If you operate a self-storage facility, you need to establish official policies and procedures. Why? Having these in place is key to running the things smoothly. Though you aren’t required by law to establish a business protocol, a written set of rules offers many benefits:
- It defines how people should behave within the organization.
- It outlines the responsibilities and expectations of employers and staff.
- It’s a great communication and staff-training tool.
- Its enforcement can help you avoid legal actions against your business.
- It protects workers’ rights and owners’ business interests.
- It provides guidance on human-resource-related issues.
Most companies put their policies and procedures into a print resource such as a handbook for employees to follow. This sets the corporate standard and describes the strategic focus of the business. Regardless of the size of your self-storage operation, these guidelines can help it run efficiently. When developing your handbook, consider including:
- An overview of your company history, mission, vision, values and culture
- Confidentiality and nondisclosure notices
- Guidelines for employee conduct, including fair and consistent treatment
- Details on the legal aspects of employment, such as state and federal mandates (wage-and-hour laws, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, Family Medical Leave Act, etc.)
- Summary of benefits (vacation time, holidays, healthcare, etc.)
- Descriptions of facility processes and procedures, such as cleaning, unit overlocking, collections, etc.
- An overview of performance management including job descriptions, 90-day evaluations, corrective action, yearly reviews, etc.
- Layoff and/or discharge process and recall
- Policies for safety and security, including those related to standards by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- Protocols for staff training and development
- Work schedules
- An acknowledgement (receipt of handbook)
Compliance and Understanding
Policies and procedures need to be written in clear language so everyone can understand them. Though they can be created in according to individual business needs, they must be compliant with federal and state employment laws. Therefore, it’s recommended that you have your handbook reviewed by experienced legal counsel before distributing.
Once your attorney has reviewed your guidelines, the next step is to share them with the key people in your organization who are expected to carry out their implementation and enforcement. Give them a chance to provide feedback before you dispense the guide to all staff. While it’s easiest to just send a copy of your handbook via email, it’s probably a good idea to have a meeting with all employees to review the document and answer any questions.
Lastly, it’s essential to get a signed acknowledgement from each employee, just in case any problems arise in the future. You can have staff sign and date a receipt document or include a receipt page in the handbook itself, acknowledging that they’ve read and understood the contents. Just keep in mind that signing a receipt doesn’t create a legal contract.
Once your guidelines are in place, it’s critical to apply and enforce them. That can be tougher than it sounds.
Rule violations will occur, but handling them is easier when you have established guidelines. Consistency is essential, particularly when taking corrective actions with staff. Good documentation of each situation is imperative. Examples of this include a record of conversation, written warnings, video/online recordings, witness statements, etc. If any future violations occur, you’ll have this information and be ready for next steps.
Follow-up after a corrective action is essential to be ensure the situation is remedied and the guidelines are understood moving forward. A good rule of thumb is to schedule a meeting during your initial conversation to immediately set expectations.
At any self-storage company, things change and evolve over time. You should review your policies and procedures at least annually to ensure they’re still in alignment with current business strategies, laws, benefits, etc. Having guidelines in place will help you focus on productivity and worry less about issues that could negatively impact facility operation.
Patricia Shields is director of human resources for Storage Asset Management, a property-management and consulting company that specializes in self-storage. The company manages more than 200 properties along the East Coast. For more information, call 717.779.0044; visit www.storageassetmanagement.com.