Conducting Exit Interviews With Your Soon-to-Leave Self-Storage Staff: Why and How

When an employee leaves your self-storage business, do you know why? If you conduct an exit interview, you will. Learn why this important task should be incorporated into your staffing strategy, how to carry it out and what to do with the information collected.

Derek Hines

December 15, 2021

5 Min Read
Conducting Exit Interviews With Your Soon-to-Leave Self-Storage Staff: Why and How

We’re in a tough job market these days, and that’s an understatement. Employers everywhere are having an incredibly hard time filling vacancies. Staffing trouble has even hit the self-storage industry, and many operators are struggling to find quality managers.

Losing team members in this climate could heavily impact your business, as it might be a lengthy, difficult process to replace them. So, it’s more important than ever to understand why an employee leaves your organization and if there were ways to prevent it. An exit interview can help. Find out why and how to perform one so you can cultivate a better work environment.

The Benefits

An exit interview should be conducted with every employee who leaves your self-storage company. The purpose is to gain insight into why they decided to move on and use the information to increase retention and reduce turnover.

Whether your company operates a single facility or multiple locations, you can benefit from adding exit interviews to your human resources (HR) strategy. Here are just a few advantages:

  • Employees are often more willing to share their job frustrations once there’s no more fear of retaliation or hurt feelings.

  • If an employee quit on bad terms, this gives them the opportunity to leave on a more positive note.

  • It allows you to address in-depth issues you wouldn’t otherwise discover. For example, you might uncover ongoing matters that are affecting other staff, safety risks, a workplace-culture deficiency or training needs that are currently unmet.

  • You can tie up loose ends such as reminding the employee about non-compete agreements, prohibition against sharing intellectual property, etc.

What to Ask

The person who conducts exit interviews with your self-storage staff should be an unbiased party and at least one level removed from the departing team member. Once you’ve got the right candidate, there are many questions this person can and should ask.

The primary goal is to learn why the person is leaving and whether there’s a specific reason or action that affected their decision. You’ll likely get a range of answers. They might be going back to school, moving out of town or state, or advancing to a better position. Perhaps they didn’t see a pathway to advancement within your company, didn’t like their supervisor or simply didn’t enjoy the job. Based on the answer, you can dive a little deeper with probing questions.

For instance, if they’re leaving you for another employer, what does that company offer that yours doesn’t? Is it better pay or benefits? Something else? If they just didn’t enjoy their work, ask which parts they disliked the most and why.

Another question you might ask is, “Do you feel your job changed over the course of your employment?” Team members are sometimes asked to do things that weren’t part of their original job description, and it may be that they don’t like these additional tasks or lacked the skills to do them well.

Once you’ve determined the reasons behind the employee’s departure, you can ask about company culture and the overall work environment. These questions might include:

  • What was the best part of your job?

  • Were your supervisors supportive, and did they encourage your career development?

  • Did the company provide enough resources to help you succeed?

  • Did you routinely receive recognition or praise for good work?

  • Did you feel your opinions counted?

  • How can we improve the company to make it a better workplace?

  • Would you consider working for the company again in the future, and what would need to change for you to do so?

Lastly, take a moment to determine whether there are any ongoing issues within the company of which you should be aware. For instance, they employee might reveal that a coworker has repeatedly violated company rules, or a supervisor has a history of treating staff poorly. While this is just one perspective, it might be worth investigating.

Overall, you may not get a lot of insight from a single employee; but as you interview more people over time, you may see a pattern begin to emerge. Armed with this information, you can begin to act.

Stay Interviews

There are some HR professionals who feel exit interviews are a waste of time and resources. They claim departing employees are often disgruntled, and their anger comes out in the form of untrue statements that sully coworkers, supervisors and the company culture. The conversation can create a tense, heated environment that’s unproductive.

Instead, some companies are focusing on the stay interview, which is conducted with existing employees at any time. It’s intended to address their personal or career goals. You might ask things like “What makes you happy at work?” or “When was the last time you thought about quitting?” If they’ve considered leaving, ask what they need to stick around.

A stay interview can be done by HR, but it may be more effectively completed by the employee’s supervisor or district manager. This is because there’s likely a better rapport and some trust has been developed, allowing for more open and honest feedback.

My company’s HR director, Dani Ashford, believes stay interviews are much more effective than exit, especially in this high-turnover world. “For years, we performed exit interviews on each team member leaving the company, but [they were] typically so bitter about a particular issue or person that we felt like we weren’t getting an honest appraisal of what was really going on,” she says. “Since we’ve switched to doing stay interviews, we’ve been able to head off some departures by getting the team member the support they need or solving their particular issue.”

Use What You’ve Learned

Whether you conduct exit or stay interviews with your self-storage staff, or both, your company should use the information learned to make essential changes and improve the business. This’ll create an environment in which employees feel empowered to contribute to company culture. Not only does this create trust among your team, you’ll nurture a workplace that’s attractive for your No. 1 asset—employees.

Derek Hines is a writer for West Coast Self-Storage, a self-storage management, acquisitions and development company with facilities in California, Oregon and Washington. He writes extensively on all subjects related to the storage industry. For more information, call 877.611.8550.

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