The Canadian Armed Forces have more than a hundred occupations and always search for talented personnel. However, it is not enough to be a professional to apply for a job in the military because all positions in the Canadian Armed Forces are linked to a certain rank. Recruits ought to complete special programs and get qualifications. Consequently, numerous professionals do not apply for service as they are unwilling or unable to partake in military education to get a certain rank. While complete abolition of rank requirements is unreasonable, many positions should not require a specific rank. Thus, it is necessary to explore the possibility of delinking the rank from these particular jobs in the military and connecting them solely to specialty occupation requirements for a small portion of the applicants.
Armed forces are an essential entity of any country to protect its territory, interests, and citizens. The military has a strict organizational framework with ranks, roles, and express requirements for its branches, units, and personnel. The Canadian Armed Forces (the CAF) consist of three branches: Army, Navy, and Air Force. There are 100 careers in demand in the CAF constantly. Some of these occupations, such as steward or aerospace technician, are unique to one of the branches, while others are universal (The Canadian Armed Forces, n.d.). The occupations are divided between two types of personnel: commissioned and non-commissioned. The latter members provide support and operational services (Government of Canada, n.d.). Nevertheless, all of the presented careers, even non-commissioned members’ positions, have a rank requirement.
Each recruit should pass the Basic Military (Officer) Qualification and then specialized Basic Occupational Qualification for lower ranks or Professional Training for officers. The training and career paths are inflexible, while strict rank requirements further contribute to the problem. As Geluk et al. (2020) note, said issues are primarily due to insufficient HR capabilities of the military, and the current system results in the increasing talent gap. In the modern labor market, military workforce policies are outdated and unattractive. The market “has become far more competitive, with basic laws of supply and demand leading to higher salaries and more attractive offers from private-sector employers” for high-demand professionals (Geluk et al., 2020, p. 2). These professionals include medical workers, engineers, IT specialists, pilots, etc. The CAF needs to revise its organizational framework to be more agile and diverse.
As such, the research question is as follows: what is the process to delink the rank requirements from occupations in the CAF? The primary purpose is to investigate the possibility of changing rank requirements to specialty occupation requirements. Current research utilizes the method of secondary data analysis. The paper consists of three sections: analysis of modern Canadian military organizational and training systems, their issues, and fixes; discussion of the delinking process; and conclusion.
To begin with, the military is powered by human resources like any other organization. Thus, it is beneficial for the CAF to attract more capable personnel. Despite this notion, training, promotions, and career opportunities are decided based on rank and acquired qualifications during military training (Fuhr, S., 2019). There are several resulting issues with the current inflexible approach. First, choosing the branch and occupation which determines the training is often limited to the most demanded postings. Second, outdated policies contribute to the discrimination of women and minorities, resulting in their inability to get certain ranks and occupations.
With the current organizational framework and training system, the CAF faces high retention rates and an inability to meet its yearly recruiting targets. Geluk et al. (2020) argue that army leaders cannot “identify future needed capabilities” of recruited personnel, diversify army ranks with minorities, and “do not focus enough on talent management and development” (p. 2). One quick fix is implementing detailed analytics to gather personnel data to investigate why people join or leave the army (Geluk et al., 2020). Personal data can then be used to identify which CAF positions need a change the most, including a partial shift of rank requirements with more lenient specialty occupation requirements. However, three initial reforms are necessary before the delinking can be initiated, which are as follows:
- flexible career paths;
- an agile organization;
- customized training and development (Geluk et al., 2020, pp. 3-4).
The complexity of regrouping personnel into the structure that will allow for a combination of ranked and ‘unranked’ (recruited without rank requirement) service members is the reason for these reforms. Furthermore, implementing them may prove enough to alleviate the issues mentioned above.
It is essential to mention that some jobs should not require a rank whatsoever. For example, an army chaplain involves getting an officer rank, whereas chaplains have no “command authority, and are prohibited from bearing arms” (The Canadian Armed Forces, n.d.). Militarization of spiritual counselors and faith leaders is an unnecessary resource use, i.e., time, effort, and money. Tietje (2020) thoroughly discusses the wearing of rank by military clergypersons and suggests returning to the pre-World War I system when chaplains had no ranks. Other occupations that may not have rank requirements are cook, steward, firefighter, various healthcare professionals, non-weapon technicians, clerks, and musicians. Deibler (2017), the US Air Force major, comments on the military rank structure, noting that it is not fit for modern conflicts. The alternative is to develop “a position-centric force that allows for rapid advancement based on job performance” (Deibler, 2017, para. 2). Such armed forces would theoretically allow for competence-based occupation requirements and development, enabling every member to unleash their potential.
Further, it seems that the position-centric force would improve issues present at the tactical, strategic, and operational levels, namely conflicts between different officer ranks, overlapping command chains, and putting rank over proficiency. As such, Deibler (2017) provides a solution of realigning “current ranks in a single hierarchy” and grouping service members “by function in tactical, operational, and strategic groups” (para. 5). Concerning previously stated occupations, this would mean that members would be chosen for the positions based on their qualifications only (degree and previous work experience). Additionally, training for these occupations would be shortened and limited to a unified basic military course and/or specialized occupational course.
First of all, it is worth mentioning that the process of delinking the rank from jobs in the military is not widely described. The majority of researchers believe that the abolition of rank structure is unnecessary. Ranks exist to ensure the orderly functioning of the institution, with all members having concrete authority and responsibilities. As full or partial abolition or change of rank framework or rank requirements can lead to structural chaos, caution is needed in implementing any following recommendations. Geluk et al. (2020) highlight three foundational HR capabilities of the armed forces:
- advanced data analytics;
- strategic workforce planning;
- project management (p. 4).
These capabilities are essential to provide the CAF with a proactive and efficient managerial system regarding recruiting.
Analytics will allow identifying the gaps in particular occupations and military members’ skills and qualifications. It will also enable an understanding of the current labor medium and predict the impact of initiatives and policies (Geluk et al., 2020). Planning is necessary to establish a straightforward procedure for implementing changes (‘where’ and ‘how’). Ongoing management and administration of the implementation through sufficient managerial controls will let HR control and analyze the process and introduce timely improvements and measures to minimize unintended adverse effects. Ensuring that the military recruiting officers have these capabilities is the first step toward delinking.
The second step is to reform recruiting, training, and career development, as briefly mentioned in the Analysis section. First, flexible career paths mean granting more options regarding military service. It includes faster promotion in ranks for superior performers, flexible development for personnel with highly specialized skills, and a nonlinear career path up to a complete change of occupation (Geluk et al., 2020). That will make rank requirements more liberal as they will be secondary to actual qualifications and interests presented by a military member.
Second, the combination of ranked and unranked personnel requires revising the military organizational framework. An agile organization implies pushing “some forms of authority … to lower levels” in the CAF, hastening decision-making and bringing troops and commanders closer (Geluk et al., 2020, p. 4). It should grant the armed forces the ability to control different types of personnel and quickly adapt to changes in recruiting needs which will prompt frequent recruiting planning (Geluk et al., 2020). The agile structure is essential to preserve order within a specialty-based occupation system as it is incredibly adjustable.
Finally, customized training refers to an individualized training strategy instead of standardized training. Without adapting to the general service requirements, recruits should be taught what they specifically need for a job, emphasizing competency in a particular occupation instead of a wide range of skills (Geluk et al., 2020). The strategy utilizes an “individualized, flexible, and practical” set of courses and further development to minimize resource outputs per military member, precisely time and money (Geluk et al., 2020, p. 4). Customized training ensures explicitly that specialty occupation requirements are met, putting rank requirements aside.
The last step is to use the framework above and abolish rank requirements for a small number of recruits. Additionally, it is possible to gradually increase the number of unranked service members depending on the recruiting targets. However, as Deibler (2017) mentions, regrouping personnel and revising the recruiting and training processes and career paths will take much time. It is necessary to investigate whether such a challenging process as delinking is worth the effort. Theoretically speaking, the delinking should drastically improve recruiting situation in the long-term perspective.
As the CAF faces high retention rates and does not meet yearly recruiting targets, it is vital to investigate possible organizational and training framework reforms. One of such reforms is delinking the rank requirements from some jobs in the military and connecting them solely to specialty occupation requirements for a portion of recruits. It should raise the number of recruits for the occupations in question and resolve the issues in the long run. The process of delinking is complex and time-consuming because it involves improving military HR capabilities, ensuring advanced data analytics, strategic workforce planning, and active project management. Prior changes should be made regarding recruiting, training, career paths, and overall organization to make the military more agile and diverse. These changes will ensure that the delinking will occur in an orderly manner and the personnel acquired without rank requirements have a concrete place in the hierarchy with individualized professional training and development.
Deibler, K. A. (2017). Commentary: The rank structure is holding us back. It’s time for drastic change. Air Force Times. Web.
Fuhr, S. (2019). Improving diversity and inclusion in the Canadian Armed Forces. Report of the Standing Committee on National Defence [PDF document]. Government of Canada. Web.
Geluk, P., Schlueter, M., Thomas, T., & Erkens, S. (2020). Fixing the talent gap in armed forces worldwide [PDF document]. Boston Consulting Groups Insights. Web.
Government of Canada. (n.d.). Joining the Canadian Armed Forces. Author. Web.
The Canadian Armed Forces. (n.d.). Browse Careers. Government of Canada. Web.
Tietje, A. (2020). A seductive confusion of authority: Military chaplains and the wearing of rank. Journal of Church and State, 62(3), 506-524. Web.