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Faculty/Staff Retention


Avoidable turnover is the most significant measurement of employee retention. It represents the portion of employee turnover that management has opportunity to control. Avoidable terminations could have or may have prevented by management. Avoidable turnover rates are calculated as follows: 

Avoidable Separations Turnover Rate = Total Separations Less Unavoidable Separations/Total Number of Benefit Eligible Employees


Since 2012, SDSU has experienced avoidable turnover at various rates by position. The following rates are for benefit-eligible employees only and includes voluntary and involuntary resignations. Faculty, NFE, and CSA staff have varying rates during identified fiscal years as follows: 


Represented graphically, one may observe that since 2012, avoidable turnover rates have declined for all three position types. The decline for NFE is much more dramatic than for Faculty. CSA turnover rates experienced an overall drop in avoidable turnover, but had a higher spike in 2016 than other positions. 

Line graph


 As a comparison, below is a graph from CUPA-HR (College and University Professional Associate for Human Resources) with 2017 benchmarking data for median employee turnover rates: 

Bar Graph

A closer examination of the available data regarding SDSU employee turnover, articulates average duration of employment as follows: 

 FemaleMaleResident AlienNon-Resident AlienAlien Substantial Presence Hispanic/LatinoAmerican Indian/ Alaskan NativeAsianBlack or African AmericanHawaiian / Pacific Islander  White
CSA Average9.58.43.91NA33.26.53.3NA9.4
CSA N379253101051311100596
Faculty Average 1011.610.2NA2.
Faculty N2692908703512588110443
NFE Average8.69.49.1135.3106.44.3NA9.2
NFE N3202581527922180540

A brief review of the data indicates that longevity among employees identifying as White is higher than any other demographic. In circumstances average longevity is within a few years of White employees, the number of employees in the underrepresented demographic is very small, especially in comparison to the same classification of employee (i.e. Hispanic / Latino faculty have average longevity of 8.7 years compared to White faculty at 11.7 years, but there are reportedly 12 Hispanic / Latino faculty and 443 White faculty). 

Employees cite many reasons for leaving a job. The following descriptors identify if the termination is considered avoidable or unavoidable. 

Early retirementUnavoidableNormal retirementUnavoidable
Disability retirementUnavoidableMovingUnavoidable
Leaving WorkforceUnavoidable  
Unsatisfactory problem performanceAvoidableInvoluntary terminationAvoidable
Non-renew contractAvoidableEliminate positionAvoidable
Unsatisfactory problem performanceAvoidableNo reason givenAvoidable
Work scheduleAvoidableBenefits dissatisfactionAvoidable
No advancement opportunities AvoidableWorking relationshipsAvoidable
Management concernsAvoidableWorking conditionsAvoidable

Additionally, the report below compares SDSU’s turnover rates to that of peer institutions for 2016-2017 (as reported by the institution via the CUPA report). 

SDSU Annual Turnover Rates Compared to Peer Group (PG) 2016-2017 (data effective 1 Dec 2016) 

 SDSUPG Median PG Average PG N
Faculty: full-time tenure track0.08000.06000.07007
Faculty: full-time non-tenure track0.09000.09000.13707
Faculty: all full-time0.09000.10000.08607
Staff: full-time exempt0.14000.19000.18107
Staff: part-time exempt0.38000.26000.32407
Staff: total exempt0.15000.18000.19107
Staff: full time non-exempt0.`8000.13000.13107
Staff: part time non-exempt0.23000.16000.19607
Staff: total non-exempt 0.19000.11000.13307
Staff: total0.17000.16000.16107
HR staff only0.10000.29004.60109

Peer institutions include: Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO), Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS), Montana State University (Bozeman, MT), New Mexico State University (Las Cruces, NM), North Dakota State University (Fargo, ND), Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, OK), Southern Illinois University Carbondale (Carbondale, IL), University of Idaho (Moscow, ID), University of Montana-Missoula (Missoula, MT), University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, ND), University of South Dakota (Vermillion, SD), University of Wyoming (Laramie, WY), and Utah State University (Logan, UT). 

One primary contributor to employee retention is employee job satisfaction. The results from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For” survey from 2012 are provided compared to the honor roll as presented on the survey. 

Data collected by The Chronicle of Higher Education through their “Great Colleges to Work For” survey for 2012 compares SDSU to the 2012 Honor Roll (>10,000). Additionally, SDSU’s data for 2015 is presented as comparison to SDSU’s 2012 results as follows: 


SDSU 2012 (%)

2012 Honor Roll (%)2012 Honor Roll DifferenceSDSU 2015(%)SDSU Difference
Job Satisfaction6379-1668+5
Teaching Environment4975-2653+4
Professional Development6678-2267+1
Compensation, Benefits, and Work/Life Balance5574-1961+6
Policies, Resources & Efficiency4970-2154+5
Shared Governance5070-2054+4
Supervisors/ Department Chairs6677-1169 +3
Senior Leadership5072-22 58+8
Faculty, Administration & Staff Relations5170-1957+6
Respect & Appreciation5571-1657+2
Survey Average5573-1860+5

Over the last three years, appreciation for facilities has increased by sixteen percentage points. Other categories increased by single digits, but notably, senior leadership, fairness and compensation, benefits and work / life balance where the top three gains. 

Lessons Learned

University employees participated in stakeholder engagement sessions supporting the strategic planning process. Over 50 sessions were held and the topic of faculty and staff retention was a topic that occurred frequently enough in the comments to warrant further investigation. This led to theme-based discussions where individuals would engage the topic. The information below provided by Human Resources aligns very closely to the information provided through the stakeholder engagement sessions. 

For the purpose of this review, SDSU’s Human Resources provided aggregate information obtained during the exit interview process that could not be attributed to any individual. In short, no one learned about any individual’s responses to the exit interview. 

Overall, these are the predominant reasons people leave SDSU: 

1. Promotion in title, compensation, or other advancement 

2. Family or personal reasons 

3. Retirement 

4. Imbalance between workload and compensation and balancing work and life responsibilities 

5. Management, poor communication, no advancement (when the opportunity exists), no appreciation 

In total the data collected from SDSU current and former employees indicates efforts to increase job satisfaction would likely lead to increased faculty and staff retention. Further examination of retention by demographic is required. All employees not identifying as White have substantially lower longevity than their White counterparts. 


National Trends & External Picture 

These categories are likely a result of extensive research on employment satisfaction. The following excerpt is used with permission from the published work of a member of this task force: 

Herzberg supplies the perspective of job satisfaction that involves two categories; motivation and hygiene. “Five factors stand out as strong determiners of job satisfaction - achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, and advancement – the last three being of greater importance for lasting change of attitudes” (Herzberg, 1966, 92). 

Herzberg offers insight that is not intuitive. The factors that attribute to satisfaction do not necessarily contribute to dissatisfaction (Herzberg, 1966) and the reverse is also true. “[T]he dissatisfiers (company policy and administration, supervision, interpersonal relations, working conditions, and salary) contribute very little to job satisfaction” (Herzberg, 1966, p. 96). “There is also the reported finding that the relief from job dissatisfaction by hygiene factors has only a temporary effect and, therefore, adds to the necessity for more frequent attention to the job environment” (Herzberg, 1966, p. 100). 

Considering broad perspectives, if an employee felt “a need to avoid unpleasant job environments” (Herzberg, 1966, p. 98), this led to job dissatisfaction. In terms of satisfaction, if the employee had the opportunity and was able to fulfill a need for self-actualization, they experienced job satisfaction (Herzberg, 1966). If an employee seeks self-actualization, or other factors of motivation, the motivating elements must be challenging and frequent per the ability of the employee (Herzberg, 1966). 

Therefore, the data provided regarding SDSU turnover rates and reason for turnover, aligns with the national research. It seems clear that the factors SDSU could carefully review which can be reasonably controlled by SDSU include previously stated imbalance between workload and compensation, balancing work and life responsibilities, management, poor communication, no advancement (when the opportunity exists), and no appreciation. 

Strategic Themes 

Avoidable turnover should be avoided. Observe the following themes relating to retention and satisfaction: 

  • Happier employees are more productive 
  • Hiring and training new employees is expensive 
  •  Avoidable turnover bears expense such as recruiting, interviewing, and training new employees 
  • Workload: avoid significantly increasing job responsibilities with no additional compensation 
  • Perform root/cause analysis high turnover positions 
  • Recognize loss of mid-career staff who have institutional knowledge and a network of contacts 
  • Communication 
  • People in management/supervisor positions need to be skilled at managing 
  •  Recognition programs 

The options include the following: 

1. Accept retention rates as they are and expend no further energy on the topic. 

2. Fully examine retention rates to determine types of positions with higher turnover than expected. 

3. Fully examine retention rates of individuals citing their many identities to determine the types of education, support, and training provided to the University community as needed to retain qualified individuals. 

Projected Costs 
  • Training costs 

  • Compensation for additional job responsibilities 

  • Time and effort from mentor 

Short- and Long-Term Plans 


  • Supervisor Training focusing on the needs of those supervised including attention to new employees, experienced employees, and employees who are underrepresented. 
  •  Continue communication between groups by role on campus. 
  • Continue various training sessions for all employees for professional development, safety and security, diversity and inclusion, quality improvement, and similar. 
  • Make the University more of a “community” atmosphere where everyone understands their contribution to the mission of SDSU. 
  • New employee mentoring including engaging in the Brookings community. 
  • Ensure employee resources and information are easily accessible understanding that different personality types and backgrounds vary what is understood by “easily accessible.”