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

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The Process

A fair and effective performance evaluation and appraisal is a never-ending process of communicating not only ideas, but specific performance details, driven by data. It’s incumbent on the supervisor to adequately research the statistical data and articulate the review period’s goals and criteria achievements. The great appraisal is an ongoing process supported by verbal queues delivered during the evaluation period, which will support the written evaluation. A quality appraisal has the following characteristics:

A good hire. The appraisal process starts before the employee is hired with a good job description, communicating to employees what their duties are and what’s expected of the position.

Clear performance goals. Before an employment agreement is reached, and preferably before an offer to employ is extended, the performance goals should be clearly communicated in writing to the prospective employee, and there must be consensus. The goals should not be nebulous but specific. For example: "ABC storage should maintain a physical occupancy level greater than the minimum of 75 percent, and the target physical occupancy should be 87 percent. The store manager is expected to spend a minimum of four hours per week marketing the store outside of the property to drive leads and sales. Copious and exact records for sales calls must be documented on the company’s S-1 form, which details sales activity."

These standards should be written, and should be in 100 percent compliance with corporate goals. This is as important for a single-store owner as it is for a multi-facility operator.

Ongoing feedback. Whenever employee performance fails to meet or exceeds expectations, the supervisor should immediately counsel the employee to identify the issues and suggest exact ways to improve performance.

Disciplinary action. If poor performance is an issue, use the company guidelines regarding the disciplinary-action process.

Formal evaluations. These should be scheduled at least annually. All evaluations should be in writing.

Employee input. The review process must be acknowledged by the employee. It’s important the employee signs for the receipt of the evaluation, and be given an opportunity to comment on the appraisal. Those comments become a part of the employee file.

Review of written appraisals. The supervisor’s boss typically reviews each appraisal. If the supervisor isn’t experienced in conducting appraisals, his superior should review the appraisal before delivery and coach the immediate supervisor on the process and evaluation skills.

Training, coaching and counseling supervisors on their performance as appraisers. This is a skill developed over time and with experience. Certainly a multi-facility operation gives the supervisor more experience and opportunity to perfect his evaluation and appraisal skills than the single-store owner who may only have two or three employees. However, the process is no less important.

Supervisors should be evaluated on all aspects of their appraisal responsibilities, including communication of expectations, ability to recognize high and low achievers, ability to criticize constructively, and whether they’re fair and objective in their assessment of performance.

Senior management should be on the alert for supervisors who may not give higher ratings to their subordinates than they themselves received. It’s also important to note that employee evaluations are never graded on the curve, but are relative as a comparison from standards to performance.

An Honest Review

There are a number of reasons it’s important for an employee to receive an honest evaluation of his weaknesses and strengths. Honest criticism tells the employee what he should do to improve. The supervisor can assist by indentifying the areas in which the employee’s performance falls short of the company's, team's or customers' needs.

If an employee is performing below standard but his supervisor believes he deserves another chance, it’s incredibly important to set this forth on the evaluation form in clear, concise language. The supervisor should deliver a clear explanation of substandard performance and indicate that he is willing to work in a cooperative effort to achieve improvement.

A sincere evaluation genuinely helps the employee by informing him fairly and honestly where he stands and creating a plan for performance. These are often referred to in large companies as PIPs or Performance Improvement Plans, and are an integral part of the ongoing evaluation process. The supervisor also helps the company by:

  • Mitigating and reducing the risks of unjustified lawsuits from disgruntled employees whose termination is unexpected
  • Documenting and enabling the company to assert the fairness of a dismissal if the employee does litigate under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or other state or federal laws
  • Recognizing, highlighting and commending the contributions of satisfactory employees by distinguishing their work from the work lesser performers
  • In some cases, enabling the problem employee to achieve higher performance
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