Building a Better Training Program for Self-Storage Staff

You’ve finally hired the right person to join your self-storage team. Now it’s time to train him. The following will guide you in creating a program to help your new staff member succeed in his role.

Donna Edwards

August 19, 2018

6 Min Read
Building a Better Training Program for Self-Storage Staff

After collecting résumés and conducting interviews and background checks, you’ve finally hired the perfect candidate to join your self-storage team. So, what’s the next step? You need a quality training program that ensures your hire receives the right guidance to succeed in his new role with your company.

Learning Styles

We often teach new managers in the way we learn best, not the way they learn best. Don’t expect to train all employees the same way, as it isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Instead, it must be tailored to the skill set and learning style of the trainee. It’s smart to coach each new employee using his preferred method.

For example, he might prefer that you show him how to do the task, verbally explain how to do the task, or provide written materials that spell out a step-by-step process. He may wish to do the task himself after you’ve shown or explained it to him. In many cases, a new employee will learn through a combination these. Before you start training, ask which approach he prefers. You’ll find that framing the tutorial to the person’s learning style will benefit all involved.

Onsite Training

While many companies have training manuals or conduct training offsite, there’s no substitute for onsite learning. Seeing property issues, office challenges and the local market firsthand can enhance a new manager’s ability to learn the site and his role in its success.

The daily walk-through is a great example of a hands-on training moment. With a to-do list in hand, the trainer can show the steps to ensuring the property is up to standards.

It’s also important for the new manager to spend time training with other employees. This could include a co-worker, a regional or district manager, or the owner. Just be sure that any information he receives about operational procedures is consistent from everyone.

The training duration will depend on several factors including facility size, staff size, the new hire’s work experience and more. An experienced manager may only need a short time to get up to speed, while someone new to the industry might require more one-on-one training to fully grasp the job duties.

Don’t assume an employee is ready to be on his own after he completes the training period. Sometimes new items pop up, forgetfulness takes over or lack of repetition prevents retention. Ask the manager about his comfort level, and make sure someone is available if a problem arises.

Follow Up

In reality, job training never ends. Be open and available to questions for days, weeks, even months after the initial period. There are some tasks or issues that come up so infrequently it’s easy for an employee to forget. Don’t make it uncomfortable for him to seek input. Too often a new team member doesn’t reach out for help because he doesn’t want to appear unable to handle the job. Consider the following:

  • Send e-mails to check in and see how he's doing. Ask if he has any questions.

  • Pick up the phone and chat with him about issues at his facility, then offer suggestions or recommendations. Share stories of similar situations at other sites and how those managers solved the problem.

  • Schedule face-to-face meetings. These can be short, informal get-togethers that allow him to ask questions.

Ongoing support and feedback will also improve the employee-owner partnership. Schedule periodic training sessions through Skype, GoToMeeting or other video-conference programs. A 15-minute meeting before the start of the day can be used to train, motivate and encourage all managers, new and experienced.

It’s also important to give your new manager guidance and room to make decisions. If he makes a choice that’s contrary to one you’d make, let him know but use it as a positive teaching moment. Unless it’s a gross violation of company policy, support his decision and give him “next time this occurs” feedback, explaining how he should handle a similar situation in the future. A manager who won’t make decisions is in fact deciding. Relying on superiors for every choice prevents him from taking ownership and accountability.

Lack of confidence will affect initiative, so create a support system that allows a manager to grow in his position. Consistent follow-up by the training manager or supervisor can help an inexperienced employee gain self-assurance in his role.


Retaining great employees can be nearly as difficult as hiring them. Not only does there need to be a strong trainer, a supervisor should continue to nurture their success within the company. Be a mentor for your managers. Too often they go through an initiation period and then are left to figure things out for themselves. This leads to frustration that can result in them leaving for a company that’s better about onboarding new talent.

As you continually improve your training program, ask yourself the following:

  • Will the new employee work best on his own or in a group?

  • What motivates this person?

  • What reward or recognition would he appreciate for a job well done?

  • When he needs to tackle a new task, does it motivate or scare him?

  • Is he a self-starter or does he work better with consistent oversight?

  • What type of feedback does he need from his supervisor?

  • How does he handle negative feedback? Does he take constructive criticism well or does it make him resentful?

Find out what motivates your new hire. Is it recognition, praise, encouragement, challenges, goals or financial rewards? Some people need a cheerleader while others only require an occasional “good job on this task” so they know someone is paying attention. Each team member will have his own motivation level and desire for reward. By focusing on the achievements of each, your company will also excel.

The Unteachables

Work ethic is the driving force in employee success. Taking initiative and ownership, being accountable, seeking additional responsibilities, expecting excellence in themselves, setting a high standard and striving to exceed expectations … These are things that can’t be taught. It’s embodied in the person or it isn’t. An effective training period that teaches policies, procedures and expectations can reveal your new team member’s work ethic.

On the other hand, failure to train can have an adverse effect on work culture, employee retention and facility success. The economy is improving, more jobs are being created and competition for great staff is becoming fiercer. Having an environment that’s inviting for new hires and rewarding for existing members will reduce staffing issues. The challenge is to create a workplace that fosters the success of your property and people.

Donna Edwards is a manager at Plantation Self Storage in Bluffton, S.C., which is operated by Southeast Management Co. She joined the company in 2013 and has more than 10 years of experience in property management. Her marketing experience includes setting budgets, designing marketing plans, and creating all types of advertising. For more information, call 843.815.8000; e-mail [email protected]; visit

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