When hiring a resident assistant (RA), there are a lot of boxes to check. RAs must be able to build relationships with residents, lead effectively, plan programming, enforce policies, and more — all while staying on top of their studies and balancing their social lives.
While rewarding, this role is demanding. To prevent RAs from burning out and leaving in the middle of the year, it’s important to do what you can to support them so they can support residents. One practical way to help reduce the burden of RAs’ day-to-day tasks is by taking the hassle out of managing keys, fobs, and access cards.
Here are three areas to start.
Digitize Routine Processes
Ever since the pandemic started, new responsibilities and challenges have been tacked on to RAs’ job descriptions. One university, for example, introduced desk shifts since it didn’t have enough funding for a full desk staff. This new responsibility entails managing the front service desk, handling resident mail, checking out supplies, and providing friendly customer service. Unfortunately, 80% of RAs said in a survey that desk shifts significantly increased their stress levels.
80% of RAs said in a survey that desk shifts significantly increased their stress levels.
To alleviate the burden of daily tasks, start by digitizing and automating your key log with an automatic key and asset management system. That’ll cut down on lost keys and help ensure you have accurate access records.
Then, consider what other processes you can digitize with that same system. That could include issuing supplies, submitting work orders, or accepting packages. Using a key and asset management system simplifies these tasks by automatically:
- Authenticating user access (so someone can’t falsify an entry in a key log, for example).
- Tracking available inventory.
- Displaying work order status.
- Recording when, why, and to whom keys, cards, or fobs are checked out.
- Creating an audit trail for packages once they’re delivered and notifying residents when they’re ready to be picked up.
- Compiling routine reports with information such as key use and service requests.
Not only will digitizing processes save time, it’ll reduce the likelihood of inaccuracies.
Provide Thorough Training
In the survey we mentioned earlier, 62% of the participants who said desk shift highly affected their stress mentioned one major reason: insufficient training. When thinking about your resident life training process, ask yourself:
- How much training do you provide?
- What kind of training?
- Do you go over how to apply policies?
- Do you include key control and security processes in your training?
- Is your training effective for Gen Z?
By equipping your staff with the tools and knowledge to handle the diverse situations they’ll encounter on duty as an RA, you can help reduce unnecessary job-related anxiety.
Plan for Turnover
Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid RAs leaving, whether they’re quitting unexpectedly or graduating. The last thing you want is for their departure to place an undue burden on the rest of your team. Ensure your key, fob, and card security processes include a plan for dealing with staff turnover. The most important three steps are:
- Collect all keys, fobs, and access cards immediately on the RA’s last day and revoke their access privileges.
- Train new RAs on your key control policies and system.
- Make sure RAs have easy access to key management system training, from either another staff member or your key control technology partner.
Following these steps will minimize how turnover affects your residence life department. Instead of scrambling to track down a key, card, or fob that went home with a former RA a week ago, it’ll be securely stored in your key control system. When new RAs come onboard at the beginning of the semester, being familiar with the school’s policies and key control system will reduce their stress load. Rather than worrying about how to complete a task only a single RA knew how to do, staff members can request training when they need it.
RAs are able to wear lots of hats and juggle lots of responsibilities, but like everyone else, they have a breaking point. Don’t let your key control add to the pressure they’re under.