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Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Tips on Self-Storage Compensation, Bonuses, Benefits and More

“You get what you pay for” is a common saying that can easily be applied to self-storage staffing. Companies that properly compensate and reward employees will build a solid team that works hard and reaches performance goals.

How do you determine compensation for your self-storage employees, especially your facility and district managers? The saying “You get what you pay for” is true when it comes to staffing.

If you have a solid team with low turnover and are already hitting company goals, you likely know how to attract and retain good people. Congratulations! If that isn’t the case, you may want to reconsider your compensation package and retention plan. Here are some tips to help you do things more successfully.

Offer a Competitive Salary

Many companies go about setting salaries the wrong way, especially if it’s for a new position or one that’s been plagued by turnover. Before determining salary for a position, create a list of the skills and experience you need. Find candidates who match those requirements, have stable career histories and a list of accomplishments. Then, create a compensation package that includes a competitive base salary and bonus program to attract those contenders.

Will you have to stretch beyond what you’ve paid in the past? Maybe. Will finding someone who can achieve your goals, who doesn’t change jobs every year, save or make you money? Absolutely.

Let me share a story. There once was a woman who was relocating and used the services of a gated self-storage facility. One sunny afternoon, she was organizing items in her indoor, climate-controlled unit. When she went out to get some things from her vehicle, she saw it speeding around the corner, driven by a man with a bandana over his face!

The facility manager, who lived onsite, said he had noticed a bunch of unfamiliar people on the property at night. But he didn’t do anything about it. After some investigating, it was discovered those visitors were using a tenant’s code to get through the gate. A little proactivity could have prevented the incident.

So, ask yourself: Is it worth spending a few extra dollars every month to have a good employee, one who pays attention to what happens on the property and cares about tenant safety? (I really miss that Jeep of mine, by the way.)

If you must stretch from a compensation standpoint, get creative so you don’t exceed your budget. For example, a strong property manager could oversee two sites with dependable assistants at each. A talented district manager could handle 10 locations instead of six. The focus should always be on maintaining a solid core team. Competitive salaries not only attract good employees, they keep them.

Provide Bonuses

Bonus programs are vital to successful staffing, and they must be measurable. Employees should know what they need to accomplish to earn a bonus and what the reward will be. Nobody likes “discretionary” bonuses. The word means “optional” and that’s what employees hear … They may or may not get a bonus and, if they do, they have no idea how much. Would that make you work harder?

Here are a few considerations for your bonus plan:

  • Think about what you’d be willing to pay. If an employee achieves X, you’d be happy to pay Y.
  • Bonuses are typically based on monthly, quarterly and annual goals and paid out on a matching schedule.
  • Consider setting a standard goal and a stretch goal. Perhaps you can create a formula based on sales percentages.
  • Other incentives, especially at the site-manager level, might include contests offering smaller rewards such as restaurant gift certificates or an extra day of vacation time.
  • You don’t need to wait until employees hit goals before you recognize them. If you have someone who’s dedicated, hard-working and performing well, hand him a thank-you card containing $50 or $100. That kind of appreciation goes a long way!

Offer Benefits

Benefits are important and can serve as a great enticement or retention tool for top talent. It’s common for large companies pay a portion of the employee’s premium for medical insurance, though the days of employers paying 100 percent for plans are long gone. Some offer a 401K retirement plan with some type of matching. Other benefits might include:

  • Company-paid life and disability insurance
  • Stock or equity options
  • Company vehicle or car allowance
  • Educational reimbursement
  • Paid vacation
  • Flex time
  • Apartment or housing discount

Every self-storage operation is different. You might not be able to offer all or even most of these things, but be aware of what competing companies provide. If you expect to attract the best employees, these benefits will factor into the equation.

Support Your Staff

The work environment you create is important when it comes to attracting and retaining staff. Provide the tools they need to succeed. A manager can’t fix a deteriorating property if the owner won’t invest in capital improvements. Employees can’t market the property to increase revenue if the owner won’t spend on advertising campaigns.

Take care of good employees. Reward, recognize and promote them. Pay competitive salaries and provide them with opportunities to advance. Be personable and encouraging. Be a great leader and gain respect. Create a culture in which people can thrive, where they enjoy what they do. In return, your team will meet or even exceed your goals. Be the company about which everyone says, “Wow, I’d love to work there. They treat their employees so well!”

Lisa Pyle, a partner at Real8 Group LLC, has more than 20 years of experience in executive search within the real estate industry. She’s been working with self-storage clients for several years, placing talented mid- and senior-level executives in the areas of property and asset management, development, construction, and finance and accounting. To reach her, call 865.224.8900, ext. 103; e-mail [email protected]; visit

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