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Rand: Bonuses Key to Retaining Talent

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U.S. Army
Friday, December 20, 2019

Bonuses, particularly those targeting critical occupations, can be an effective way to keep talented soldiers whose pay is limited by current pay scales, according to a new study by the Rand Corp.

The study, “Setting Military Compensation to Support Recruitment, Retention, and Performance,” describes military compensation as a “critical strategic human resource tool” that can help the services attract and manage a high-quality force.

Ideally, the military compensation system should provide the flexibility needed by the services to recruit and retain the right numbers and quality of personnel, motivate them to do their best, and separate them “gracefully” from service when the time is right, according to the report.

The report recommends, among other things, making sure military pay is competitive with the civilian sector and increasing performance incentives associated with promotion.

“Setting military pay for a volunteer force means that compensation should be sufficiently high to induce sufficient numbers of personnel with the required quality to voluntarily choose to serve and forego civilian opportunities,” the report says.

It also notes that soldiers “consider the pay of civilians with similar labor market opportunities” when making enlistment and retention decisions.

The Rand report comes as the Army sets into motion a sweeping talent management overhaul in a push to put the right soldier in the right job at the right time. The effort is a top priority of Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, who has said soldiers “will always remain the centerpiece of our Army.”

“People don’t want to be treated like interchangeable parts in an industrial age process,” he said during a speech in October. “They want to be recognized for their unique talents. They want purpose, they want belonging, and they want a pathway to success.”

Read the full report here.