Policies manual

Managing Self-Storage Staff: Setting Expectations, Policies and Disciplinary Procedures

A critical part of ensuring your self-storage facility operates at peak performance is to set—and clearly communicate—your staff expectations, policies and procedures. Here are some guidelines for facilitating employee success.

A major part of keeping your self-storage property running at peak performance is implementing processes and procedures to ensure staff can succeed at the level you want. By making your expectations known and following key steps in the training and disciplinary process, you can lay the framework for an optimal work environment.

Job Description

Whenever you bring a new employee onto the team, he should receive a formal job description that explains his specific duties and the expectations related to his position. This makes it clear what’s required and lays the groundwork for good performance.

If at some point the employee fails to meet your standards, it’ll prove invaluable to have the original, signed job description as a point of reference. Familiarize yourself with the roles of all your employees to better track their adherence to job and performance requirements.

Clear Rules and Disciplinary Processes

In addition to detailed job descriptions, establish rules and processes for staff training and coaching when necessary. Policies and employee education are essential in ensuring everyone understands what’s expected of them. Guidelines pertaining to dress code, cellphone use, daily tasks, and even the setting of daily, weekly and monthly goals allow staff to know where they stand and how to reach individual and company objectives.

Another important aspect of rule-setting is promoting consistency and enforcing requirements—without any bias. For example, if a staff member shows up to work without the specified uniform, it’s up to you to make sure he knows this is unacceptable and he’ll need to change before he can begin his shift. If you let it slide once, the infraction is likely to reoccur, which effectively diminishes your authority.

Finally, a written policies and procedures manual is an important tool in helping your staff succeed. One of the most overused phrases we hear when dealing with a staff issues is, “No one ever told me.” Make sure each team member receives a copy of your manual, and reads and understands it.

Training and Improvement

Communicating with employees and letting them know how they can improve is a key aspect of upholding standards. All staff must be held to the same set of benchmarks and reviews. When they aren’t, issues arise.

Make sure your staff receives appropriate training when hired, and regularly thereafter. This helps to reinforce standards and minimize the need for future disciplinary action. Provide them with the tools they need to succeed, and follow through with communication and support. This demonstrates respect and understanding, which may be necessary to help your team fully blossom. An introductory training period is standard in most positions, but regular follow-up with feedback and goal assessment is integral to ongoing success.

A performance-improvement plan is an excellent tool to ensure each employee gets where he needs to be. It should include check points and measurable goals. The idea that discipline means punishment or termination is an unfortunate misconception. Improvement plans focus on putting trust and confidence into your employees and empowering them to meet your standards. This is different from focusing on penalties that could be levied if criteria aren’t met.

A performance-improvement plan lets staff know what they can and should be doing. It also allows you to set new goals for them to work toward. If an employee is unwilling or unable to comply, then a more formal coaching system and write-ups may be necessary. If that’s the case, there should be a clear process to follow, including established forms to communicate the inconsistencies and mistakes being observed. The goal should be to get employees on track to succeed in ways that will benefit them, you and the business.

Guidelines for Termination

If you’ve taken steps to coach and retrain an employee whose performance has been lacking, but you’re still not seeing the desired results, it may be time to terminate. No one looks forward to this chore, but it’s incredibly important to handle it decisively and properly.

By following your established procedures, it should be well-documented that you’ve taken the appropriate steps to train and counsel the problem employee. Recording behavior with formal write-ups throughout the disciplinary process, as well as logging any conversations pertaining to performance, will help support your decision to end employment.

When firing a staff member, documentation and adherence to local labor statutes is of the utmost importance. Termination should be conducted via a face-to-face meeting to explain the circumstances clearly and concisely. This also allows you to provide all the necessary information pertaining to a final paycheck, benefits, etc. It’s also a good rule of thumb to have a witness present or to record the procedure on video.

Setting clear expectations, policies and procedures at the outset of employment sets the tone for staff members to succeed. It provides a clear pathway for training and professional growth, as well as disciplinary action and termination, when necessary.

Susan Haviland is the owner of Haviland Storage Services and a partner of industry consulting and training firm Self Storage 101. She has more than 28 years of industry experience, from serving as a site manager to acting as vice president of operations at Extra Space Storage Inc. and Price Self Storage. She's a frequent speaker at industry conferences and tradeshows. For more information, call 866.360.2621; visit www.selfstorage101.com

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