Analyzing Changes in Attrition of the Canadian Forces

Manchun Fang and Paul Bender


Attrition, model , behaviour, demographic, Operational Research, Canadian Forces


The Canadian Forces (CF) experienced an increasing attrition rate from Fiscal Year (FY) 01/02 to FY 07/08. Over that time, the attrition rate rose significantly, from 6.0% to 9.1% (a more than 50% increase). More recently, this overall rate decreased from 9.1% in FY 07/08 to 7.6% in FY 09/10. What caused the difference: a demographic change in the CF or an attrition behaviour change in the CF? A methodology was developed and an analysis was conducted to answer this question.

The first step was to identify the major contributors to attrition by quantifying demographic and behaviour changes and assessing their contribution to attrition. In order to do this, attrition forecasts were calculated. Existing research showed that CF attrition is strongly related to members’ Years of Service (YOS) profile. Attrition forecasts were therefore performed based on a Weighted Average YOS-based attrition forecasting methodology. The second step was to quantify the contribution down to each YOS level and to identify the YOS groups that contribute most.

Applying the above technique to the CF data from FY 00/01 to FY 09/10 revealed that attrition behaviour changes, not demographic changes caused the three substantial attrition rate changes that occurred during this period. This analysis also provided some insights regarding the likely policy/strategy changes (i.e., remuneration increases, changes in the personnel selection process and introduction of the new CF Terms of Service) that affected the attrition behaviour of CF military members.

This research presents a model for quantifying the effect of demographic and behaviour changes on changes to the attrition rate. The further decomposition at each YOS level identifies the primary contributing YOS groups to changes in attrition. The lessons learnt from the study, as well as the developed model, can help better understand CF attrition and what has driven the observed changes in the overall attrition rates, thereby supporting the development of targeted retention initiatives.

Important Links:

Go Back