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How to Keep Resident Assistants (RAs): Advice for Residence Life Directors at Universities

Having a high turnover rate of RAs (resident assistants) is very stressful and expensive for Residence Life and University. Improving the high turnover rate of Resident Assistants is complicated but possible. It is also possible to enhance the performance of RAs. Improving on these problems could save time and money for the Residence Life staff and the University.


To begin solving this problem, the first step is to talk to current and former RAs (including those who quit) and ask their opinions about different aspects of the job. They should be asked if clear goals were outlined for them, if these goals were too easy or impossible, if the situation was interesting, if they felt like a part of a team, and if rewards in their job seemed to be linked to performance. When interviewing the RAs, negative feedback will likely be given to these questions, and this will help show what the real problems are.

A system could be set up where the RAs would receive feedback from the boys or girls on their hall. Many RAs probably do not get any input from their rooms and may become frustrated because they are not sure how they are doing. One way to give feedback would be to have each person in the halls do a monthly evaluation of their RA. On this evaluation, there should be some questions with rating scales, and space to write suggestions and also report any problems that they might have had with the RA. Some of the things that could be rated are friendliness, availability, willingness to help, responsibility, familiarity with residents, etc. Their halls should give the RAs a goal for the average rating, and these averages should result in some sort of reward. For example, the RA with the highest score on “friendliness” for the month, should be allowed to decide and help plan one of the next month’s activities. There should also be consequences for deficient ratings. A number should be set as a “meagre” rating, and any RA who falls below that number should have to perform several different tasks aimed at correcting that problem during the next month. These evaluations would be to set up some general goals for the RAs and to give them benefits based on their job performance.

The Residence Life Staff should also set more specific goals. These goals could be things such as a specific maximum number of hall violations in a month, or a minimum number of activities that must be planned in a month. There should also be rewards for reaching these goals. The goals should be set high but not impossibly high.

One other problem that RAs might have is fitting in as a team. RAs who work together in the same buildings should be able to depend on each other for support, help and ideas. One way to encourage this is to have weekly meetings for all the RAs and weekly or monthly mandatory outings for them, to places where conversation and team building would be promoted.

Any other problems reported by past or present RAs should be taken into consideration and efforts should be made to correct these problems. A system should be set up to make it easy for the RAs to report any issues during the year that they might have, or anything they might not be satisfied with. After receiving a complaint, the Residence Life staff should contact the RA and let them know they have received the complaint and are considering it. Once a decision is made concerning the claim, the RA should be contacted again and informed of any actions that will take place to correct the problem or be told why measures will not be accepted.

The most crucial thing in correcting a problem such as the high turnover rate in RAs is to improve communication. Many issues can be avoided by only showing an interest or showing openness to new ideas. By opening these lines of communication, it is possible to correct the high turnover rate of RAs.

 

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