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

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Changing Behavior, Not People

Christine Null, director of human resources for Metro Storage LLC, which operates 100 self-storage facilities nationwide, summarizes the employee-evaluation process succinctly: The most important thing is the relationship. Give employees dignity. Don’t be condescending. Respect and encourage them. The bottom line is you want changed behavior, not a changed employee.

Here are two steps self-storage operators should keep in mind when it comes to employee evaluations:

Minimize risk. One of the greatest risks in terminations is a “retaliatory discharge.” This is almost always messy. When there are performance issues, it usually has tentacles in multiple areas such as interaction with the supervisor, performance after a qualified worker-compensation injury, time off via the Family and Medical Leave Act, etc. Although they may be unrelated, it's important to ensure issues are kept separate and emotions of performance issues do not co-mingle.

Action plan. Close the process and follow up. The performance evaluation can also be a tool for the subordinate to give feedback to his supervisor. This is often referred to as a 360-degree evaluation process. In large organizations, the feedback process can be anonymous, giving an opportunity for a more truthful evaluation of supervisors by subordinates, where the feat of retribution is removed. In a small-company environment, as often found in self-storage properties, the 360-degree review process is much less effective.

Employee Goals and Rewards

An evaluation should culminate in a compensation reward. Any deficiencies noted in the appraisal should have a clear plan for correction and work toward the eventual reward. If the employee and employer are working toward the same goal, it has a much higher likelihood of being achieved.

Create a specific plan for correcting any issues that are noted in the review process. The goals should be clear, succinct and, most important, absolutely achievable. In some cases where bonuses or incentives are paid annually, quarterly reviews can be used to monitor progress and keep employees motivated toward achieving the goals. It’s critically important the plan for achieving goals be clear and within the reach of the employee.

One of the best practices is to ensure issues are discussed with the employee at the time of occurrence and not stacked for later discussion or held until the evaluation. The supervisor should coach the employee verbally and follow up with a simple e-mail or note. Refer to the e-mails and notes when preparing the annual evaluation. Do not trust your memory to recall the incidents that occurred during the past quarter or year.

Supervisor Incentive

In multi-store operations, supervisors should be clearly trained and counseled on conducting employee evaluations. Equally important, the supervisors’ compensation should be tied to the success rate of the employees they supervise and evaluate. If the supervisor’s compensation is based on the satisfaction and achievements of his subordinates, he'll work toward mutual accomplishment of the goals. This motivates supervisors to create pathways to success for team members. If the evaluation issues aren’t creating risks, failure of the staff to achieve goals is an indication the goals were not realistic, or the supervisor failed in motivating the employees to reach them.

Whether your organization is large or small, flat or deep, the importance of letting each employee know where he stands and how he can improve or continue is critically important to his personal development. The pride in knowing a job is well done will go a long way—sometimes even a greater distance than compensation—in encouraging an employee to go the extra mile to build the business.

Saving an employee from discharge may be one of the most important things you contribute to his life. Not only do most of us rely on a job for income, many are defined by our careers, and we rely on our work for identity, self-confidence, self-worth and motivation. Work is important to our entire life experience. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

RK Kliebenstein is the author of “How To Make Money in Self-Storage” and “How to Make MORE Money in Self-Storage,” and countless articles on self-storage ownership and operation. He’s currently the vice president of business development for Metro Storage LLC. To reach him, e-mail

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