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Performance Reviews

One of the worst things you can do as a business owner or manager is fail to acknowledge the performance of employees, the lifeblood of your organization. Staff members managing day-to-day operations are crucial to the success of any self-storage facility. Failure to review their performance is probably as detrimental to your business as forgetting to renew your Yellow Pages ad.

Planning ahead is predictably the first step. You must devote time and resources to the task, put your ideas and objectives on paper, and develop a review system appropriate for your organization.

Certainly, a national storage owner will review its employees differently than a single-facility operator will, but the process is equally critical. Make the program legitimate by creating documents to facilitate the process, and share the information with employees when theyre hired so expectations are clear from the start. Be prepared! You want staff members to know you value their performance and havent taken lightly the task of evaluating how theyre doing.

Consistency

Your performance review program should be standardized. You may decide to implement some type of rating system, such as a form that lists performance expectations with a corresponding grading system. Or maybe you prefer to do a verbal evaluation over a cup of coffee. Regardless, evaluate employees on a consistent basis.

Consistency is critical not only to avoid conflict between staff members (they almost always talk), but also to stay fair and avoid legal issues. Also, ensure youre evaluating individual employees consistently from one review to the next; this way, you can accurately track their progress.

Keep it simple and manageableyou want your supervisors to embrace the process, not view it like a dreaded term paper. Everyone should understand the program and know exactly how they rate.

A self-evaluation is a great way to get the review started and should always be included. If youve never asked employees to evaluate their own performances, you may be surprised to learn theyre usually critical and highly accurate. Most of the time, people know how well theyre doing and are honest when asked about it.

Be sure to solicit the self-evaluation prior to the actual review. Otherwise, the supervisors evaluation could spoil the process and emotions take over. For example, if the evaluation is good, the employee will overlook his weaknesses; if its negative, hell have a chip on her shoulder and wont be open-minded.

Factors to Review

Of course, any review must include a detailed evaluation of basic job requirements. When considering the performance of a self-storage professional, its not difficult to measure obvious responsibilitiesgenerating customer leads, customer service, rent collection and maintaining a secure environment. But dont overlook intangibles such as effort, attitude, commitment to the organization and willingness to be a team player. These are equally important and set the foundation for an employees overall performance.

Although the process should always be consistent, the actual evaluation mayand probably shouldvary from one position to the next. After all, expectations of a store manager will be different than those of an assistant manager, and be poles apart from those of a facility maintenance person.

Whenever you implement a formal process or favor casual verbal feedback, documentation is absolutely critical. Clearly record the general evaluation, at least in summary, and place the notation in the employee file. Legal issues and HR protocol are part of the reason, but a well-documented review also eliminates guesswork later when youre considering bonuses and examining work histories.

Scheduling

Reviews should be conducted routinely and scheduled in advance. Employees need to know their job performance will be critiqued, but it shouldnt come as a surprise. In most instances, an annual review is appropriate, although new hires are commonly reviewed after six months since theyre in the learning process.

Scheduled reviews can also be moved up when an employee is clearly performing well (or not so well) and deserves immediate recognition. Promotions and position changes often trigger a new review schedule altogether.

Most important, stick to the established schedule and conduct reviews in a timely manner. Having to wait for an evaluation almost always lowers employee morale. A late review sends a message to employees that you cant be bothered and their contributions to the organization arent important. If for some reason you cant conduct a review on time, dont leave the person hanging. Acknowledge the delay and explain that any raise will be retroactive to the due date of the review.

Lastly, track the resultsjust as you do with other aspects of your operation. Discover whether your performance-review process is working well or creating frustration and turmoil. Additionally, you may find that job descriptions change over time, requiring updates to the review criteria. The evaluation process is often a work in progress.

Much like checking the lamps that keep your sign illuminated for all to see, a comprehensive performance review program is a task that cant be overlooked. Its as indispensable as a fair reward system for a job well done. As long as you make a point of routinely evaluating the performance of your employees, theyll attract the attention of passersby and your operation will reap the benefits. 

Jim DiNardo heads up J. DiNardo Consulting, which performs self-storage feasibility and market studies and analyzes facility operations. Mr. DiNardo, who has more than 16 years experience in the industry, was co-founder of the Massachusetts Self Storage Association, serving as president from 1998-2002. For more information, call 781.966.8278; e-mail [email protected].

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