To grow your self-storage operation, you need to grow your staff—not just in size! It pays to invest in professional development for your team. Help them advance their skills and talents, and everyone will benefit, including the company. Here’s a three-step process you can use to nurture those seedlings into thriving plants!

Scott Anderson, Blogger

April 29, 2023

5 Min Read

If you’re like us here at Extra Space Storage, you’re passionate about developing your employee talent. Not only does it help individual workers thrive, it ultimately pays dividends for the business. Whether you’re the owner of a small self-storage operation or in a supervisory role within a large organization, it’s important to sharpen your eye for talent as well as recognize the development needs of your team members.

Companies that invest in their talent create an atmosphere in which every employee holds the responsibility and power to advance their own career. To foster growth, they provide support and guidance with the aid of immediate supervisors and peers, maybe even a dedicated talent-development team. If you’re interested in being this type of self-storage operation, read on.

Performance vs. Development

To create a self-storage work culture that drives employee growth, it’s helpful to draw a distinction between performance and development. For example, in our organization, performance is about achieving established goals that are set in alignment with job function. Improving performance is about learning or expanding the skills necessary to achieve those goals. The whole process is led by supervisors via periodic check-ins as well as formal bi-annual reviews.

Though similar, development is about expanding skillsets or acquiring abilities that are necessary for professional growth. This can occur within an employee’s current role or via a transition to a new job function. It’s really about each individual’s journey to obtain the competences and knowledge required to elevate their role or shift into something entirely new.

Now, let’s look at a three-step process that’ll help you identify talents and needs within your self-storage team and help those employees blossom into thriving company contributors.

1. Know Where You Are

Begin with an assessment of each employee’s effectiveness in their current role. No one should be considered for future opportunities until they’re recognized as a high performer. Create benchmarks staff can use to work toward possible next steps in their career path.

Whether you’re a self-storage owner or supervisor, it’s helpful to use annual talent reviews, development evaluations and leadership 360 assessments to identify the abilities on your team as well as gaps or potential new areas of exploration. If you’re unfamiliar, a 360 assessment is a formal process designed to collect feedback from an employee’s coworkers, direct reports and superiors. It ultimately provides a full-circle view of their strengths as well as potential opportunities for growth.

Your self-storage team members should also be empowered to have conversations with their supervisor separate from performance-related one-on-one meetings. Depending on the size of your organization, it can be helpful to craft career-exploration guides as well as conversation templates that can be used to formulate ideas and discuss ambitions. Employees should leave these discussions feeling confident about a direction, with absolute clarity around their skills.

2. Plan For Growth

Defined career paths are essential to help your self-storage employees understand their options and choose their next steps. They’re also a great way to map out specific knowledge and skills that need to be developed. When possible, create a formalized pathway for each team member that details the scope of their role within the organization and outlines the experience and learning required to perform required duties and tasks.

In addition, your self-storage staff should be able to identify company leaders and peers they can reach out to for information and insight about various roles in which they may be interested. This can help formulate a clearer picture about duties as well as the capabilities and aptitude that may be needed to perform those jobs well.

3. Act on the Plan

Perhaps the hardest step in the employee-development process is turning plans into reality. Job skills aren’t learned overnight. It requires a commitment of time and energy, but the long-term payoff is well worth the effort.

Once your self-storage employees have clarity on the direction they want their career to go, they should work with their supervisor to design an individual development plan geared toward achieving their desired growth. Setting short- and long-term goals with specific action items is essential. Then it’s up to your company to provide resources that allow team members to complete their plans. These might include things like job shadowing, in which participants take a deep dive into the functions of an entire department. Employees value seeing progress in their objectives and are typically more engaged when they do.

A Foundation for Growth

As a company leader, you play a critical role in developing and nurturing talent within your organization and the self-storage industry in general. You’re ultimately responsible for the trajectory and longevity of your direct reports, including their professional growth and overall engagement. That means you need tools and resources to help employees advance.

There are many you can use. Some can be found online for free or purchased from third parties, but you can also create your own. For example, our company holds peer-led, annual talent reviews to help leaders discuss individuals’ potential and performance. We also provide “high-potential” programs to help cultivate executives and leadership.

Self-storage isn’t just about renting space; it’s about helping people, and that includes your employees. Strive to meet their needs by providing development opportunities and nurturing professional growth. Doing so will ensure they thrive within your operation, and that can only mean good things for your business in the long run.

Scott Anderson is the talent-development manager for Extra Space Storage Inc., a self-storage real estate investment trust and management firm. He joined the company in 2020 after spending most of his career in talent development with various organizations. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University. For more information, email [email protected] or connect with Scott via LinkedIn.

About the Author(s)

Scott Anderson


Scott is a South Dakota farmer who formerly worked in investment banking on Wall Street. After the commodity markets crashed, Scott took his financial know-how and built a software program for farmers called Cash Cow Farmer, which empowers farmers to master the business side of farming by knowing real-time field-by-field productivity and profitability. Scott consults with farmers all over the United States on risk and financial management, farm strategy and strategic growth. Contact him at [email protected]

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