Evaluating Self-Storage Employees: 10 Guidelines for Facility Owners to Effectively Assess Staff

By Linnea Appleby Comments
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Employee evaluations are a necessity in business, but usually a dreaded task for most supervisors. One of the reasons we procrastinate and agonize over evaluations is they’re time-consuming, and sometimes they put us face to face with an issue or problem we’ve been avoiding. But employee assessments can also be time well spent.

Unfortunately, many of us were never taught how to effectively evaluate someone else’s performance. We were just handed the evaluation form and told, “Here, fill this out, meet with the employee and turn it in by Tuesday.”  

The bottom line is your staff plays a big role in the success of your business. They are the difference between a mediocre and phenomenal operation. As a supervisor, learning to write and deliver an effective evaluation that clearly communicates the message you wish to get across can make a huge impact on facility success. Here are 10 guidelines for effectively evaluating employees.

1. Use an Evaluation Form

Have a standard format you can use with every employee. Get a few samples from business colleagues or online, but don’t be afraid to make changes to the form to fit your needs. It should be a format that works for you. If you can’t find one you like, make your own.

The usual evaluation format uses a one-to-five scale with areas for comments. Have a version for each job description, from maintenance personnel to management.

2. Be Consistent

Your employees should know when they will get their evaluation. It can be the anniversary of their hire date or a specific time of the year. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s completed in the time frame that has been set.

Mark you calendar for a few weeks or a month ahead so you can focus on “your” goals for the coming period. After all, it’s your objectives you’re trying to communicate to your employees during an evaluation. It would be good to clarify them for yourself first.

3. Be Prompt

Schedule time to meet with each employee and stick to it! Being several months late on an evaluation sends a bad message. It can leave a good employee feeling bad, and a bad employee feeling like he dodged a bullet—at least for a while. Neither is good for the long-term health of your business.

4. Get Help

There are many resources that can provide evaluation examples, formats, guides, etc. My favorite is Performance Appraisal Phrase Book by Corey Sandler and Janice Keefe. It helps you choose the right words so you can better express your thoughts.

Toastmasters International is another great resource. It’s an organization that helps business people improve their communication skills. Part of the program is learning how to evaluate people. Check online or your local newspaper for a Toastmasters club in your area.

5. Stay Focused

Every person on the team deserves his own evaluation. It’s your formal chance to sit down and have a heart to heart with each individual running your business. It’s also a great opportunity to get to know your employees better. Good people want to know what you think of their performance and have genuine interest in the business goals. These are the easy evaluations. Be sure you have some specific aims for them.

6. Eliminate Surprises

If the employee is doing poorly, he should know it before he gets to an evaluation. Your employees should have a pretty good idea of where they stand with you. Both of you should be fairly close in assessment of performance. If you have very differing ideas, you need to talk more than once a year.

7. Be Honest

Are you avoiding the elephant in the room? Sometimes we procrastinate because we don’t want to deal with a situation. Maybe you had an employee who started out great but is slipping. You don’t want to rock the boat, but you’d like to see some changes. An annual review is a good opportunity to get all the cards on the table.

Again, it’s a chance for you to align the employee with your goals for your business. Stated another way, it’s a chance for the employee to get realigned. For specific things you want done better, differently, with more consistency, etc., put it in writing and offer a timeline. Then everyone needs to be held accountable.  

8. Understand Your Role

As you prepare staff evaluations and assess your goals, you’ll find there are areas in which your employees need training. For example, teach them to read your management software’s summary report if you want them to be more focused on month-over-month sales increases. Role play a phone or sales presentation for better closing skills, or explain lien-sale procedures again. At the evaluation, tell the employee you’re going to make it a point to work on these items with him. Mark your calendar for a follow-up and stick to it. It’s really bad form to tell employees you’re going to do something and not follow through.

9. Make It Special

If the employee has hit a milestone in his employment, such as a one- or five-year anniversary, make a point to celebrate it. An achievement certificate, pin or lunch in recognition for his service is a nice addition to an evaluation.

10. Follow Up

Schedule time a week or so later to touch base on the review and see if the employee has any lingering questions or issues. This can be a formal or informal follow-up. It will give the employee time to process the evaluation information.

An annual review of each employee is necessary and deserved by you and your employees. Reviews help appraise past work history and prepare staff for future goals. It doesn’t need to be a dreaded part of the job, but can be time well spent to realign objectives, reconnect with your team, deal with lingering performance issues, and move your business forward.

Linnea Appleby is president of Sarasota, Fla.-based PDQ Management Solutions Inc., which specializes in the management of self-storage properties and offers complimentary services such as operational consulting, new-facility startup, property audits and the “Income Finder Service.”  Appleby is a regular contributor to industry trade publications and a frequent speaker at tradeshows and events. For more information, call 941.377.3451; e-mail lappleby@pdqmanagementsolutions.com; visit www.pdqmanagementsolutions.com.

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