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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Self-Storage Workplace: Why It’s Important and How to Achieve It

In today’s labor market, it’s imperative for self-storage companies to create a workplace that embraces diversity, ensures equity and promotes inclusion. Find out what that really means and the potential benefits for your staff, customers and business; then learn to establish and sustain this kind of environment.

Stacie Maxwell

December 14, 2023

7 Min Read
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Self-Storage Workplace

The self-storage industry is experiencing rapid growth, and with it comes the need for an evolved workplace that values diversity, ensures equity and champions inclusion. We’ve all heard these terms bandied about lately, but diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) aren’t just buzzwords, they’re crucial components of a thriving and sustainable business. But before we dive into the manifold benefits of fostering a DEI-rich environment, let’s clarify what this all means.

Diversity refers to the presence of a variety of individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and attributes within an organization. It encompasses aspects such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status and physical abilities. A diverse workforce brings together a wide range of talents, ideas and perspectives, fostering innovation and adaptability.

Equity focuses on the creation of a level playing field by addressing historical disparities and providing everyone with fair access to opportunities and resources. It acknowledges that individuals may require varying levels of support to achieve the same goals. It means treating each person fairly, regardless of their background or circumstances, and taking proactive steps to eliminate systemic barriers that may hinder some employees' progress.

Inclusion involves creating an environment in which every team member feels appreciated, respected and included in all aspects of the workplace, regardless of their differences. An inclusive environment is one in which every employee's voice is valued and heard. It fosters a culture of belonging, where individuals can bring their authentic selves to work and contribute to their fullest potential.

The Importance of DEI

Here are just a few ways that DEI are important and beneficial to the self-storage industry:

Provides better customer relations. Our business is built on interactions with a varied tenant base. A diverse and inclusive workforce can help us connect with a broader range of customers, understand their needs more comprehensively and provide more tailored solutions. Employees who understand and respect different cultures and perspectives are also more likely to provide excellent service.

Enhances creativity and innovation. When employees from various backgrounds collaborate, they share a wide range of experiences and viewpoints. Diversity of thought sparks innovation and creativity, enabling the self-storage industry to adapt, evolve and develop groundbreaking solutions to meet the changing needs of customers.

Attracts and retains talent. A workplace that prioritizes DEI is often seen as progressive and attractive to a wider pool of job seekers. It can help in recruiting top talent from different backgrounds and retaining employees who feel valued and included. The best self-storage managers want to work for companies that embrace their uniqueness and offer equal opportunities for growth and development.

Boosts employee morale and productivity. Storage managers who feel respected and valued are more likely to be engaged and motivated. This can lead to higher productivity and job satisfaction, collaborative efforts, and commitment to the success of the company, ultimately benefiting its bottom line.

Reduces turnover and conflict. A self-storage workplace that’s inclusive and equitable is less likely to experience internal disagreements and high churn. When employees believe they’re treated fairly and have opportunities for growth, they’re more likely to stay, which in turn builds a legacy of solidarity, comfort and trustworthiness in the community—all key components to driving referrals.

Achieves legal and ethical compliance. The United States carries several Equal Employment Opportunity Laws that require organizations to promote diversity and prevent discrimination, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and sexual-harassment laws. Embracing DEI practices not only ensures legal compliance, it aligns with ethical principles of fairness and social responsibility.

Builds a positive reputation and brand image. Companies that prioritize DEI are often seen as socially responsible and ethical. Such values resonate positively with self-storage customers, further supporting a company’s legacy of solidarity, comfort and trustworthiness in the community.

Reflects the community. Self-storage facilities are often deeply embedded in their local areas. Having a diverse workforce that mirrors their surroundings can also help build trust and positive relationships with neighbors and customers.

Implementing DEI

Promoting DEI in the self-storage workplace is essential for ensuring a fair work environment. Here are five ways a company of any size can embrace it.

1. Top-down commitment: Leadership buy-in is essential for driving meaningful change. Company leaders, facility owners and district supervisors should champion DEI. Continual demonstration of their commitment through actions, policies and resource allocation is key.

2. Training and education: Offer or provide access to training programs that raise awareness about unconscious biases, microaggressions and other barriers to inclusion. This empowers employees to recognize and mitigate these issues in the workplace, and often provides the vocabulary for a meaningful dialogue about how to correct and prevent these issues going forward.

3. Diverse hiring practices: Adopt recruitment strategies that target a wide range of candidates, such as using inclusive language in job postings, implementing blind résumé screening, and standardizing interview processes to minimize bias.

4. Equal opportunity and pay equity: Develop and enforce policies that ensure equal opportunities for career advancement, compensation and professional development. Identify and rectify any gender, race or other pay disparities to ensure equal pay for equal work. Regularly review and adjust these policies to account for changing needs.

5. Employee-resource groups: Establish or provide access to platforms that allow staff to connect based on shared characteristics or interests. These groups can help amplify underrepresented voices and create a strong sense of belonging, which is often difficult to attain in the self-storage industry where each facility is separate and operated by a handful of people at best.

Refining Your Approach

Measuring the success of a self-storage company's DEI initiatives and improving these programs and practices requires a comprehensive approach. Here are eight steps your business can take to manage its efforts:

Establish clear goals. Start by setting specific, measurable and achievable objectives. They might include increasing the representation of underrepresented groups in the workforce, improving employee satisfaction related to DEI, and fostering a more inclusive culture.

Collect data. Gather information on the current state of DEI within your company, including employee demographics such as race, gender, age and more. Look at your hiring, promotion and turnover rates for various groups. Use surveys and feedback mechanisms to understand employee experiences and perceptions.

Regularly evaluate your progress. You might check in quarterly or annually. Compare your current data to baseline measurements to track improvements or identify areas where growth is lacking.

Write inclusive rules. Audit your company policies, procedures and benefits to ensure they’re inclusive. Consider flexible work arrangements, non-biased performance-based bonuses and incentives, family-friendly policies, and accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

Enforce responsibility. Hold leaders and managers accountable for achieving DEI goals. Tie progress to performance evaluations and compensation where appropriate.

Use benchmarking. Compare your DEI efforts with industry standards and best practices. Benchmark against your self-storage competitors or similar industries such as apartments and hotels to understand where you stand.

Adapt and evolve. DEI initiatives should be flexible and adaptable. Regularly review and adjust your strategies based on feedback and changing circumstances within the self-storage industry.

Seek external expertise. Consider bringing in external DEI consultants or experts to assess your programs and practices, provide guidance, and ensure objectivity.

Succeeding in DEI is an ongoing process. It requires commitment from all levels of your organization and continuous improvement. Regularly revisit your goals, assess progress, and make necessary adjustments to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive self-storage company.

These fundamental principles should be ingrained in your workplace culture. The importance of DEI can’t be overstated. Embracing diversity, ensuring equity and promoting inclusion not only benefits employees, it leads to better customer relations, increased innovation and, ultimately, greater performance for your self-storage company as a whole. It’s imperative to prioritize your DEI efforts to thrive in an ever-changing world.

Stacie Maxwell is vice president of marketing and training and a partner at Universal Storage Group, a provider of third-party management and consulting to the self-storage industry. She oversees the branding, design and marketing programs for the company and its portfolio of 70-plus facilities. With more than 22 years of experience in the storage industry, she works closely on the company’s facility-development and transition projects and has been instrumental in its growth. To reach her, call 770.801.1888 or visit her profile on LinkedIn.

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