Mass Exodus: Examination of USAF Pilot Retention
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Gray, Andrew Parker
Every organization faces challenges throughout its existence due to an ever changing world. These trials can range from small internal problems all the way to large issues impacting the organization’s very foundation. Either way, these challenges must be examined, understood, and appropriately dealt with for the organization to survive. The United States Air Force (USAF) is currently facing such a challenge in the form of severely low retention among its highly trained pilots. This study strove to explore this problem, looking at the underlying reasons why pilots were leaving the USAF before retirement and then generating potential evidence based solutions to this retention issue. In order to accomplish this goal, the researcher utilized a grounded theory methodology, examining the interview responses of twenty-one former USAF pilots regarding their retention decisions and experiences in the USAF. After analysis, the data gathered showed that quality of life factors, such as work/life balance and outside opportunity, had the greatest impact on retention decisions and led to the development of the USAF pilot quality of life retention theory. Additionally, the data provided a foundation for the creation of two solution sets, one focused on improving quality of life factors for USAF pilots and the other centered around improving leadership within the USAF, due to leadership’s impact on almost every aspect of a service member’s life and career. The end goal is not just a better understanding of why this problem became so dire in the first place, but also what can be done to alleviate the strain and ensure that the chances of such a retention problem happening again are low.|Keywords: Retention, Work/life balance, Leadership,
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