The Social Age Evolutionary Workplace: Recruiting, Engaging and Retaining Self-Storage Staff

Technology and globalization have dramatically changed the way we work; and yet very little has changed in how we hire and manage self-storage staff, which has led to low employee engagement and productivity as well as high turnover. Here are five ways to maximize employment efficiency and effectiveness, retain staff, and ensure they’re fully engaged.

By Kim Seeling Smith

Technology and globalization have dramatically changed the way we work over the last 20 to 30 years. However, very little has changed in how we hire and manage self-storage staff, which has led to low employee engagement and productivity as well as high turnover. Instead of doing the routine, tactical and predicable work of yesteryear, this “Social Age” requires us to be more strategic, creative and innovative, more solution-oriented.

For the most part, self-storage owners are still hiring for skills and experience and using the same levers they’ve used for decades to motivate and manage staff. You must evolve your business practices to remain competitive in our digitally connected, globally oriented economy.

With any evolutionary process, a guide or roadmap proves invaluable. When your self-storage company decides to take the leap and join the Social Age, here are five ways to maximize employment efficiency and effectiveness, retain staff, and ensure employees are fully engaged on a daily basis.

Correct Hiring

We must start this evolution with hiring the right people. Without them, efforts to engage and retain staff become moot. The Industrial Age paradigm emphasized hiring for skills and experience, but skills can be taught. In today’s rapidly changing world, experience is far less important than agility and the ability to learn and adapt. To not only survive but thrive in the Social Age, companies need to hire for culture fit and competencies—those innate abilities that can’t be taught but will make employees successful in the job.

Proper interviewing technique is essential to guaranteeing you get the right hire. Unlike the stock market, when it comes to potential job candidates, past performance is indicative of future results. The majority of interview questions have to be answered with past examples of how the candidate actually dealt with real-world scenarios. Do not fall into the old trap of believing what a candidate would do is what he did do or, more important, will do.

Classify and Manage Appropriately

Even when you do everything right during the hiring process, you may still be surprised once the employee comes on board. Team dynamics or changing personal circumstances can affect individual behavior and performance. You must continually keep your finger on the pulse of your staff—a daunting task to many self-storage owners who either try to devote equal time and energy across the board or who spend time with the wrong people.

Employees typically come in three types: critical people, squeaky wheels and the fat middle. Most owners end up spending most of their time trying to grease their squeaky wheels, which perpetuates poor performance or behavior. Counterintuitively, by devoting the majority of your attention to your critical people, you’ll bolster the productivity of the whole team. Squeaky wheels? Train, motivate or move them on. Quickly.

Compensate Fairly

Many companies diligently strive to create attractive incentive programs in an effort to engage and retain staff. Unfortunately, these efforts actually may be counterproductive to accomplishing these goals.

Studies have suggested that rewards can narrow our focus, innovation, creativity, strategic thinking and problem-solving—the very things needed from a Social Age workforce. Higher pay doesn’t necessarily equal higher productivity. Self-storage owners should set their salary benchmark at or a little above market rate for individual functions. Even more important, they should ensure employees feel they’re being adequately compensated for the work they do, which can only be accomplished by speaking directly to them.

Currencies of Choice

Once your staff feels well paid, real productivity and engagement can be unlocked by tapping into their internal motivators or currencies of choice. What your staff really needs to be fulfilled and to “go the extra mile” is to:

  • Work for someone they trust and respect in a company they support
  • Be appreciated and have their voice and opinions respected
  • Have a firm career path that allows them to grow and develop
  • Realize their underlying motivators
  • Be able to do what they do best every day

By understanding and acknowledging your team’s individual currencies of choice, you can help keep them engaged and decrease turnover. How do you recognize which currencies of choice will motivate them? By talking to them. Unfortunately, many owners don’t talk to their staff enough, and don’t know what to talk about or how to structure their conversations.

Communicate with FOCUS

FOCUS is an acronym that describes the best practices in leadership communication. Communication between staff and managers should revolve around:

  • Feedback: Ensure your team is updated on company information, initiatives and new hires. Give praise when it’s due, and maintain an open door for questions, concerns or comments.
  • Objectives: The heart of sterling performance management is structuring specific and measurable job objectives and holding staff accountable for achieving them.
  • Career development: Many studies list career development as a main factor that determines whether employees stay with their current employer or seek a new position elsewhere.
  • Underlying motivators: What does your staff need to go the extra mile, and how do they respond to motivational techniques and rewards?
  • Strengths: According to management-consulting company Gallup Inc., those innate abilities that make them unique and good at what they do is the No. 1 predictor of success.

The process of changing the way you hire and manage your staff may appear daunting at first, but experience shows that by taking it step by step, you can make significant changes quickly. The result will be a lifetime of more engaged, productive and happier staff, as well as more free time, less stress and higher job satisfaction for yourself and your team.

Kim Seeling Smith is an international human-resources expert and author of the forthcoming book, “Mind Reading for Managers: 5 FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity.” With her expansive knowledge of human-capital practices in today’s market, she helps companies build healthy work environments as well as increase employee engagement and productivity in our digitally connected, globally-oriented world. For more information, visit

TAGS: Marketing
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