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Embracing Employee Diversity in Self-Storage

Creating a diverse workforce for your self-storage business has several benefits but can be difficult to achieve. It begins with setting goals and hiring right, and then fostering a team that values and respects the talents and opinions of its members.

What comes to mind when you think of employee diversity? More than likely, you think of hiring people of various ages, creeds, ethnicities and genders. Why hire people who are so different from each other? What are the benefits? There are many reasons, and all can be good for your self-storage business.

Diversity gives you access to a greater range of talent. It also provides insight to the multi-faceted needs of your tenants and the communities in which you work. In fact, researchers have found it makes your organization more effective, successful and profitable!

But how do you achieve a diverse workforce? Here’s some advice.

Define Your Goals

Workplace diversity is great in theory, but it isn’t always achievable. What looks great on paper can fall short in practice. Saying you’re going to embrace diversity isn’t enough. You must clearly identify your goals. Some organizations establish policies to ensure certain groups of people are represented in supervisory positions, for example.

Every company is unique, so your diversity goals will be, too. You can’t copy/paste what one organization is doing or even borrow what’s working at a sister store in a different part of the country. A diversity program at the corporate level might not work at each individual facility. For it to work, each team must have the tools, capability and motivation to implement it. You must define reasons for the program and help everyone understand what the benefits are for everyone. Otherwise, it’ll fail.

It Starts With the Hire

Creating a diverse workforce begins with hiring. Hiring based on skills alone is easy, but finding the right people with the right attitude, who are open-minded and represent different ways of thinking, is the key. It’s much easier to teach someone new skills than it is to change their mindset!

Though we all share things in common, each of us brings something unique to a job. Hiring people with different personalities and talents, at various stages of their careers, adds a range of perspectives and ideas that can help your company grow creatively. Employees will also bring crossover skills from other fields, which can be beneficial to other staff.

By working with people of varied backgrounds and working styles, inspiration is born. Your team members can bounce ideas and experiences off one another, allowing them to learn new techniques and skills. Offering feedback to each other also helps them grow as employees and helps your business thrive.

By embracing diversity in your workplace, you’ll attract a wider range of talent, which makes hiring easier. It might even help with employee retention. People generally like to work in an environment where all backgrounds are accepted and employee equality is promoted. They’re more likely to feel comfortable and happy in a culture when inclusivity is a priority. It helps your team grow and feel confident in their abilities. The higher their morale, the more productive they’ll be!

Managing a Diverse Staff

Now that you’ve gathered a diverse workforce, you must manage these employees. You need to value each individual and respect what he brings to the table. Celebrate differences, don’t just tolerate them! You must learn to work with various personalities and establish a cohesive team. This takes time and energy.

Make sure all employees feel valued and included in your business strategy. Those who feel appreciated are more likely to contribute and care about the company’s success. The person behind the counter is your frontline defense and can make or break a self-storage facility. Much depends on how he’s treated. So, get to know each of your employees, right down to the relief staff.

Here are some general tips for managing your diverse team:

  • Recognize each person's unique talents and abilities, and assign tasks to those best suited to each job.
  • Communicate with every employee, providing constructive feedback on a regular basis.
  • Treat each employee fairly and equally and give them all the opportunity to shine.
  • Make sure all employees are participating equally. Meetings should involve everyone. Just because your relief manager only works two days a week doesn't mean he doesn’t have something of value to contribute to the success of your store.
  • Create an open and safe work environment in which employees feel comfortable offering opinions and suggestions. No one should be bullied, belittled or ridiculed.
  • Be aware of any tensions among your team and step in immediately to handle such situations.
  • Don't play favorites. Find out what each person brings to the table and use those talents to help the employee grow and be more productive. Some people are better at marketing or collections or cleaning. Figure out what they’re best at and put them in that role.
  • Give positive feedback whenever possible. Employees need to know how they’re doing, so they can continue on or correct themselves. Meetings can be conducted in person, or by phone or video conferencing to keep staff motivated.
  • Finally, always have an open-door policy, as not all employees will feel comfortable saying things in an open forum. Let them know they can come to you at any time and you’ll listen to their concerns and suggestions.

Addressing Conflict

Remember, with a diverse workforce, you’re dealing with various backgrounds, ages, cultural experiences, etc., and conflict will occasionally arise. Create policies so employees understand what they to expect if there’s an issue. Create a company manual and keep it updated as laws change.

If there’s a conflict, address it in person. E-mails might be the norm for communication today, but sometimes the tone can be misunderstood. It shouldn’t be used to discuss complex issues as they may get lost in translation, so to speak. Pick up the phone and talk directly to the person or schedule a face-to-face meeting to address key issues that shouldn’t be covered in e-mail.

Maintaining Best Practices

Maintaining a diverse team of professionals doesn't just happen. It takes work—sometimes a lot of work.

Again, it’s important to value each person's individuality and be open to the new ideas he brings to the table. Your team’s behaviors and beliefs might be different from yours, so be proactive and ask for feedback to understand their viewpoints. In exchange, help your employees see the big picture. They need to know how their role and responsibilities fit into the overall success of the self-storage facility and your company.

Choose your words carefully and never make harmful comments. Pay attention to your body language. too. Ask others what they think and what they would do in any given situation and then listen. You may discover what really excites them about their work and how to motivate them to excel. This will lead to an increase in productivity and profit.

Treat your employees like you want them to treat your customers—with respect and kindness. Yes, the Golden Rule works in the workplace as well as in life! Remember to “walk the walk,” and do what you say when you say it. Also, hold yourself to higher standards and let your employees know that if you don't, they should.

Finally, never, ever tolerate unacceptable behavior! Being open-minded doesn't mean your workplace is a free-for-all, so address poor performance immediately. If issues are ignored, resentment builds, and bad behavior soon becomes the norm. Remember, employees do what you do or what you allow them to get away with! Your leadership is what guides your business, so it’s critical that you provide a work environment where creativity can flourish.

By creating a diverse workforce, you and your organization will benefit from the various talents and ideas, from those at the top level to everyone behind the counter. It’ll be a win-win situation for everyone, including your tenants!

Pamela Alton is owner of Mini-Management Services, which has been placing self-storage managers in positions all over the United States since 1991. She also offers staff training, operational consulting, and facility audits and inspections. For more information, call 321.890.2245; e-mail pamela@mini-management.com; visit www.mini-management.com.

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