa. Questions concerning different reserve issues were presented on a slide show. The statements of the panellists created a floor for extensive discussions with the audience and two key notes summarize the symposium: Firstly, reservists are seeking a “continuum of career,” not a “continuum of service.” Secondly, employers are interested in the reintegration of reservists into their work and communities – reservist/employees are seen as a shared resource.

The symposium relevancies a key product of CIOR and supports its mission to forge links between reservists and NATO and national military authorities as well as between military and civilian authorities.

The results of the symposium panels will shortly be published as a separate report on the CIOR website at

© 2012 Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers