Measuring Up: What Is Your Magic Number?
Posted on May 9, 2016 at 12:00 AM by Darin Ninness
Recently, I was trying to figure out my unit's recruiting goals because I was under pressure to tell my highly demanding and incredibly overbearing Wing Recruiting Director what our squadron's cadet recruiting goal for FY 2016 is. (Hint: I'm the Wing Recruiting Director. I have the best conversations with myself )
"Wait a minute!" I thought. "I know what our historical retention numbers are. Why not start gauging our expected losses against that and build our plan for success?"
I hurried downstairs and scribbled down some notes to see if I had something here.
At the time, I had 30 first year cadets. Thats ... Uh, hmmm. I do math in my head poorly. Out comes the calculator. Current first year cadet retention rate nationally hovers around 23% at the moment. So of those 30, I'll keep about 7 cadets beyond the year. OK. So I'll lose 23. I had about another 37 "not first year" cadets. Nationally, retention there is almost 55%. I'll keep about 21 of those cadets this year, too. And lose 16.
So I expect my statistical loss, if I'm hitting the national averages, to be around 39 cadets. (yes, you read that right: My unit can expect to lose about 40% more cadets than most units in CAP have. It boggles my mind, too, just so you know...)
Tack a couple recruits on to that for "growth" and I should expect to recruit about 41 cadets this year for the unit to continue to grow.
Most units would kill to recruit 41 cadets in a year, right?
Now, my unit is lucky: we know that we tend to retain a few percentage points above the national averages due to our cohort recruiting model. This past year we were at just slightly less than 65%, 5.5% ahead of the national average for subsequent year cadets, and about 35% for first year cadets. So I know that if I stick with with estimating against 23% and 55% retention, I will actually grow the unit quite a bit more than just a couple cadets a year.
So sit down with your membership list in eServices and figure out your Magic Number. I'll wait right here while you do.
First Year Cadets
- How many first year cadets do you have (that is, cadets in their first year of membership who have not gotten to renewal yet)?
- Figure out how many you'll retain: Multiply that number times .23 (round up the next nearest number. Unless you can recruit half cadets).
- Subtract the number you'll retain from your number of first year cadets and thats your expected first year cadet loss.
By way of an example: The (mythical) Wayfield Cadet Sq has 24 cadets, and 8 are first year cadets. Its like this: 8 x .23 = 1.84. Round up to 2. Subtract 2 from 8, thats 6 cadets.
8 x .23 = 1.84. Round up to 2.
8 - 2 = 6
We can expect the Wayfield Cadet Sq to lose about 6 first year cadets this year.
Subsequent Year Cadets
- How many "not first year" or cadre cadets do you have? (thats essentially the total number of your cadets minus the first year cadets that you figured out above)
- Figure out how many you'll retain this year: Multiply your subsequent year cadets x .55 (round up to the next nearest number)
- Subtract that from your subsequent year cadet total, and thats your expected subsequent year loss.
In our 24 cadet Wayfield Cadet Sq example here, 8 are first year cadets, so the rest (16) are cadre or subsequent year cadets.
16 x .55 = 8.8. Round up to 9.
16 - 9 = 7
We can then expect the Wayfield Cadet Sq to lose 7 cadets from this subsequent year group.
Adding it up
- Combine your 1st year loss and subsequent year loss numbers.
- Add a couple for "growth" and thats your "Magic Number."
In the Wayfield Squadron example, they will need to replace 6 first year cadets and 7 cadre. Thats 13 cadets total. Add 1-2 for growth.
6 + 7 = 13.
13 + 2 (for growth) = 15
15 is the Wayfield Squadron's Magic Number.
From this example, you can see the importance of retention in your unit strength management, especially first term cadets. Thats a LOT of cadets to lose after you just spent a minimum of 5-8 weeks training them! Even a few percentage points of improvement beats having to train a whole crop of cadets over again.
(as a side note: My unit recruited 22 new cadets in October, and 21 cadet in March. For this fiscal year, we're actually ahead of where we thought we should be!)
Again, I'm not a statistical guru, nor am I terribly good with demographics. But I can count. And so can you.
It may not be a perfect analysis of the numbers, and by definition, half of the units in CAP will retain less than the average.
But at the very least it gives you a good basis to start comparing your current and ongoing recruiting efforts against. If your Magic Number is 17 and you've recruited just 5 cadets in the first 7 months of the fiscal year, you now know that you're going to have to get cracking to keep your unit strength up!
This take 5 minutes and your roster. Give it a try!
- Lt Col Darin Ninness
National Recruiting & Retention Manager