The World’s Toughest Recruiting and Retention Challenge!

As HR Pros we all have our greatest recruiting stories and retention saves – and as HR Pros – we always think ours are the worse!   With the killing of Osama Bin Laden recently you would think the Navy SEALS have the easiest recruiting and retention job in the world right now – wouldn’t you!?  I mean let’s face it – the SEALS are 2011 Rock Stars.  Every guy wants to be one, and every girl wants to date one (well, and maybe some guys to – I’m inclusive being in HR!) But, a recent Newsweek article, The Coolest Guys in the World, tells a different story:

They were already a semi-legendary bunch, a wing of the Navy that attracts gung-ho soldiers who drink snake venom and punctuate kills with a kiss to the victim’s cheek (if their memoirs are to be believed). Swagger, perhaps, but also inevitable. SEAL training takes at least two years—about the same as it takes to become an astronaut—and includes an agonizing combination of brain and brawn, topped with five days of simulated battle stress. The men call it “Hell Week” (official name: Motivation Week), a regime of bullets, bombs, and extreme endurance tests. Men can ring a bell to quit at any time, and historically two out of three do. There are only about 2,500 SEALs worldwide, and an estimated 200 in Team Six, the squad that picked off three Somali pirates from 100 feet on rough seas in 2009.

But the SEALs haven’t always enjoyed such heady days. In fact, the bin Laden mission is a bright spot in a history marked by scandal, failure, and, most recently, a decade of stalled recruiting efforts. That may not change. “Recruiting is a big problem, and retention is an even bigger problem,” says former senator Bob Kerrey, a Medal of Honor–winning SEAL during Vietnam. “Ninety percent of a SEAL’s life is training, preparation, and being bored to death.”…

In recent years the Navy has stepped up its efforts to find such pros, offering a $40,000 bonus to recruits who survive basic training, and scouting out men who can do just that. The profile is very specific. The men most likely to succeed as SEALs, according to a 2010 Gallup study commissioned by the Navy, are at least 5 foot 8 and 162 pounds, eschew the Big Four sports for pastimes like water polo, snowboarding, and lacrosse, and hail from “New England, the northern Plains, or the West Coast.” Their average age is 22 to 25.

As Talent Pros we always go after the best talent we can find.  Can you imagine having to go after such a specific profile, only to then have to ask them not to be who they are most of the time!?  We want you to be America’s most feared killing machines, but hey just wait over their for a few months and we’ll give you call when we need you.  That is a major Retention Challenge!  We want the worlds greatest adrenaline junkies, who have a on/off switch.  And don’t tell me this isn’t a Recruiting Challenge – sure everyone is knocking on your door to be a SEAL – but you don’t want everybody – you want a very specific profile – you want a Needle in a Haystack!

So, what’s the most challenging recruiting and retention scenario? The one where everyone wants the job, you only want a very small few of them, and then wants they get the job they don’t want it any longer!  Welcome to the show boys!


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