Posted on 06/15/2014 at 12:00 AM by Barbara Buckner
Everyone will agree: Our membership numbers have declined, for many reasons, and we need to recruit new members and focus on how to retain the ones we do have…the ones we have invested time and training in. But, how do we go about doing that?
When I have asked Commanders why they don’t have a Recruiting & Retention Officer on staff – be it at the Region, Wing or Unit level – the response seems to be the same: “I have other positions that I need to focus on staffing first.” Sound familiar? What this tells me: They don’t see or understand the benefit of having a Recruiting & Retention Officer on their staff…to them, it is just another position.
Everyone recruits for CAP – whether they intentionally set out to do so or not. When you wear the uniform, when you post a comment or a picture to Social Media about your involvement in CAP activities, when you just talk to friends/family/coworkers about why you joined and what you are doing…you are recruiting. This is how we have gained the most members in our organization through the years – the “word of mouth” technique – so having someone dedicated to the role hasn’t seemed like a priority in the past.
So let’s break down what a Recruiting & Retention Officer (“RRO”) really is at each level of the organization so you can see why they actually play a vital role:
The RRO is the most hands-on at this level but has probably been more focused at recruiting than retention. This is the staff member that plans and conducts the Open Houses, talks to the prospective members about joining, and makes phone c alls to those members that haven’t been showing up for a couple of weeks. Seems simple enough so why dedicate a full-time staff member to the position?
The Unit RRO should also be working hand-in-hand with the Public Affairs Officer (to help promote the Unit for recruiting efforts) and the Cadet Programs Officer/Professional Development Officer (to focus on retention ideas/problems).
The Public Affairs Officer will already be sending out press releases and posting about activities the Unit is conducting, but they can also assist the RRO by getting the word out to the community about Open Houses. They can design marketing materials that highlight the Unit’s accomplishments and goals….the reasons why a new member will want to join YOUR unit and not just CAP.
The Cadet Programs Officer and Professional Development Officer will already be working on schedules and activities to keep the Unit’s Cadets and Senior Members trained and active, but the RRO’s role is to keep them informed of the feedback from members as to what training or activities they would like to see and what frustrations they may be having that cause them to stop attending meetings/activities.
For Commanders who need to fill Staff positions, this is where your RRO comes into play!
When RROs talk to current and prospective members, they uncover talents/skills set that the member already has and how they could use them to help your Unit. A mistake that occurs too often: Some members do not want to do the same job in CAP that they do as their day job…and this is where members will lose interest in CAP as time goes on. If the Commander asks them to take the role, they may feel obligated. If the RRO ask them, you have a better chance of finding someone who both wants and can do the role.
The RRO at these levels should be focused more on assisting and training the Unit RROs than actually participating in hands-on recruiting and retention. Once the Commander at each particular level has decided who they want to target for recruiting and what goals they have regarding retention, the RRO should then be tasked with helping make those objectives happen:
1) Re-Communicate the Group/Region/Wing Commanders goals’ for recruiting and retention to the Unit RROs. The Unit Commanders already will but RRO is a support staff position so we need to “support” each other at every level…and that starts with getting communications lines open between each other.
2) Host “Recruiting & Retention” training classes for Unit RROs where ideas and best practices can be shared. This shouldn’t wait until a Wing Conference to accomplish. With technology today, this can even be done via online forums if distance between Units is an issue…. but always start with asking the Unit RROs what kind of help they would like to receive. This will give you a better idea of where to start your focus.
3) Monitor each level’s New Member report. See where the trend is in recruiting for your area to help streamline the process or uncover missed opportunities to address. Do the Units need help? Are there organizations we aren’t contacting that we should? Who is having success in recruiting and what Units need some extra help before they lose their charter status.
4) Work with the Safety Officer and Professional Development Officer to uncover those members that aren’t progressing or participating. They will be able to tell you from their monthly reports. Check with the Unit RROs to see if they have contacted the members and what feedback they received before the member hits the “point of no return” and does not want to come back.
5) Work with the PAO to get out pictures and information regarding successful recruiting events. This is less about publicity from the RRO perspective and more about sharing ideas for other units to see that may not know where to start.
6) Help Command fill their staff positions! The primary job of any Recruiter is to help find the right person for a position. Take this issue off the Commander’s plate and help him/her fill staff roles. Open dialogues, make suggestions to the Commander and follow-up to offer positions when the match has been made.
The only way to successfully turn around Recruiting and Retention is to make it a focus...and that starts with putting someone in place to help make that happen.