Evaluating Self-Storage Employees: Strategies for a Positive, Productive Process and Better Business

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By RK Kliebenstein

An employee evaluation is all about letting employees know what they're doing well and where they can improve. If you’re not conducting some sort of performance appraisal at least once per quarter at your self-storage facility, you’re not only doing your employees a large disservice, you’re neglecting your business.

If an employee doesn't know what he’s doing wrong, how will he get better? If he’s not working to improve his job performance, isn't that detrimental to your operation? Your employees are not mind readers. To improve, people need input from their supervisors.

Establish Communication

So what are you looking to accomplish in a formal employee evaluation? First you need to establish better communication. Employees need to know you’re approachable. They need to understand their performance review is only for their benefit. You want them to see you’re not trying to be critical, you’re just pointing out areas that can be improved. With communication should come better understanding between you and your staff.

Once you’ve established good communication, give a thorough review of job performance. Remember, you’re not trying to berate staff and destroy morale. You need to point out the good performance as well as the bad. Identify where they could use more training and determine ways to provide it.

Remember this is two-way communication. Employees need to know they can speak up and they have a strong voice in the process. You want them to be willing to identify areas in which they feel weak or would like to learn more.

As much as possible, you want to document the key points of your discussion so you can refer to them during the next evaluation. This will allow you to clearly see where there has been improvement and what areas in their training are still behind. Keep in mind your performance appraisal should be used as a guide to future promotion and raises for employees. Most people want to know if they have a future with your organization. If you run your business with an eye toward promoting from within, then this is important to both of you. If your business is growing, you’ll need to determine who might be your key employees in that growth.

If you’ve ever worked for someone else, you likely wanted to know how well you were performing on the job. This is especially true if you’d been thinking of what your long-term future with the business might be. Holding evaluation sessions is a key to the long-term growth of your business. Even though you may consider it a task you don’t care for, it still needs to be done, for the good of your employees and your operation.

The Role of Supervisor

The effectiveness of any employee evaluation is only as strong as the supervisor who conducts it. Most important, the supervisor needs to understand the evaluation’s purpose. It is not to browbeat the subordinate or pass blame. Any good appraisal is part of an organization's esprit de corps, and should be equally devoted to touting and extolling the virtues of good performance as to disclosing deficiencies.

The evaluation process is perhaps a supervisor's most important of task. He must learn to give effective feedback and maximize the outcome of an appraisal. He must learn how to set goals that are fair and realistic, and how to clearly communicate corporate and individual goals. Problems with evaluations can range full spectrum, from the supervisor who “blasts” the employee with information, all the way to the one who’s afraid to be candid about employee performance and dismisses the process. These problems occur for a few reasons:

  • The supervisor lacks confidence and sees the employee’s behaviors as shortcomings driven by the supervisor’s inability, or there has been insufficient training, modeling, coaching and supervising.
  • There’s a fear of disclosing operational deficiencies the supervisor will have to answer for, much like an audit.
  • A friendship exists that’s beyond the acceptable parameters of the workplace, and a candid evaluation is not possible.

There are huge differences between previous verbal communications and the written evaluation. This is particularly true when the delivered verbal prompts have been good or glowing, and issues have been swept under the rug and not discussed with the employee because the supervisor has not wanted to deal with specific behaviors or performance standards.

Supervisors fear their value will be diminished when they document the strong performance of their subordinates. They don’t want to use the evaluation as a tool for creating pathways to promotion for the employee, which could manifest in a pay raise, the assumption of additional responsibilities, or the issuance of specific rewards and commendations. Because supervisors are often reluctant to offer honest criticism until a performance problem is too serious to salvage, they must learn how to be more assertive and forthright.

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