Once you’ve hired and trained a reliable, competent employee for your self-storage operation, you want them to succeed and stay on board. While there’s no one-fits-all approach to make every team member happy, here are four general ways to motivate and retain them, plus tips for preventing staff burnout.

Mohala Johnson, Director of Web Technology

February 14, 2023

6 Min Read
4 Ways to a Happy, Satisfied Self-Storage Team

Finding the right employees for your self-storage business can be arduous, so once you’ve hired them, you want them to stick around. Retention is always important, but especially when you’ve managed to snag reliable, competent team members.

What often happens is your best employees take on more responsibility than they should, maybe because you’re storage facility is short-staffed or you’re implementing new procedures. Whatever the reason, they’ll do what needs to be done to keep the business going. But this could lead to burnout that ultimately drives them away. To keep this from happening, you need to be proactive and have a plan to contribute to their well-being. Take care of them and make them want to stay.

Of course, every person is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to making self-storage managers and other employees happy. That said, creating a company culture of appreciation, communication and enrichment is a solid path toward retaining staff. Establishing a mindset of inclusion will help your people feel they belong with your company and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Following are four ways to accomplish this.

Appreciate Your Team

The first step to retaining talented self-storage employees is to appreciate them, and there are many ways to do so. For example, you can:

  • Send an “excellent job” email

  • Give shoutouts at meetings

  • Literally pat someone on the back

  • Cater a meal for the office

  • Buy the “fancy” office supplies

  • Hold companywide drawings for a massage or gift card

The goal is to demonstrate gratitude for your team’s hard work. You need to vocalize this and provide tangible evidence that good things are happening because of your staff. Everyone likes to know they’re doing a good job, so go out and tell them. Make it known that you’re pleased with their work and would like to reward them. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Even handwritten notes can work. Focus on providing appreciation regularly and when warranted, and you’ll find employees will respond well to it.

Communicate With Your Team

Knowing what to say, when to say it and how to say it are all aspects of outstanding communication. Be willing to have tough discussions. Not everything your self-storage employees have to say will be easy to hear. Be willing to listen to complaints and suggestions for improvements. If you spend your time locked away in your office, you’ll be out of touch and appear unapproachable. You want respect, not fear when running a company.

To remedy any preconceived notions your team might have about you, all you have to do is socialize. Get out of your office and make contact, pick up the phone and check in, or send a quick email asking how things are going. You don’t need to mill about and disrupt others while they’re working; just make an effort to learn about your team, their families and hobbies. This’ll create an opening for them to approach you with questions, concerns or suggestions, and ultimately make them feel comfortable working with you.

If an employee is feels awkward about talking with you, they won’t speak up. Often, they’ll simply leave the organization and you won’t know why. Prevent this from happening at your self-storage operation by being social and communicating openly with staff.

Offer Your Team Enrichment

Motivated employees seek companies that provide enrichment. Allowing your self-storage staff to attend training webinars, seminars or conferences shows them you care about their success. It’s easy to overlook the importance of providing growth opportunities, but if you offer ongoing education, you’ll show your staff that you’re investing in them and their future with your company.

Online training can be done remotely, and there are so many options and price points that you can easily find the right fit for your team. Start by looking into software or hardware you already use. Do any of your service providers offer training or certifications? If so, are these learnings relevant? Most of the time, you can forego anything that requires state licensure or permitting unless it benefits the company.

Embrace the concept of empowering your self-storage staff with education. This is the easiest way to provide enrichment. Give them options but don’t make it mandatory, as it takes the positivity out of it.

Prevent Team Burnout

Once you’ve created a solid plan containing actionable items for employee retention at your self-storage business, you can focus on preventing burnout. Burnout results from two things: too heavy a workload and/or too many work hours. It can also be the result of tedious, uninteresting work that leaves staff feeling unfulfilled.

Overworking your team simply because they’re competent and capable is a mistake. When overworked and taken for granted, an employee will often leave for less pay, reduced stress and fewer hours at another establishment. And if you don’t have a good working relationship with them, it can leave you feeling blindsided when they quit, with or without notice.

Make time to regularly evaluate the requirements of the individuals on your team and the load they’re carrying. Don’t just focus on their job descriptions. We all know those descriptions won’t necessarily encompass everything they do. As new duties arise, reassess each person’s workload. Knowing what’s actually required of everyone—in real life, not on paper—will allow you to see how much work is truly being done. You may discover that your go-to employee is outperforming others, but are they happy?

When turnover occurs and you’re unable to immediately fill the position, it’s natural to reallocate the lost person’s work. However, this needs to be temporary. Consider hiring additional staff with a varied skill set that allows them to take over new tasks without being overburdened. Be aware of changes in staff and pay close attention to the ones who seem to have more on their plates. This could be the first sign that they’re on their way to burning out.

Similarly, you need to regulate your work hours, scheduling and time off. If your self-storage team needs to stay late, make sure they can leave early or take a longer lunch on another day. There needs to be balance.

One idea is to provide one “free day” a month. That’s eight hours they can schedule ahead of time as either a full day off or two half days. This gives them time to attend events with their kids, schedule doctor appointments or even get haircuts during normal business hours instead of in the evenings or on their usual days off. This is a big ask for some self-storage employers, but it’s also something your staff will truly appreciate.

There are many strategies self-storage operators can use to create a positive work environment and retain employees. Keep in mind that fair compensation is also a big motivator. Paying your staff what they’re worth, adding in bonuses when goals are met, or simply having a performance drawing with a monetary value can boost morale and keep your team interested. At the end of the day, it’s all about making those high-quality hires want to stick around and be part of your company family.

Mohala Johnson is the director of web technology for Tellus Development Ltd., a real estate and development firm that operates more than 30 self-storage facilities in the Southeast. With more than 10 years of management and customer-service experience, she handles the company’s digital and print marketing. Writing has always been a passion of hers, and she’s excited to share her knowledge with the self-storage industry. Connect with her @MohalaJohnson on Twitter or www.linkedin.com/in/mohalajohnson.

About the Author(s)

Mohala Johnson

Director of Web Technology, Tellus Development LTD

Mohala Johnson is the director of Web technology for Tellus Development LTD, a real estate and development firm that operates more than 30 facilities in the Southeast United States. With more than 10 years management and customer-service experience, she handles the company’s digital and print marketing. Writing has always been a passion of hers and she is excited to share her knowledge with the self-storage industry. Connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mohalajohnson. For more information, visit www.tellusltd.com.

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