In the self-storage industry, managers typically work at a property with little or no direct supervision. One of the most difficult aspects of this arrangement is that the storage owner, supervisor or district manager does not regularly observe employees’ behavior. That being the case, it is critical to have a reliable means of communication and a way to transfer information. Evaluations of employee performance can provide the feedback staff members need to be effective and, when necessary, improve.
A correctly executed performance evaluation can:
- Be used as a counseling tool
- Promote quality in your organization
- Help supervisors rate themselves
- Act as a means of assessing a facility’s staffing needs
- Supply vital documentation for EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) purposes
In addition to the evaluation, you should implement performance standards designed to provide a “road map” of how to be a good employee. Standards establish minimum levels of acceptance and state reasonable job expectations. They also assist in providing consistency between the owner’s and manager’s objectives.
The appraisal process starts when the employee and supervisor reach a mutual understanding of what needs to be accomplished. If expectations are not clearly stated, mutually understood and presented in measurable terms, performance will be difficult to evaluate. Goals and standards are methods by which job expectations can be expressed. Those responsible for performance appraisals need to have a good understanding of goals and standards and how to use them.
In general, goals apply more to managers and professional employees who engage in individualized projects. Standards are more common for workers engaging in routine, repetitive tasks. Following are definitions and examples of both.
A goal is a statement of results to be achieved. Goals describe: 1) conditions that will exist when the desired outcome has been accomplished; 2) a time frame during which the outcome is to be completed; and 3) resources the organization is willing to commit to achieve the desired results.
Goals should be challenging but achievable and established with the participation of those responsible for meeting them. Here is an example of a goal that might be set for a manager: “To increase revenue by 6 percent over last year’s budget numbers. A direct marketing campaign will be implemented on a quarterly basis. The total cost of the direct mailing should not exceed $7,500.” Once this goal is accomplished, a new one can be established to emphasize the next set of desired results.
A performance standard refers to an ongoing criterion that must be met time and again. Standards are usually expressed quantitatively and refer to such things as attendance, safety standards and routine tasks to be completed. Following are several examples of performance standards. These should be customized to your property and specific to your company policies and procedures. They should be an extension of your policy manual and the employee-appraisal system.
- Dollar delinquency rate should not exceed 5 percent.
- Delinquent tenants should be over-locked according to company policy.
- All legal notices must be mailed on time.
- Late fees should be collected pursuant to company policy.
Salesmanship and Customer Service
- A good manager should score a minimum of 70 on the mystery-shopping evaluation.
- All customers should be greeted as they enter the office.
- All customer complaints should be sent to the facility supervisor.
- In every sales call, prospects must be offered use of the free move-in vehicle.
- During the sales presentation, mention must be made of the store’s features and benefits.
- Office should be clean and organized at all times.
- Public restrooms should be clean, well-stocked and clean-smelling.
- Managers’ uniforms should be clean and neat.
- All corridors, hallways, stairwells, etc., should be clean and swept.
- Elevators, lifts and ramps should be clean and swept.
- All spaces ready for auction should be inventoried, sealed and overlocked.
- The advertisement in the newspaper should be accurate.
- All files should be complete and reviewed by a supervisor before the auction takes place.
- All new tenants must provide a driver’s license.
- A copy of the driver’s license must be kept in the tenant’s file or on the computer.
- All delinquent customers should be overlocked.
- There should be no customer locks on vacant spaces.
- The computer should be used for business reasons only.
- No downloading of unauthorized software.
- Landscaping should be free of weeds and debris.
- Greenery should be clean, healthy, neat and trimmed.
- All lights and signs should be operational.
- Entrance curbs should be painted white and look clean.
- Unit doors should be clean and usable.
- Gutters should be clean and in good repair.
- Computer should be regularly maintained.
- Preventative maintenance should be performed according to schedule.
- All customers in good standing should be free of an overlock.
- Bank deposits should be made daily (weekends and holidays excluded).
- Company forms should be used pursuant to the Operations Manual.
- Facility inventory should be completed weekly and crosschecked with the computer.
- Each week, the manager will complete a Plan of Action report that should be faxed to the home office.
- Computer records should be up-to-date on every unit.
- On-site ancillary inventory should be counted on the 15th and at the end of each month.
- Deposits should be collected according to company policy.
- Merchandise should be professionally displayed, well-stocked and priced.
- Relief managers should be trained and proficient in all store operations.
- The key provisions of the rental agreement should be explained to the customer during the rental process.
- Rental agreements should be on file for every customer.
- All agreements need to be completed in full and signed by the manager and customer.
- Addendums should be completed and signed by every customer.
- No customer may occupy a space before a rental agreement is signed and the facility has received payment.
- All free units must still carry an agreement signed by the customer (including employees), and the rent amount should show as zero on the agreement and in the computer.
- All injuries should be reported immediately.
- All work areas should be free of safety hazards.
- Company equipment should be operated pursuant to the instruction manual.
- Untrained personnel should not make unauthorized service or repairs at the property.
Once you have set reasonable expectations for employees in the form of performance standards and goals, you can begin providing constructive feedback through a variety of methods:
- Customer feedback forms
- Monthly manager reports to the owner or supervisor
- Mystery-shopping of sales performance on the telephone and in person
- Performance appraisals
- End-of-year bonus assessments
- Monthly site reports
- Yearly salary reviews
All of your goals, bonuses and assessments should be based on the employee’s ability to follow company policies, perform the job duties he has been assigned and, last but not least, satisfy customers. Remember, if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will. As the people who handle customer service are your employees, you must train, evaluate and take good care of them.
If you want your organization to stand apart from competitors, you must have quality employees. Consistently train your staff and measure their performance for results. But remember: Measurements of quality should be made through indicators of customer satisfaction, not self-gratification. Learn to see performance through customers’ eyes.
Businesses often judge their results by factors that don’t mean a thing to customers (i.e., profit). While financial factors like expenses and income are important, you must provide what customers expect, such as friendly and reliable service, security, convenient office and access hours, and professional salesmanship. Whether you evaluate employees in meeting company and customer expectations, tenants will surely be evaluating your business. Make the best use of goals and performance standards, and you will all make the grade.
Carol Mixon Krendl, owner of SkilCheck Services, specializes in consulting, training, management and mystery shopping. As a well-known industry expert, she has been involved with self-storage since 1984, participating in the management and development of more than 130 properties nationwide and internationally. She has written many self-storage manuals as well as articles for several industry publications. She served on Self Storage Association’s national board of directors for nine years and is the vice president of the newly formed California Self Storage Association. For more information, call 209.333.4555; visit www.skilcheck.com.