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Keeping Competitive in Staff Compensation: Strategic Structuring for Self-Storage Wages and Incentives


By Michael Kennell

In many business sectors, top-performing companies often treat their employees better and offer more enticing compensation packages than their competitors. But when it comes to salary and bonuses in self-storage, pay is all over the board! If you’re an independent owner or small regional player, you may give your staff more responsibility and empowerment than the big-box, national companies. In a lot of ways, that’s a big advantage; but are you doing enough to attract and retain the most talented employees available?

According to a recent survey, the five most important work-related issues for employees are enjoyment of the work, finding work/life balance, pay satisfaction, a correlation between pay and performance, and whether a company is adequately staffed. Your pay plan should touch all five of these areas. Paying a strong hourly wage isn’t enough. To retain talent, you need to make your employees “bullet proof” when competitors come hunting for new staff.

For example, what’s your plan to increase the wage of a team member as his learning and productivity improve? Do you offer bonuses, and how are they unlocked? Consider creating an incentive plan that’s tied to goals—ones employees can achieve and exceed. Also, think about what you can do to keep things fun and give your business a spark of energy. Here are some ideas to keep competitive in staff compensation.

Wage Structure

It’s good to start with a range. You may want to pay above the “going rate” or minimum wage, but you don’t want to overpay. Base your starting wage on a combination of what you’re willing to pay, what the applicant has earned in the past, and what will get the candidate to sign with you. This doesn’t always jive with how the “big boys” do things, but as a smaller operator, it gives you a decisive advantage. Pay different people differently.

It’s also effective to show candidates a pay “road map.” For example, if you start someone at $12 an hour, offer an ongoing training plan with different achievement levels. A new employee would start at Level 1, but after he’s completed his training, he would move to Level 2. Once he effectively grasps the basics of running the property, he would move to Level 3, and so on.

Assign each level with a pay increase, or tie in eligibility for a bonus. For example, you might tell the employee, “We’ll start you at $12 per hour and put you through three weeks of training. At the end of the training period, you will have reached Level 2 and be eligible for a bonus. Once you reach Level 3, we’ll bump your hourly pay to $13.”

A pay road map should also include a formal feedback plan that ties into compensation. Feedback is the “breakfast of champions” for employees. Maintaining a formal calendar that details when employees will receive candid, balanced reviews with the potential for compensation adjustments adds a layer of accountability to the work environment and rewards your top performers.

Incentive Plans and Bonuses

Your staff incentive plan should be monthly. Think of it as a TEAM program:

  • Incentives should be timely.
  • They should be structured to allow managers to exceed goals.
  • Incentives should be attainable.
  • They should also be measurable.
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