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One Bad Apple Can Spoil the Batch! Here’s How to Hire Truly Good Self-Storage Employees

Your site-level employees are the face of your self-storage business, so their success is critical. Unfortunately, one bad apple can spoil the barrel. Here’s guidance to help you find, hire and onboard well-trained, professional staff.

John Komadina

February 4, 2022

6 Min Read
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Talented employees are the lifeblood of a self-storage business. With the right people in the right roles on your team, your operation will run the way it should. Your customers will be happy, occupancy will increase, and revenue will be on the rise. Life is good!

Unfortunately, the opposite also rings true. Underperforming team members will kill your market standing and reputation. Take a quick look at your Google and Yelp reviews. What do you see? Chances are most of them mention staff, often by name. Today’s consumers pay attention and make buying decisions based on the collective experience of the many.

To avoid the possibility that you’ll end up with one “bad apple” who can spoil the entire barrel, aim to create consistent, positive practices for employee recruiting, hiring and onboarding. This is the best way to guarantee staff understand and meet your expectations from day one. The right processes build trust and communication among new hires and ensure everyone feels welcome.

Though your specific new-hire program will be designed around your compensation range, benefits, policies and procedures, there are several best practices that apply to any workplace. Let’s dive into some of the most important aspects.

Get Team Referrals

Aside from compensation and benefits, what attracts a talented person to work for your self-storage business, and what keeps them there? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, opening a dialogue with your top performers is a great place to start. Engage your best employees in conversations about workplace culture. This increases their buy-in, uncovers company differentiators that can be shared with job candidates, and empowers your team to find qualified workers.

For many businesses, an employee-referral program is a recruiting strategy with great results.

Hires recommended by current staff tend to be a good culture fit. Their presence also improves the likelihood that the referring employee will stick around. Here’s how to design a program that’s successful and easy to use:

  • Determine the program’s goals and anticipated outcomes.

  • Design the process and participation rules.

  • Devise rewards that encourage participation.

  • Include features to maximize referrals.

Consider Your Job Postings

The hiring process is a two-way street. Job seekers choose the positions for which they’ll apply before you even know who they are. In the earliest stages, they must choose you. So, how do you stack up against your competitors? And that extends beyond the self-storage industry. You’re vying for top talent against employers like Amazon, Starbucks, Target, Walmart and other Fortune 500 companies.

Your job postings are your first chance to sell and showcase the benefits of your company and culture. If you learned valuable insights from your top performers about what candidates desire in a workplace, cover those points in your job descriptions. If done right, your posts are where you can begin differentiating yourself from other employers.

Periodically review your self-storage job descriptions to ensure they accurately depict the functions, requirements and expectations of each role. A well-written summary includes the job title, classification, location, reporting responsibilities and more. Keep your model employees in mind when explaining the skills and experience that’ll yield success. Consider working with a human resources consultant or employment-law attorney to confirm your descriptions adhere to all federal and state EEO (equal employment opportunity) and non-discrimination laws.

Develop Your Interview Process

In today’s self-storage recruiting environment, it’s important to develop a consistent interview process that quickly evaluates each candidate. Consistency ensures you gauge each person in the same areas and limits the appearance of discrimination. Focus interview questions on job requirements and avoid personal aspects.

Once you have a qualified applicant, schedule a phone interview. It may take more than one attempt to connect, so use different methods of communication such as phone, email or even text.

The purpose of the phone interview is to qualify the candidate using prepared knockout questions based on the requirements and “must-haves” for each role. If the person’s answers don’t meet your needs, thank them for their time and move on to the next. Avoid filling an opening because you’re desperate. It’ll cost you in the long run!

If you like the candidate, keep the momentum going by scheduling an in-person interview within a day or two. This should be held in a private, professional setting. A clean, inviting space sets the tone. Offer water and coffee.

Ask the candidate to bring a résumé. When they arrive, provide an application that asks for work history, their reasons for leaving their last job, and two to three professional references. Have them sign the document for truthfulness. Then review the application and take note of the candidate’s written communication skills. Pay attention to past dates of employment and how it matches up to what’s discussed. Address gaps in employment and determine if they’re reasonable.

Talent-acquisition professionals tend to rely on behavioral-based interviewing, a technique that reveals how a candidate reacts to common workplace situations. It operates on the theory that past behavior predicts future conduct. For example, you might say, “Tell me about a time you worked with an unhappy customer.” For additional insight, ask what they liked and disliked about their last job. Their answers are a good indicator of their fitness to your self-storage operation. Those who are comfortable will offer more detailed answers to your questions.

Remember, job seekers are likely displaying the best version of themselves during an interview. Assess their ability to convey ideas. Focus on their words and sentence structure. Observe body language and eye contact. If they don’t meet your requirements even on their best day, thank them for their time and move on.

If the person is a good fit, be prepared to make a job offer quickly. Follow the verbal offer with a written one that includes the job description, benefits, rate of pay, work schedule and other expectations. Ask them to sign the offer as their acceptance.

Invest in Onboarding

Once the new hire accepts your offer, follow up as soon as possible with the information and materials they’ll need to prepare for their first day. The paper or electronic onboarding packet should include several key pieces such as your company’s employee handbook, benefit summary and other details they’ll need to thoroughly understand job expectations. Be available to answer questions.

Most of your new employee’s first week will be spent in orientation. Introduce them to key personnel, train them on all relevant tasks and equipment, reiterate company objectives and expectations, and complete any necessary paperwork. If you have company swag like hats, t-shirts, pens, etc., offer it up on day one!

During the first month of employment, stay in touch with your new hire and be a helpful resource. The first weeks are crucial to forming good habits that contribute to the business and settling your new employee into their work environment. Establishing an open-door policy pays dividends when they eventually need your support. Periodically discuss individual and company goals, inform them when they’re doing something well, and offer constructive suggestions for improvement in both informal conversations and formal evaluations.

It’s critical that your new employees understand how their role directly impacts the overall success of your self-storage company. Consistent communication helps them learn and builds mutual trust and understanding, which goes a long way toward success. Take good care of your team and they’ll take good care of your customers.

John Komadina is director of Integrity Outsource LLC, a Phoenix-based professional employer organization that offers payroll, human resources, workers’ compensation insurance and employee benefits support for small and medium-sized businesses nationwide. To reach him, email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

John Komadina

Director, Integrity Outsource LLC

John Komadina is director of Integrity Outsource LLC, a Phoenix-based professional employer organization that offers payroll, human resources, workers’ compensation insurance and employee benefits support for small and medium-sized businesses nationwide. To reach him, email [email protected].

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