4 Fundamental Steps to Self-Storage Staff Training

The need to properly train your self-storage staff has never been greater, not just to promote your business, but to minimize liability and exposure. Here are four fundamental steps to employee training.

Cindy Ashby

January 25, 2018

6 Min Read
4 Fundamental Steps to Self-Storage Staff Training

There are two fundamental truths about staff training: It costs time and money to do, but not doing it also costs time and money.

Here’s another fact: Investing in training on the front end will positively impact your self-storage facility’s bottom line, customer relationships and employee job satisfaction. On the other hand, if you opt to save that time and money up front, the lack of training will eventually bleed you of vital resources. If left uncorrected, this downward spiral leads beyond frustration to potential lost business. If you’re reading this article, I already know that isn’t the outcome you seek; so let’s examine the four fundamental steps to staff training.

Step 1: Needs Analysis

The needs analysis is the starting point for all training, the primary objective of which is to improve individual and organizational performance. This is the who, what, where, when, how and why. By determining the answers to these questions, you can decide what specific knowledge, skills and behaviors are necessary to establish or improve employee performance in accordance with company standards. Additional questions to ask are:

  • Does the employee have any self-storage experience?

  • Has he used the same software?

  • Is he familiar with the same market?

  • Does he bring solid customer-service skills to the table?

Step 2: Programs and Manuals

It’s important that you’ve established job descriptions along with facility standards and procedures. Job descriptions should be clear and concise, and will serve as a major training tool, as your policies and procedures should be based on each staff responsibility. This will standardize the necessary guidelines for future training. It’ll also be used for reviews and evaluations, which could lead to advanced training, or perhaps re-training.

Step 3: Program Presentation

This is where the time and effort spent on analysis and development becomes worthwhile. The success of this process is largely based on two crucial elements: who does the training and where the training is conducted.

It’s imperative that the trainer is patient and able to adapt to multiple personality types. Remember, this person is setting the bar the trainee must meet. He should have a strong passion for, working knowledge of and a desire to teach the subject; the ability to motivate participants to “want” to learn; a good sense of humor; and clean and professional appearance with good posture.

Too often, not enough consideration is given to where training will take place. Consider a quiet area offsite. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just away from the facility’s day-to-day activities. Perhaps a second office at the facility is sufficient if there’s someone else running the store who knows not to interfere. Your training location should also include the appropriate audio-visual equipment to enhance the training session, which could be as simple as a computer with speakers and access to YouTube.

Here’s a sample of items to cover on day one:

  • New-hire paperwork

  • A review of the job description and employee manual, including items such as dress code, holidays, chain of command, pay periods, etc.

  • An acknowledgement of understanding all policies  and procedures (and collect a signature for the employee’s file)

  • A brief history of the industry and the company, and the bright future it holds

  • Logins to all software, computers, alarms, voicemail, etc.

  • A thorough self-storage lease presentation

  • Discussion and role-play call-flow

Items to cover on day two include:

  • A review of day one

  • Facility-opening procedures

  • Facility details and features

  • A review of local competitors

  • Initial software training

  • Banking procedures

  • Facility-closing procedures

Days three through five should build on this foundation through practical applications and reviews, and then I like to layer in other items over the course of 60 to 90 days. For example, I might cover lien sales at 30 days, revenue management at 60 days and marketing at 90 days.

All of this is based on the size and complexity of your facility and organization. It’s also based on available time and specific staff needs. I can’t encourage you enough: Pour as much as you can on the front end of training to prevent mistakes down the road.

Step 4: Testing, Assessment, Evaluation

Testing is a critical step in the training process. It’ll tell you how well the trainee is retaining all that’s being taught. These tests should be administered at the end of the first week, and then again every 30 days.

Assessments will involve everyone on your team, including customers. This is simply a matter of logging what you see, the types of questions the employee asks, and how your customers are interacting with the new team member. Over the course of 90 days, your evaluations will you how the employee has progressed and if he’ll make a good fit for your organization in the years ahead. Further, discussing the assessment with your new hire will help him be prepared if it’s ever determined he isn’t a good fit. Conversely, it’ll motivate him when you recognize how hard he’s trying and the good job he’s doing.

Evaluations are without a doubt the most important step in the training process, shedding light on the effectiveness of the program and the trainer. They can be done anonymously through a third party or via a simple one-page form. In addition to employee performance, the evaluation should address:

  • The training program itself

  • The order in which training was administered

  • Whether the program content was consistent with field usage

  • The trainer’s knowledge of the subject matter, patience and ability to work with the trainee

  • The training environment, and whether it was free of distractions and conducive to learning

  • The trainee’s personal input, including what he’d like to see added to the training and what was unnecessary

  • Whether the employee felt the training prepared him to perform the tasks he was hired to do

The need to properly train your employees has never been greater, not just to promote your business, but to minimize liability and exposure. As our industry continues to grow, more jobs will be created. Technology advances, customer expectations, employee morale, productivity and turnover, and increased competition are just a few of the reasons for establishing and implementing training in a self-storage organization. The rewards of a successful program are worth every dime spent and every ounce of effort invested.

Cindy Ashby is vice president of operation for Prime Storage Group, where she’s responsible for overseeing the firm’s 8-million-square-foot self-storage portfolio. She has more than 20 years of industry experience, including asset-management roles at Storage USA, two real estate investment trusts and three property-management companies. She’s written operational guidelines and developed training programs for numerous storage companies. For more information, call 518.792.1586; e-mail, [email protected]; visit www.primestoragegroup.com.

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