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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

  1. How many first year cadets do you have (that is, cadets in their first year of membership who have not gotten to renewal yet)
  2. Figure out how many you'll retain:  Multiply that number times .23 (round up the next nearest number. Unless you can recruit half cadets).
  3. 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 =  

We can expect the Wayfield Cadet Sq to lose about 6 first year cadets this year.

Subsequent Year Cadets

  1. 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)
  2. Figure out how many you'll retain this year: Multiply your subsequent year cadets x .55 (round up to the next nearest number)
  3. 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 =

We can then expect the Wayfield Cadet Sq to lose 7 cadets from this subsequent year group.

Adding it up

  1. Combine your 1st year loss and subsequent year loss numbers.  
  2. 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


Categories: Management

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