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7 Pivotal Elements for Building a Thriving Self-Storage Work Culture

Ignoring your self-storage company’s culture is a huge mistake that can lead to poor staff performance and greater employee turnover. These seven pivotal elements will help owners and supervisors create a healthy work environment in which team members can flourish and excel.

Some self-storage owners pay little to no attention to their company culture. The irony is ignoring your culture still creates one—a poor one.

According to research from marketing firm HubSpot Inc., 64 percent of employees feel their company has a weak culture. That’s a serious issue plaguing the modern workforce. The problem can be compounded in a self-storage environment, as most facilities have extremely small teams. Even in multi-site brands, the properties are generally widespread.

Facility owners often take a hands-off approach to operation; but if culture isn’t consciously and regularly addressed, the business will suffer and employees will leave. It can be the reason you keep or lose quality staff. Company culture is unique to each business and must be nurtured from within; but it’s more than just free food and “casual Fridays.”

So, what’s the culture at your company? Is it rich in values and actions that support progress and employee satisfaction? How can you make it better? Listed below are seven pivotal elements that will help you create a healthy work environment in which employees can flourish and excel.

Communication

Do the people in your company feel heard? Are employees able to provide feedback up the leadership chain? Are those comments taken seriously? Too often, supervisors have no problem giving feedback, but they’re no good at accepting it. With some of your workforce possibly thinking they’re being taken for granted and underutilized, communication up and down the ladder is essential.

Employees can feel uncomfortable discussing their issues with supervisors. I get it; I’ve been there. They’re afraid of repercussions. They don’t want to upset the boss, so they “go along to get along.” Your responsibility is to create an environment in which staff feel safe and able to express their thoughts and concerns.

During your next one-on-one with your team, try asking, “Is there anything you want to learn more about, either inside or outside the company? Is there something to which you feel you could contribute more? Is there anything you’d like to discuss?” Demonstrate that you’re ready to listen and address their comments.

Innovation

Innovation in storage? It’s storage! How much more inventive can people be?

If you think this way, hang your head in shame! Storage has more opportunities to innovate than many other industries today. In the past five years, we’ve merely passed mile one on the marathon to modernization.

As a self-storage owner or supervisor, you need to constantly search for fresh ways to solve problems, reduce stress and increase creativity. Guess who sees the most operational issues every day? The people who deal with them—your staff! Give them encouragement to try new things. You can always go back to the way old way if the new ideas don’t pan out.

Milieu

Everyone enjoys working somewhere that’s comfortable, healthy and well-equipped. You can create such a place without spending a fortune, and the benefits for employees expand over time. If your team is suffering without the right equipment and supplies while you pull up to the site in your new BMW, your staff will begin to resent you and may consider leaving. They might even key your pretty car on the way out!

Make sure your team has company shirts, business cards with only their names on them, and office chairs that are replaced more than once a century. Encourage employees to take breaks, and provide them with healthy snacks. Do your part in contributing to staff’s physical well-being.

Collaboration

When I think of a collaborative project, I imagine one in which people are engaged and working toward a shared goal. In today’s digital age, it’s even more imperative that employees be part of a something bigger than themselves. These efforts allow them to learn from each other and create team bonds.

Collaborations also create coaching opportunities. If someone fails to meet his responsibilities or steps on someone else’s toes, it’s a chance to educate the employee and improve the team’s interpersonal communication.

Support

Do your employees have a growth plan? What are you doing to help them better themselves, personally and professionally? If your team doesn’t have an improvement program, what are you doing to form one? People perform better when they know they’re being supported and you have their welfare in mind.

Sit down with every employee and carefully listen to what he has to say. Ask sincerely what skills he’d like to improve. Ask what he’d like to learn more about. Ask how you can help him grow. Once he tells you, do what you can to help him reach this goal.

Responsibility

When I was a Boy Scout, I learned a valuable lesson: If I caught a fish, I had to clean it. Though smelly, this was a valuable life lesson in taking responsibility for one’s actions. This concept is often forgotten as we age. In the workplace, you see “caught fish” being hidden under desks, passed around the room or thrown at others. In short, everyone should take responsibility for himself.

Recognition

Think of a project into which you put an enormous amount of effort. After expending all that energy, your boss or manager did little to nothing to thank you. How did that make you feel? Speaking from experience, it made me feel awful.

Why do bosses, co-workers and peers hold back praise? How much does it cost to tell someone he did a good job or you appreciate the work? Zero! One of the top reasons people leave their jobs is they don’t feel recognized. This doesn’t need to be a grand parade down the hall. It can be a simple e-mail or verbal exchange.

Try this: The next time you give your employee a bonus, include a handwritten a note. It might read, “Great job in the last quarter. You’re a real asset to the team, and I appreciate all you do.” If you have a co-worker, why not write a message to thank him for helping you with a certain project and how much it meant to you?

We don’t appreciate others as much as we should. Owners and supervisors, if you’re not thanking employees for doing a great job and expressing that you appreciate them, shame on you. Employees, if you have a supervisor or owner whom you haven’t thanked for the time and effort he invests in you, then shame on you, too. A simple “thank you” or “I appreciate what you do” makes a huge difference in the workplace.

Having a poor culture will cost your company in immeasurable ways, whether it be high staff turnover, poor customer service or lousy work performance. The company that has a positive, healthy culture will always outperform others. You owe it to your employees to build a better workplace. Remember, you work there, too!

As a self-storage professional, Rick Beal’s goal is to help a historically slow-changing industry embrace new, innovative ideas. His professional motto is, “Storage is a business of inches not miles.” Connect with him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/storagerick or rick@hoytlink.com

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