6 Tips for Onboarding Student Employees

Posted by Josh Young on 28 March 2017 |

onboarding student employeesAccording to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average student at a four-year public university paid $18,632 for their education -- covering tuition, fees, room and board -- for the 2014-2015 school year. Students at private universities, in turn, paid $37,990 on average.

These costs reflect a significant rise over the previous decade, with private tuition increasing by 31 percent and public tuition by 63 percent.

Students are Seeking Employment on Campus

In the face of these increasing costs, many students have chosen to seek employment while attending university. As of 2013 (the most recent data made available by the NCES), 14 percent of full-time students reported working up to 20 hours per week, 19 percent worked between 20 and 34 hours, and 7 percent worked 35 or more.

More than likely, your school already relies on a number of these students to fulfill various jobs and roles across your campus. And while working with student employees can sometimes be challenging, by following these tips during their onboarding process, you can better equip them for success and encourage a better outcome for your campus.

1. Be Flexible with Scheduling

Student employees face a number of competing priorities, which they will likely struggle to manage. Ideally, you'll want to plan shifts and schedules as far in advance as possible to help students map out their responsibilities and study times. However, student employees may need to adjust their workloads to accommodate their coursework -- particularly during exam periods.

Coordinate with them regularly to clearly identify reasonable work plans while offering as much flexibility as possible to allow for academic priorities. By tempering discipline with grace, you can help foster both personal and professional growth while making sure that the work continues to get done.

2. Offer Plenty of Face-to-Face Time

According to one study of members of Generation Z -- the generational cohort representing most of the current crop of students --  53 percent prefer in-person discussions with supervisors as opposed to 16 percent who prefer email and 11 percent who favor instant messaging.

These students also tend to prefer higher levels of management feedback than their Millennial counterparts.  

3. Give Clear Instructions

Since schoolwork is the priority for student employees, they often do not have the time or inclination to figure out how things should be done, preferring to be told what to do. For any student employee positions, clearly define and document responsibilities and tasks so that they can refer to these established guidelines for direction.

4. Provide Training

Considering that for many student employees this new position may be their first professional role -- or at least their first job that doesn't require asking "Do you want fries with that?" -- you will likely need to provide a healthy amount of on-the-job training regarding what is and is not appropriate behavior.

You may need to help them develop healthy work habits, educating them on the importance of such things as arriving on time, calling in sick, limiting personal phone calls, or calmly handling upset customers.

Beyond the basics, some important training topics that you should also cover are:

  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Data security
  • Business ethics
  • Sexual harassment

5. Watch for Sexual Harassment

Student employees will also find themselves uniquely vulnerable to committing and experiencing incidents of sexual harassment. Their role will place them increased contact with supervisors and faculty who can influence their academic career as well as their direct finances, making them particularly susceptible to exploitation.

At the same time, student employees also have more responsibilities and authority than their peers, creating a power imbalance with other students that can lead to harassing behavior -- whether intentional or otherwise.

6. Meet Challenges Head On

Given their youth and naiveté, student employees will likely make frequent and surprisingly innovative mistakes. By addressing any issues that arise both promptly and objectively, you can help convert these mistakes into additional learning experiences that will better prepare them for their future careers outside of the halls of academia.


When done properly, employing students can be a beneficial and enriching experience for them and your campus. Patience, flexibility and clarity are critical to working with these employees. And with a little planning and training, you can better equip these ambitious students for greater success in life and their future careers.

To learn more about how we can help your campus prepare student employees with employment and compliance training, request a demo of our services.

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