Lessening the ‘Pain’ of Self-Storage Staff Reviews: Why, When and How to Conduct Them

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Many self-storage supervisors avoid employee-performance reviews because of time constraints or worry over confrontation with staff, or they simply don’t know how. Still, these evaluations are important and can help your business improve. Here’s some guidance to make the process easier and less painful.

Performance evaluations are important vehicles for communication between a self-storage company and its employees. They don’t need to be complicated; they just need to be scheduled and carried out effectively. Still, they can be a source of anxiety for supervisors and staff alike.

Reviews help you clearly state your expectations for your team. They help you gain a better understanding of employee strengths and motivators, plus it’s an opportunity to recognize quality work or discuss deficiencies. They also create assurance that if a staff member is performing at a subpar level, you’ll have the information necessary to take the proper steps of reprimanding or terminating that person.

From an employee perspective, evaluations provide insight to how they can improve their performance. It also helps them understand the plan for their future within the organization.

An objective, fair review should be based on standard metrics, which can then be useful for determining bonuses, promotions and raises. But this process only works if both parties are comfortable with—not afraid of—the information presented. Rather than dread it, you should enjoy this opportunity to speak with your self-storage team about how they and your business can be more successful. Below is some guidance to help ease the way.

Time It Right

Let’s begin with a few words on timing. Some self-storage companies conduct reviews annually on each employee’s hire date. Others like to schedule them for a certain time of year, which alleviates the need to track anniversaries for this purpose. Whenever you decide to conduct your evaluations, do them for all employees on a consistent basis, so your staff know it’s a regular, ongoing part of their employment.

Remember, you can always give immediate feedback when something about an employee’s work stands out. You don’t have to wait until the annual review to give praise or constructive criticism. It’s also important to keep a file or document where you can jot down specific examples of good and poor performance and job habits throughout the year. This’ll allow you to write a review that really matters when the time comes.

Being Prepared

Begin by setting aside at least an hour with each self-storage staff member. The performance review shouldn’t be a 15-minute conversation.

Take some time to prepare. When supervisors wait until the last minute to assemble an evaluation, it’s usually too short, and there’s no substance because everything is discussed in broad terms, which doesn’t really help anyone. Many reviews don’t provide specifics about what was praiseworthy or substandard about an employee’s efforts. They’re most effective when they use examples that’ll help staff make positive changes.

Look back at the employee’s performance over the entire review period, so you can discuss it in a meaningful way. If you don’t, they’ll know, and they won’t take your feedback seriously. Also, give staff notice of when the review will be, so they can also be ready to talk about issues or concerns they have about the store or their employment. Always give them time to speak.

What to Discuss

It’s always important to set clear performance standards that outline each employee’s role, what’s expected and how the work should be done. The same standards must apply to every person who holds the same position. All criteria should be achievable, and they should relate directly to the employee’s job description and the performance of the self-storage property. For example, you may want to review the following:

  • The store’s physical vs. economic occupancy
  • Store income
  • Results of the last store audit and physical inventory
  • Delinquencies and auctions
  • Problematic customers
  • Social media reviews of the business and employees (positive and negative)
  • Their latest mystery-shopping scores, including what you liked and areas for improvement
  • Cleanliness of the site and organization of the office

To foster productive discussion during the evaluation, it can help to have some questions ready. Here are some to spark conversation:

  • What do you hope to achieve at your storage property this year?
  • How do you feel about your recent mystery-shopping scores?
  • How can I help you improve your sales and service performance?
  • What resources or support do you need to reach your sales goals?
  • What will your biggest challenges in meeting your work goals this year?
  • How can I manage and help you more effectively?
  • What are your long-term career goals, and how can we help you achieve them?
  • What new skills would you like to develop this year?
  • Is there additional training we can provide to help you gaining those skills?

You can also ask your employee to prepare a self-review before you meet. This can be helpful because it gives them an opportunity to reflect on their own performance over the year. Often, staff are harder on themselves than their boss will ever be! They’ll also remember their high points throughout the year better than a supervisor who has several direct reports.

Doling Out Criticism

When you do need to deliver criticism during an employee evaluation, be honest and straightforward, but careful. If there’s a problem, don’t try to downplay it, as that can create confusion. Give clear examples and then provide helpful, specific advice on how the team member can grow and improve their performance and the self-storage business.

Also, remember that the purpose is to evaluate each staff member based on their role within the company and against a set of standards for their specific self-storage location. It’s never helpful to compare the performance of one employee to another, especially if they work at different properties. Doing so can lead to unhealthy competition and resentment.

Finally, your evaluation should focus on how well an employee does their job and what’s happening at the storage property, not on their personality traits. Make sure the criticism isn’t personal and always tie it to the work. When you make judgements about a person’s character, they can feel attacked, and the conversation can turn unpleasant. For example, if the person is struggling to close unit rentals, don’t tell them they’re “horrible at sales.” Instead give constructive feedback on how to sell more effectively.

Performance reviews help self-storage owners, supervisors and employees gather their thoughts and become more familiar with the areas of the business that are working well and those that need improvement. If done right, they can be one of the best tools for improving facility profitability and fostering a happier team.

Carol Mixon-Krendl is the owner of SkilCheck Services Inc., which provides self-storage auditing, mystery shopping, development and operations consulting, and sales training. She’s owned and managed more than 35 storage locations in the West and is a frequent speaker at industry tradeshows. She’s also written more than 100 articles for various publications and has served on state and national self-storage association boards. For more information, call 800.374.7545; email info@skilcheck.com.

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