Predicting & Reducing Voluntary Outflow in the Royal Navy.

Research Paper Title

Predicting and Reducing Voluntary Outflow in the Royal Navy.


This research speaks to one of the major concerns facing the modern Royal Navy (RN), especially given the current economic and political climate – that is how to achieve and maintain the correct level of manpower to meet functional and operational requirements. The rate of Voluntary Outflow (VO: previously referred to as Premature Voluntary Release) has remained above the stable long-term level (calculated from historic trends) for years. For RN officers the stable VO rate is 2%, for other ranks it is 5%. In 2009, the VO rate for RN officers increased to 4% and for other ranks to 6%.

The cost of trained personnel leaving the Naval Service prematurely is difficult to calculate precisely. However, cost estimates from 2006 average £92,000 for officers and £25,000 for rates up to the completion of Phase 1 training. Clearly, the true cost of replacing ‘in-service’ personnel will be much higher as the individuals who have left prematurely take with them a wealth of training and experience beyond that of a newly trained RN officer or rating. Personnel who leave early are not easily or quickly replaced. High rates of VO can lead to problems associated with loss of productivity and military readiness because of discontinuity in the workforce, particularly within specializations. Thus, there are good financial and operational reasons to understand why personnel leave the Naval Service prematurely.

There have been many attempts to pinpoint the factors related to personnel leaving the armed forces prematurely. Indeed, other research suggests that staff retention and VO in military personnel is related to commitment to the organisation, external stressors such as death of a spouse, job satisfaction, quality of leadership, and work alternatives (e.g., a better offer of employment). In essence, low commitment to the organization, the presence of external stressors, job dissatisfaction, and poor leadership all have links to low retention in the military.

In 2006, the Institute of Naval Medicine (INM) was tasked to conduct a longitudinal study of Work and Well-Being on a cohort of over 2,500 Naval personnel of all rates and ranks. The main purpose was to improve our understanding of occupational stress, identify high risk groups and to investigate the operational and manning implications of stress. A key question was whether high levels of stress cause personnel to leave the Naval service prematurely.

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RN Handbook 2012, The


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