How to Motivate Student Workers: A Case Study

Sometimes it is difficult to get student employees motivated to do their jobs, especially when the tasks that they are asked to do seem to be unimportant. For this post, I looked at a case focused on that issue. There has been a struggle with keeping student employees engaged in the Student Life office at a small college. Because of this lack of connection to the tasks and others in the office, many student would quit after a short period of time, or would skip the shifts that were assigned. My job was to offer a solution to this issue. 

One way to get the student employees to feel connected to their job is by explaining to them why Student Life exists in the first place. Having a training session about the department’s history and purpose is important because employees are significantly more likely to be satisfied with their jobs if they believe in the mission that their company was created around. 

ImageStudent Life is important on any campus because it helps students feel at home even their hometown is hundreds of miles away. It covers a vast amount of different things such as residence life, Greek life, and even orientation. Organizations are there to help students get acquainted with a new environment and make friends, teaching them valuable lessons for their future about leadership and teamwork. 

Once they understand that the department they are working for does so much to enhance the college experience, they should feel as if their job is important and necessary in helping their peers.

The next step is to say that the tasks done by members of the department are simply how we are able to exercise the why that we believe in so strongly. Although making copies and answering phones may seem like unimportant tasks, the Student Life message would never be known without them. Someone needs to copy flyers for events so students will find out about them and attend, and someone needs to be there to answer student telephone calls so they feel welcomed and important in the school environment. The student workers should always be striving to make their peers feel comfortable, because that is part of the reason why the Student Life department exists in the first place. 

Another thing I would do would be to allow the employees to be creative, instead of just working on such straightforward tasks. I would ask their opinions on initiatives we were considering doing and ask them for ideas for events, always giving them a comfortable environment to share their thoughts with me. They could be invited to staff meetings used for planning, and should be valued as important, just as the full time professionals in the office are. 

ImageIt might even help to allow them to decorate the office themselves, encouraging them to hang up motivational quotes and paintings that inspire them. There could also be a contest in which the student employees each have to design a shirt for the team, and the winning design is actually replicated and turned into the “uniform” shirt. 

Student workers can be very valuable in a Student Life office, because a sampling of the people we are targeting is right there to give us feedback, and they should definitely be a part of the decision making process. 

In order to motivate employees, it is important to show them the “why” behind your organization or company, and be sure their personal values align. Allowing creative opportunities and making sure they have some input in the organizations plans will also keep them engaged and make them feel empowered. 



About Tara Rabinowitz

Animal lover. Craft junkie. Bride-to-be.
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