New initiatives and slowing economy help Defence attract and keep people

24 January 2009

Total numbers have increased, recruiting is up, and more skilled people are choosing to stay with the New Zealand Defence Force – trends they are putting down to new initiatives and the tougher economic outlook.

Recruitment and retention have been critical issues for the Defence Force in recent years as it sustains a large number of overseas operational commitments, while bringing on new capabilities and going through a significant period of rebuilding. The previously buoyant labour market made it harder for New Zealand’s Navy, Army and Air Force to attract and retain personnel.

But latest figures show that both recruitment and attrition have improved in the last six months, and overall, total Defence Force numbers have grown. At the end of December 2008, the Defence Force nominal strength was 14,150 personnel. This is an increase of 605 (or 4.5 percent) since the same period last year.

Of the three Services, Army has experienced the greatest people growth with 250 more personnel or a growth of 3.6 percent. The Air Force has grown by 129 personnel (4.3 percent), while Navy numbers grew by 48 (a 1.8 percent increase).

In addition, the Defence Force has more than halved its previous recruiting target deficit, missing its goal by a little over 8 percent in the last six months of 2008 – down from around 20 percent a year ago.

Assistant Chief, Personnel, Brigadier Mark Wheeler, says the Defence Force is recruiting the maximum number of personnel into initial and trade training courses. Targeting staff with previous military experience is also paying dividends.

“Recruitment initiatives include a new advertising approach that uses the internet and mobile phone technology more effectively, while continuing to focus on the traditional media like television, print and road shows.”

Brigadier Wheeler says attrition is also trending positively. The Navy, Army and Air Force attrition figures are now all below their expected levels for the 08/09 financial year and all three Services are below the core public sector average of 18 percent.

“The main emphasis of retention work is on identifying the reasons why personnel – especially experienced staff – are choosing to leave and then tailoring strategies that encourage them to stay.

“The NZDF is reviewing the number of postings that require moving households, enhancing career management services, improving work-life balance by rationalising workloads, and improving accreditation and cross crediting of civilian qualifications.

“In addition, our new Military Remuneration System (MRS) will be fully implemented by July 2009. It will enable the salary settings of military positions to be compared with similar jobs in the wider employment market; provide Service personnel with more choice as to how they receive their total remuneration package; and give personnel a more transparent understanding of the total rewards they receive.

“We are pleased that initiatives like these appear to be having a positive impact,” says Brigadier Wheeler. “Certainly the tougher economic outlook is another reason for people to consider a career in the Defence Force, and another reason those already in New Zealand’s Navy, Army or Air Force might be choosing to stay longer.”


Media contact: Bas Bolyn, Defence Media Centre, New Zealand Defence Force, on 021 478 574.

This page was last reviewed on 5 October 2010.