After Falling Short, U.S. Army Gets Creative With New Recruiting Strategy

After Falling Short, U.S. Army Gets Creative With New Recruiting Strategy

Uncle Sam may want Generation Z, but the feeling doesn’t seem to be mutual.

That’s the conclusion recruiters relayed to General Frank Muth, the head of Army Recruiting Command, last July when he spoke with them to figure out why the Army fell short of its recruiting goal by 6,500 people in the last fiscal year.

In an effort to ramp up recruitment, the Army this year is trying something different.

As part of a new strategy, the Army is rethinking its approach toward Generation Z — those born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s — by going digital, getting creative about selling itself and expanding efforts in different parts of the country.

The Army has shifted its focus from more conservative parts of the U.S. that traditionally fill its ranks — locations across the South from Virginia to Texas — towards 22 left-leaning cities across the country, like Boston, Seattle and San Francisco.

Recruiters and senior military leaders are having discussions with local community leaders and increasing their presence in these more progressive cities. It has sent recruiters to events like the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, the Boston Marathon and a job fair in the shadow of the Seattle Space Needle.

It has also expanded its presence online — having recruiters throw up a meme about how the GI bill pays for college, even playing in an electronic sports (e-sports) video game tournament.

In these spaces, Muth hopes the Army can start a dialogue with potential recruits at a time when 50-year lows in unemployment numbers mean that young people have plenty of other job prospects.

Starting a dialogue

“Calling the Z generation on the phone doesn’t work anymore,” Muth said in an interview with NPR’s Leila Fadel. “We’re really giving the power back to our recruiters to go on Twitter, to go on Twitch, to go on Instagram, and use that as a venue to start a dialogue with the Z generation.”