To Drive Performance, Self-Storage Owners Should Manage the 'Whole Employee'
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
Posted on: 10/18/2013


By Marty Martin

Human-resources management is an essential part of business, but have you noticed the majority of the literature on the topic focuses on the "resources" and "management" aspects but barely addresses the “human” element? Most self-storage owners see their employees as resources to be managed, not as whole people who can contribute so much more.

Managing the whole person means acknowledging the employee is multi-dimensional and has numerous roles to balance in life—all of which affect job performance. However, this goes much deeper than simply work-life balance. It’s about recognizing all aspects of an employee to ensure a work-life “fit” that benefits the company and each individual. In fact, when you focus on the whole person rather than just a person's work performance, you build more meaningful connections with staff, which results in greater loyalty and productivity. Following are some suggestions for better managing the whole employee.

See the Input, Not Just the Output

When managing the whole person, you need to look beyond the person’s job description. Look past the output (the deadlines, the expectations and day-to-day job duties) and consider the input factors, as these determine the quality of the output.

Input factors are the drivers and drainers in employees’ lives that affect their job performance. Some typical examples include:

  • The employee’s best time of day to get work done
  • What’s going on in the employee’s family
  • The employee’s physical, mental and emotional health
  • Other stressors the employee has, such as being a caregiver to aging parents, being pregnant, being the only income-earner in the home, etc.
  • The community or hobby events to which the employee is committed

Basically, it’s about paying attention to all of the different drivers and drainers that motivate employees to achieve a level of acceptable performance, go above and beyond an acceptable level, or under perform. Because all the various inputs affect the overall output, being aware of the input makes good business sense.

Acknowledge Everyone Is Multi-Dimensional

Many managers believe that finding out about their employees’ lives outside of the work role is intrusive. They don’t want to ask personal questions for fear of appearing nosey. The good news is you don’t have to ask questions to find out about people. You simply have to acknowledge the clues all around you.

For example, if you see photos of children in someone’s office, you don’t have to ask, “Are those your kids?” You can simply comment, “Those are beautiful children.” With that one acknowledgment, most people will open up, tell you who the children are, and offer lots more personal information. Likewise, if you see sports gear stashed away in a corner of someone’s cubicle, you don’t have to ask, “Do you play tennis [or whatever sport is evident]?” Instead, you can comment, “I’ve always been interested in tennis.” Again, the person will naturally start talking about the sport, team or league he’s on, accomplishments and so much more. While it’s true most people don’t want to sit through a session of 20 questions with their boss, they do enjoy being acknowledged—not just for their work but their other interests.

Look at the Big Picture

The average full-time employee works 2,080 hours per year at the office. That doesn’t include time he puts in at night and on the weekends. With all of today’s technological innovations, more people are connected to work 24/7, even while on vacation. As the separation between work and life becomes narrowed—what many people are referring to as a “blur” of roles—a person’s ability to focus intently on any one role becomes more difficult, resulting in errors and burnout.

In many organizations, bosses set the expectation for this blur because they’re not looking at the big picture of what the organization accomplishes. Rather, they’re focusing on the day-to-day stressors, the errors, the requests for time off, or the employee’s lunch hour that was really an hour and a half. By keeping your eye on the day-to-day details, you’re missing the big picture of what your staff really contributes. In essence, you’re adding undue stress on everyone—including yourself. Of course, details are important, but it’s also vital to take a step back and look at the big picture so you can see your employees as people and not as parts of a machine to be fixed.

Take Management to a 'Whole' New Level

When you put the “human” element back into human-resources management, you’re acknowledging the needs of the employees so they can perform better. When employees feel recognized as more than just a number on a monthly report, they tend to give you more discretionary effort or what’s called “citizenship behavior,” where they’re supportive of other employees and of the organization as a whole.

As an added benefit, when employees are more supportive of their bosses, the bosses’ workload becomes less stressful, too. Ultimately, the sooner you recognize all the drivers and drainers that impact people and manage them, the sooner you’ll be able to create a high-performing team.

Dr. Marty Martin has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His second book, "Taming Disruptive Behavior" will be published this year, and he’s working on his third book, "Do You Have Career Insurance?" Martin is an associate professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago. For more information, visit .