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Student Retention


Importance of Retention

Supervisors at BYU have noticed that some student employees leave soon after training. Student positions are inherently temporary, but some departments have discovered how to improve retention. The costs of turnover in the general workforce range between 30 and 200 percent of the annual costs associated with each position. In most cases, increases in the retention of student employees reduce costs and increase both productivity and morale.

Reasons Student Employees Leave

Student employees leave their jobs for a variety of reasons. Some are unavoidable such as graduation or moving. However, many of them can be avoided.

One reason students may leave a position is to find a more satisfying job elsewhere. Like fulltime employees, students want to feel they add value to their job and are more likely to stay in jobs where they have that opportunity.

A lack of training and support is another reason students leave. Not providing sufficient support or proper training can make students feel inadequate and unimportant. This fosters a lack of respect between the student and employer, which leads to decreasing productivity.

The first priority for students at BYU is education; the second priority is to gain work experience. Sometimes a heavy school load prevents students from being able to maintain their normal workload. If employers are not accommodating, students will be likely to look for a more flexible job.

Other reasons students leave jobs are poor pay scales, lack of purpose, no recognition and, environments that inhibit fun. Because there are a variety of reasons student employees could leave their jobs, it is important for departments to find any issues that could be a cause of high turnover.

How to Keep Employees

Departments can do many things to improve student employee retention in their department. The following suggestions are tips that work well to retain employees.

Adding Value

When students feel valued they tend to stay. One way to do this is by providing an open atmosphere where they can offer opinions without worrying that their job is on the line. Using students’ ideas will show respect for them and they will show respect in return. Treating everyone equally and fairly is another way to cultivate respect and to show students they are valued.

Pay Scale

For some students, the possibility of pay increases will give them incentive to stay. Establishing a pay scale that rewards longevity can increase employee retention. Other pay scales can be put in place that reward performance. As students demonstrate they have successfully learned new skills or programs, they can be rewarded with a raise.


Student employees need to have a sense of purpose. They enjoy understanding how their work is helping the university. They want to know what is going on in their department and how the activities they are doing will help. Students also desire to have a clear knowledge of how their job will benefit them in the future.

Training and Growth

A university education is much more than going to class and doing homework. For many students, the skills they learn and develop in a student job will give them the experience they need to find a job in the workforce after graduation. Employers should provide positive mentoring opportunities that will benefit the student whenever possible. Students want to do activities in their jobs that challenge them and keep them busy. Providing these activities helps students have variety in their jobs that alleviates the trapped feeling that accompanies a boring or static job. Providing teamwork opportunities is a good way to promote friendships and training.


Students with a heavy workload and a string of midterms or projects can feel overly stressed and may want to quit work to keep up on their studies. When possible, employers can give students a needed break by reducing their hours or allowing them to take a leave. Other arrangements specific to the situation may also be appropriate. Being flexible will help students feel a sense of value and appreciation that will help keep them around.


Recognition of a job well done can be a key factor for students to stay around. Offering praise and performance feedback are easy ways to recognize employees. Other
programs such as employee of the month are more public and often very effective ways to recognize employees. Nominating your outstanding students for Student Employee of the Year is another way to show appreciation. Promoting students to supervisory roles and giving them specific or special projects shows them you appreciate their hard work.

Having Fun

Students who enjoy their work are more likely to stay and excel in their jobs. Allowing music, jokes, or contests are great ways to increase everyone’s morale. Having periodic departmental parties or departmental lunches and treats gives everyone something fun and social to look forward to. The sky’s the limit with ways to have fun at work.


Student employee turnover is very costly to a department and the effects are widespread. However, employers do not have to accept high turnover as a fact of life. By doing things such as adding value, providing purpose, providing training and growth, being flexible, showing recognition, and having fun, employers can promote employee longevity. Employers have a unique opportunity to provide students with opportunities they will appreciate and to cultivate an enjoyable work environment. By providing these opportunities, employers can reduce turnover costs and increase the productivity in their departments.