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It Makes Sense to Motivate! Tips for Incentivizing and Retaining Your Self-Storage Staff

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Talented staff are critical to the success of your self-storage operation, but once you’ve hired them, how do you keep them around? It’s a competitive business with lots of employers, and retention takes work. Here are some ideas to keep staff happy and motivated, limit turnover, and ensure high performance.

Self-storage managers have evolved over the years from being simple property caretakers to being full-fledged brand ambassadors skilled in sales, marketing, revenue management and so much more. Once you find and hire your talent, motivating and retaining these valuable staff should be a top priority. After all, they’re imperative to your ability to create revenue streams and exceed financial projections.

But how do ensure they stick around and perform at peak? It begins with making a smart hire, of course. After that, it takes the right incentives and leadership.

Implement Incentives

Without enticements and proper guidance, self-storage employees can become apathetic. Though there are usually guidelines in place to help managers remain productive, if you want to groom leaders who revel in their importance to the organization, you must do everything you can to ensure their full engagement. Here are a few incentive strategies:

Set them up for success. Once an employee understands their work goals, ownership should provide the necessary training and tools to empower them for success. Give them special projects or extra responsibilities that demonstrate the potential for career progression. They should they have room to grow and know how to move up the ladder. Staff who can visualize a future with the company are more likely to excel.

Off perks and praise. Incentives like free lunch, paid time off, companywide email praise, and even random phone calls and visits can demonstrate genuine appreciation for an employee’s positive impact on the business. If a team member is shattering performance measures but not receiving recognition, they may feel as if their hard work is in vain.

Don’t skimp on compensation. Implementing a bonus structure is a traditional approach to drive positive performance. These formal incentives can recognize employees for various contributions to the business as well as going above and beyond normal job requirements. This is paramount to retaining staff. Competitive wages and bonuses are at the forefront of motivating people to exceed expectations.

Maintain Motivation

Demotivation at work often stems from isolation and lack of appreciation. Every self-storage employee has a story and a purpose, so engage in one-on-one conversations to discover exactly what those are. Having even basic knowledge of a team member’s life, such as their spouse’s name, how many children they have and any hobbies they enjoy, lays the groundwork for a positive relationship. Acknowledge their birthdays and anniversaries. These things create a sense of value and drives a desire for the employee to become a part of something bigger. Here are a few other things to consider:

Show empathy and compassion. In today’s world, mental-health awareness is more important than ever. Demonstrating a lack of concern for well-being and personal care could result in the loss of talented staff, so be aware of the things happening in your employee’s lives, and be appropriately sympathetic.

Offer support. Self-storage can be highly competitive, particularly in large metropolitan markets, and your staff may need regular encouragement. Show them your support. For example, making an investment in site safety and maintenance can show them you really care about the property and their well-being. Go the property once in a while to help them make repairs or tidy the lawn. It’ll increase their level of confidence in the business and inspire them to follow suit.

Be transparent. Providing clear business expectations and being transparent about a facility’s profit and losses are also great motivators. Educate managers on what they’re striving for and why. This’ll help them feel and act like owners.

Focus on work-life balance. Finding a way to maintain a healthy balance between life and work is one of the top ways to retain employees and keep them passionate about their jobs. Employees who are able to work hard but also plan their life and enjoy leisure time are powerful additions to any team. Each staff member should be able to disconnect from business responsibilities during their off-time, so they can recharge and arrive back to work with renewed strength and a positive attitude.

Rewards = Retention

The best way to prevent employee turnover in your self-storage operation is to hire the right person from the get-go. While this can be easier said than done, there are things you can do to increase your odds of success. For example, to attract the right applicants, clearly define the job, including even the tasks and responsibilities that may be seen as undesirable. Failure to do so can cost your business in the long run. Also, ask leading questions during the interview process to ensure each candidate is a good cultural fit for your company. And never let desperation force you to fill a position. You don’t want to make emotional hiring decisions.

Not every hire will be a home run, but there are things you can do to help improve staff performance and confidence, which will prevent turnover. Here are three that are important:

Provide feedback. Providing positive, constructive feedback to employees who lack certain skills is paramount to reduce staff losses and organically increase positive company reviews. Guide them toward success. An employee’s happiness complements the customer experience, so get to know your staff, understand their skillsets and help them perform effectively.

Offer trust and back them up. Self-storage management can be challenging, especially when tenants are unruly. Make sure your team knows you have their back. Trusting and empowering staff to make decisions is necessary to ensure success. If an outcome isn’t what you want, don’t punish in place of training. Acknowledge the situation and provide a positive resolution.

Show ongoing appreciation. Continuously communicate your gratitude to employees for being a part of your team.

Evaluate and Coach

After incentives and motivation, the final component in self-storage employee retention is regular evaluation and ongoing training. When it comes time to review staff performance, ask them to first complete a self-evaluation to gauge how they view their own behavior in relation to company expectations. Then go over this assessment with each employee and agree upon their strengths and weaknesses. Identify and set action items on a follow-up schedule, and provide training to correct and strengthen performance.

Coaching your self-storage team directly will help instill their confidence in the company. Treating each employee with respect and holding them in the highest regard is a significant leadership skill. Everyone should feel like they’re part of the team; you fail and succeed together.

Teach and empower them to make informed decisions on the company’s behalf. Though there will always be challenging situations, you can minimize any negative impact through collaborative training.

Employees are an integral part of your self-storage business. If you make staffing missteps and fail to correct them, you risk creating a revolving door of personnel, and facility performance will suffer. But when you hire qualified staff and put the right incentives in place, you can keep your team motivated and your business flourishing.

Valerie Buchanan-Newhouse is a regional property manager for Spartan Investment Group LLC, which operates the FreeUp Storage brand and has completed $9 million in self-storage developments, with $70 million underway. She’s a decorated U.S. Army veteran and has more than 10 years of experience in multi-unit retail leadership and corporate-recruitment management. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American Intercontinental University and is pursuing a master’s in business administration. For more information, call 866.375.4438.

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