Much of the self-storage industry is comprised of independent owners who are juggling many responsibilities. Their primary focus is on keeping up with the competition and growing their business, so devoting time to talk with staff about performance isn’t always a priority. It should be, though. In today’s competitive job market, retaining quality staff is more important than ever, and employee expectations are changing. People want to work for companies that’ll help them develop professionally. Performance evaluations are an essential part of this process.
The fact is, your staff wants to hear from you, but not many self-storage operations have a culture that encourages open feedback. By starting simple and involving employees in the discussion, you can implement an evaluation process that’s manageable and benefits everyone. A consistent, actionable protocol can help team members reach their career goals while improving your operation.
Why and When
There are two main factors that prevent self-storage owners and supervisors from conducting regular staff-performance reviews: lack of time and fear of confrontation. Having difficult conversations with employees can be awkward and intimidating for those who don’t have the proper tools to manage the process. That’s understandable, and yet this type of interaction with your team is necessary.
The good news is conducting staff evaluations doesn’t have to be time-consuming or uncomfortable, nor does it have to be the sole responsibility of the facility owner. You can invite all employees to be equal stakeholders and provide resources that help area or district managers navigate difficult conversations.
In fact, your evaluation process shouldn’t be too demanding. To begin, choose a frequency that matches your business needs. For example, if you regularly interact with your employees, annual or biannual reviews are probably sufficient; but if you don’t see your team very often, monthly or quarterly reviews might be better. If raises are tied to performance, offer an annual evaluation at a minimum. The key is to find the formula that works for your operation and the people who run it.
When developing your employee-evaluation process, ask yourself, “What do I want to measure?” Focus on what drives your self-storage business, then pick a few key metrics on which to gauge performance. For example, you might focus on unit rentals, facility revenue, site cleanliness, customer satisfaction (reviews), mystery-shopping scores and other key performance indicators. You might also consider how well each team member fits with the company culture and how satisfied they are with their role and responsibilities.
Before sitting down to conduct reviews, ask your employees to complete a self-evaluation. This can be the conversation starter when you meet one-on-one. Keep this survey to a few simple questions such as:
- How do you think you’ve done in the past year?
- Provide an example of a difficult situation you handled well.
- Which job responsibilities/tasks do you enjoy the most and the least?
- What are your professional goals for the next year?
You can contribute to the discussion by providing your own assessment and offering suggestions on how to improve. Writing extensive reviews isn’t necessary. You can use simple ratings such as “exceeds expectations,” “meets expectations” and “doesn’t meet expectations.”
Once your evaluation process is established and part of your company policies, you can expand the measurement standards. For example, tie in your company values, assess certain character traits or focus on development goals.
No matter how simple your employee-evaluation process is, it needs to be personalized. Your self-storage team members want to know they aren’t getting the exact same feedback as their co-workers. They want to be seen as individuals and recognized for their unique strengths and weaknesses. Consider these tips on preparing for the one-on-one meeting and delivering impactful feedback.
Be prepared and focused. Create an environment that’s private and free of distractions. Prepare what you’re going to say, using the self-evaluation as your starting point. Try to anticipate your employee’s responses to feedback.
Don’t be afraid of difficult conversations. Sugarcoating these discussions will make the situation more difficult down the road, so address issues now. Sometimes, an employee doesn’t even know there’s a problem.
Personalize the way you deliver feedback. How you deliver negative feedback can be just as critical as what you say. The key to giving constructive criticism lies in recognizing that each person receives it differently. While one employee may want you to be blunt, another might need a gentler approach. This is one of the most challenging aspects of being a leader, but taking the time to tailor your approach will help you communicate more effectively. When an employee joins your team, ask how they prefer to be managed and how they like to receive feedback. Then apply what you know during the review.
Share strengths and weaknesses, and check for understanding. Look for opportunities to recognize your employees’ strengths as well as their weaknesses. If you’re delivering negative feedback, make sure they understand the reasoning behind it. If they become argumentative, suggest that they take time to consider your comment, and then meet again when they’re less emotional. This gives them time to absorb what you said and gives you time to gather examples to share.
Ask for feedback. These reviews aren’t only about employee performance. Supervisors should take this opportunity to ask how their team feels about working within the company. Are you meeting their needs? If not, why?
Offer ways to help them improve. If your employees aren’t meeting expectations, offer your support. If you focus on how you can help them grow and develop, they’ll receive the criticism more openly. Ask if there are obstacles you can remove for them.
Let them know they’re doing a good job. If your team’s performance is great, tell them! Supervisors often think employees will know this unless they hear otherwise. But that doesn’t always translate, especially with younger generations who are accustomed to regular, positive feedback from parents and educators. Silence can be interpreted negatively, so let staff know you value them.
Keep in mind, employee evaluations are meant to improve engagement and productivity and can even minimize turnover. By starting simple, measuring what drives your self-storage business and communicating effectively with your team, performance reviews can become a tool that helps you achieve your business goals.
Tiffany Guthrie is manager of the human resources (HR) advanced support services for G&A Partners, a professional employer organization that has been helping entrepreneurs in all industries grow their businesses for more than 25 years. She has more than 20 years of HR experience, specializing in employee relations and legal compliance. For more information, call 888.392.1226.