Mr. Right Manager

Tammy Ross Comments
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Hire, train, motivate and retain great employees—it seems simple, but is it? How many times has this happened to you? You can’t believe your good fortune. You find the perfect candidate for the job. He looks the part and gives all the right answers during the interview. You hire him, and a short time later, you find he doesn’t really deal well with your customers, isn’t big on cleaning and takes no initiative in handling problems on his own. Within a few weeks, you are wondering, “How could I have been fooled so easily?”

You have to ask yourself: Are you really looking for the right person or just a warm body to fill a position? How you interview and who you hire will greatly affect the outcome of the training and retention of your employees.

The Interview

During the interview process, remember you can train anyone to answer phones and rent units, but you cannot teach them to be warm and friendly. It is easy to be misled by prospective employees, as they are usually on their best behavior during the interview. Take time to determine if the candidate has the knowledge, skills, temperament and competency required to perform in the position for which you are hiring. By focusing your questions on these areas, you may avoid hiring a square peg to fit into your round-hole organization.

Training

Having a well-organized training program in place is essential. Your employees are your biggest asset and one of your largest liabilities. Hiring and training are a costly venture, so this process should not be taken lightly. A well-trained employee provides a safe and profitable environment.

Several areas should be considered when training new staff. What will their responsibilities be? How can you train them in these areas? How can you measure their retention? How can you review their performance? How can you motivate them to maintain your high standards now and in the future?

Help employees understand their responsibilities by letting them know how their job ties in with those of others in the company. In doing this, they will realize how their actions affect the operation of the facility as a whole, and that their performance is vital to the success of your business.

One of the most effective methods of training is not to “show” but let the employee “do” the task at hand. For example, if he is learning to input a new rental to the computer, let him sit at the terminal and enter the information while you sit nearby and walk him through the transaction. Be sure to allow him to study and review the procedures you have taught him, then test him on the results before moving on to the next step.

Once he has been adequately trained in all areas, you should have an observation period during which the employee can feel comfortable doing his job with someone patient and personable nearby to assist if he needs help. At the end of this period, the employee should be tested to find his areas of strength as well as weakness. This will allow you to focus any further training in the proper areas.

Motivation

There are numerous ways to motivate your employees. Pay a fair wage and then get them to forget about the money by treating every employee with respect. Show them you care about them. Praise them for jobs well done—small and large—and never criticize them in public. Solicit their opinions and ideas, be willing to listen, and always be upfront and honest.

One of the best ways to motivate employees is to conduct regular employee reviews. Since most of our storage facilities have managers that are supervised from a remote location, we are at a disadvantage in that we do not see what goes on in our offices on a day-to-day basis. Using tools such as mystery-shopping is an option available to you. These services either call your employees over the phone or make in-store visits and provide an evaluation of performance. By reviewing these evaluations with your employees each month, you can encourage them to improve their customer service in a positive manner.

Let employees see and review the evaluation form prior to discussing it with you. Encourage feedback and provide open lines of communication. If they disagree with the assessment of their performance, listen to their views and discuss your findings with them. If you cannot come to an agreement on the issue, try taking the employees’ side unless it is a serious violation. Identify specific goals you would like them to work toward for the upcoming month and reach an agreement satisfactory to both sides that will accomplish them. Be certain to clarify any areas if necessary.

Reward those who have performed at or above your set standards, as failure to do so will be counterproductive to your organization. These rewards can come in many shapes and sizes and do not always need to be monetary. Try to find out what is important to the manager and use this to your advantage. Is it time off with their children? Are they interested in the theatre or sports? Is there a special restaurant they like? By making the effort to determine what is important to them and designing their reward system around those things, employees feel they are an important part of your organization. In other words, “The pay’s not bad and they treat their employees great!”

End on a positive note by summarizing the employees’ strengths, remembering the review is a motivational tool and, used correctly, can have a great impact on performance. By creating opportunities through which employees have the ability to learn and grow, you are building a foundation for a successful and profitable business.

Tammy Ross and her husband, Stephan, own Cutting Edge Self Storage Management & Consulting, which provides third-party management, feasibility studies and consulting. They have been involved in the selfstorage industry for more than 18 years, working for many of the top management companies in the business. They are frequent speakers at industry tradeshows. For more information, call 801.273.1267.

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