Most of us have never considered the U.S. military having turnover problems…and for that matter haven’t seen the words “military” and “turnover” in the same sentence.

The short answer to the question posed here is “yes”, in the eyes of senior military officials. A few months ago I was approached in a book-signing line by a military “retention specialist”, sent to hear me speak by his commanding officer, and from there our talks began. Your initial thoughts might match mine which were how can enlisted soldiers quit, and what variables are there among them. Aren’t they all treated exactly the same with pay, benefits, and opportunities?

Several meetings later, a fascinating trend emerged. The re-enlistment rate correlated with how much each soldier trusted his or her commanding officer. Those who built solid, productive, caring relationships led more soldiers to re-enlist, while those who looked more like commanding officers we see in movies…the tough kind…had far fewer soldiers choose to re-up.

The key learning point is this: First-line leaders who build trust increase their odds for retaining those employees they want to keep, and those who fail to build trust are rolling the dice. And I am confident soldiers refer to their substandard leaders as “jerk bosses” or worse, just like your employees do.

So here’s the question to ask yourself first, and then ask it to your top executives: If the only variable for military retention is leaders building trust with their teams, doesn’t that direct us to hold leaders accountable for their talent and provide trust-building tools, too?

The best trust-building tool is Stay Interviews, teaching leaders to ask our 5 essential questions, creating best practices with stay plans, and then forecasting how long each employee will stay. We’re looking forward to applying these proven employee retention solutions with our military and I strongly, strongly suggest you do the same.