Technology is said to make our lives easier. If that’s so, why do so many self-storage employees consider “technology” to be a four-letter word? Is it because it requires change?
Fear of change is part of the problem, and it’s natural; but the concern behind technological evolution often stems from not knowing how to use a program or device, or even what it does. It’s often a fear of failure, not the tool itself. The feeling that we might not be able to do our job effectively is disconcerting.
It’s no secret that technology can improve your business—if it’s implemented correctly. It’s the responsibility of the owner or supervisor to make staff comfortable and prepared to use it. You can’t assume people will figure things out on their own. Excellent, happy, productive employees require training and development. Fortunately, there are many methods you can use to effectively train on new technology.
Make Good Decisions
The time has arrived for your self-storage operation to adopt new technology to run more efficiently and enjoy greater success. That said, it’s imperative to shop for the right products for your organization. Don’t assume the cheapest option will “work fine.” If the tools you plan to use are difficult to operate, the outcome isn’t likely to be increased productivity; it’ll be frustrated employees who can no longer do their job efficiently.
It might be helpful to ask your staff to assist in the search for new technology. Ask what tools they think would be useful. Give them ownership in the process.
Find something simple and easy to use. If you’re shopping for a software program, don’t pick one with functions your business will never use. Likewise, don’t choose one you can’t use or teach someone else how to use. (There are classes and training programs supervisors can take to make them qualified to train other team members.)
Sell It to Employees
As the decision-maker, if you believe new technology is a benefit to your business, you need to make your employees believe it. Tell them what’s in it for them. Tell them why! Give them a list of ways the new tool will improve day-to-day operation. Take the time to answer questions. Let them test the technology and get a feel for it before training begins. Give them a chance to see what issues might need to be addressed. Prepare them for the change and find a way to sell it in a positive light. Help them embrace the change rather than fight it.
Most important, lead by example. Show your staff you’re in this with them, that you’re willing to invest time and money for them to succeed. Make them engaged in what you’re doing. You don’t want employees who come to work every day just for the paycheck. You want ones who care about the future of your organization, who are willing to work hard to learn the new technology and maximize it. If you don’t involve yourself in the process, it’s going to be much harder to turn your staff into believers.
Finally, get influencers on board with your plan. Many operators are fortunate to have employees who are technologically savvy and will pick up new tools quickly. Get them on your side. Make them your ambassadors. They can also help you develop and implement a training program.
Create a Training Program
Please don’t surprise your employees on Monday morning with new software installed on the computer. Have a plan to introduce the new program. Once you’ve completed your own training, you’ll be ready to create a program for the rest of your team. Take the time to create materials and a schedule. Don’t just give them a copy of the user’s manual and assume it’ll be sufficient.
Also, give them various types of materials to make the subject matter less boring. For example, use infographics or short videos. Make it fun or like a game, if you can. Offer rewards for those who perform well. A simple acknowledgment can be very effective.
It’s important to remember that people learn in different ways. Some may be visual learners, while others are audible learners. If you don’t already know, find out how your employees will best learn. You might need to invest a little extra time and money to diversify your training materials so you have something to suit everyone. It’ll be worth it because it’ll make the transition smoother for all.
For example, if one employee learns more effectively from watching video than reading print material, provide video tutorial. Have small-group training with a few employees at a time so they don’t become overwhelmed. Also, create an opportunity for one-on-one training as well as group- and classroom-style training.
Follow Up and Through
Check in with your employees during the training process and after it’s been completed. If one team member is having a particularly hard time, give him a buddy to work with or take a hands-on approach and train him yourself. Allow staff the opportunity to ask questions. Ask for their feedback and use it when appropriate.
If you offer a resource you think might help them, follow through and provide the support. Make your employees believe they’re valuable. Circling back around to ask how they’re feeling with the changes you put in place will likely make them feel great about their employee-employer relationship and make them want to succeed.
Self-storage sometimes seems like a slowly progressing industry. (Even now, there are facilities that still don’t have a website, for example.) Making advancements in technology is essential to the success of your business. Don’t shy away from changes because your employees grumble and complain. Don’t avoid it because it requires extra time and effort in your already crazy schedule. Acknowledge the benefits technology can have on your operation and make a plan to implement it successfully!
Cheli Rosa is director of marketing for StorageStuff.Bid, which provides online storage-auction services. She’s a former high school teacher turned storage professional turned auctioneer. She’s worked in all areas of self-storage. Her constant desire for additional knowledge led her to immerse herself in the lien-foreclosure process. For more information, call 877.758.4243; visit www.storagestuff.bid.