Employee Retention in Self-Storage: Cost-Effective Solutions for Creating Job Satisfaction and Longevity
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
Posted on: 09/25/2011


By Frank Dombroski

Finding and retaining employees is a challenge in every industry. Self-storage owners face a broad set of obstacles, from unique legal and regulatory issues to training and managing a diverse workforce. Competitive wages and benefits are not the offerings that differentiate a company. Savvy owners must think outside the box to boost employee morale and loyalty.

The majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and many are sinking deeper into debt. Employers benefit when their workers are better equipped to make ends meet and are not suffering from debilitating financial stress. Here are some creative, cost-effective ways to ensure employee satisfaction and retention.

Leader Loyalty

One of the most effective ways to retain employees is to train your front-line supervisors, managers and administrators. Employees often stay or leave because of their bosses, not their companies. A strong employee/owner relationship is critical to business success. In addition, you need to provide training to develop solid supervisory and people-management skills.

“We spend a lot of time and money training our onsite staff, empowering them with responsibility for their store,” says Mike Burnam, CEO of TKG StorageMart Partners L.P. in Columbia, Mo. “We incent them to keep them selling, and in response they perform, which keeps them happy, and by extension makes me happy.”

Hiring the right managers is critical for customer fulfillment as well as employee retention, says George Aquino, chief operating officer for Fresno, Calif.-based Derrel’s Mini Storage. “We have received many comments from our storage customers about how helpful and friendly our managers are,” Aquino says. “Being thorough in our qualifying of potential employees—a very direct communication of what we expect of them—and making almost anyone in the organization available to help these people, raises the bar and sets a standard.”

Establishing Roles and Goals

In addition to creating loyalty to company leadership, you want to establish clear roles, responsibilities and goals for employees. To begin, develop a formal job description for each title or position in your company. Make sure employees know what’s expected of them every day, what types of decisions they’re allowed to make on their own, and who they report to.

Provide adequate advancement opportunities. Make sure employees know what they must do to earn a promotion. Conduct regular performance reviews to identify employees’ strengths and weaknesses, and help them improve in areas that will lead to job advancement.

Give employees access to earned wages before payday so they don’t have to borrow and fall into debt. The most responsible and simple way to financially empower your employees is to help them deal with unexpected expenses by allowing them to access (borrow) the money they’ve earned when they need it. This provides an alternative to expensive payday loans that often land borrowers in a vicious cycle of debt.

Even though Smyrna, Ga.-based Universal Management Co. pays its managers above the national average, David Dixon, vice president of development, acknowledges that $30,000 to $60,000 “is not a lot of money to work with.” Sometimes the company needs to front a manager some cash, and the manager pays it back through payroll deductions, he says. “We are happy to assist in any way we can.”

Choose Carefully

One way to ensure employee longevity is to hire correctly right from the start. Pedro Florida, director of property management at Self Storage Management Co. in Los Angeles, uses a careful selection process. “I look for people who first are committed to lifelong learning,” Florida says. “I think that for an operation our size, our primary resource is our staff, and that gives us a competitive advantage.”

Florida looks for people with attention to detail, self-motivation and definitely a strong sales background, she says. “I want people who are willing to be accountable and want to excel at what they do. Big personalities with ambition are good to have as long as they want to truly grow and are open to constant training.”

Keeping employees happy is a constant battle, especially in tough economic times. Tried-and-true methods that help self-storage owners retain employees include breeding loyalty, defining responsibilities and goals, offering advancement opportunities and ongoing training. In addition, offering perks, such offering access to earned wages ahead of payday, keeps employees out of debt, making them more productive, less anxious and more likely to stick with their employer.

Frank Dombroski is president, CEO and a founder of on-demand payroll provider FlexWage Solutions, which combines the best features of payroll cards with the advantages of WageBank to give employees responsible access to earned wages in advance of their scheduled paydays. Prior to FlexWage, Dombroski managed the commercial payment solutions business at J.P. Morgan. He has operated several technology-based service businesses and spent 12 years at American Express, holding various management roles in the merchant-services division. To contact him, e-mail frankd@flexwage.com ; visit www.flexwage.com .