While looking to revamp the training program we use for our self-storage site managers, I came across this quote from Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks: “You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed the employees’ expectations of management. That’s the contract.” This got me thinking that the best way for a business to get staff to excel is not only to provide them with the training tools they need, but to adapt and present the information in multiple ways, to fit different learning styles.
In doing some research, I found there are as many as seven cognitive learning styles, but I decided to focus on the primary three:
- Visual learners are aided by graphs, charts and pictures. In other words, if they see it, they’re more likely to remember it.
- Auditory learners retain information by hearing. They often prefer to be told how to do things and then will summarize the main points out loud to help with memorization.
- Kinesthetic learners like to be hands-on. Performing the actual procedure helps them learn the task. They’d also prefer to demonstrate how to do something rather than verbally explain it.
Most of the articles I read focused on how to get students to learn and retain school-based material, so my challenge was to figure out a real-world application in a self-storage setting. With more than 12 years in this industry, I’ve spent countless hours writing procedures on everything from what to do when a customer walks in your door to how to perform a proper facility walk-through. Self-storage operations are littered with print how-to training material; but with technological advancements, it makes sense to use better tools that reach all learning types and help managers understand what you, as the owner or supervisor, are trying to convey.
In trying to satisfy the full spectrum of learning styles, I recommend a threefold approach. First, it’s helpful for the trainer to spend three or four days with staff for hands-on training. Go over all the basics including the property walk-through, lock checks, unit cleaning, etc. Spend a lot of time on your management software, too, and show them how to process a move-in, take a payment, etc. Your kinesthetic learners will be in heaven with all the hands-on activities.
After this initial training, give them access to a repository of supporting material, ideally through an intranet portal. Create a collection of videos that give step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish different tasks. This will fulfill the needs of your visual and auditory learners who prefer to hear and see tasks being done.
Finally, make use of online collaborative tools like Zoom. If a manager or staff member has a question about a certain task, be available to jump on a call to walk him through a process, share computer screens and so on.
Follow Up and Refine
While all this sounds good in theory, the proof will be in the results. To figure out how effective your training is and identify where you need to adjust, you’ll need to follow up and test staff on what they’ve learned. For example, after implementing our program, we’re holding short Zoom calls and quizzing team members on how well they’ve learned the tasks covered in the material. Though it may feel daunting, it’ll be worth it in the end.
There are a lot of directions you can go with multi-layered training. For example, as part of the new-staff orientation process, it makes sense to create a set of materials that’ll help participants prepare in advance. Imagine a pre-training portal in which a new manager, before he starts his first day, can download a demo version of the software on which to practice and access a few how-to videos on performing basic tasks. This should help boost confidence, provide a head start and allow new hires to get off on the right foot.
By using modern tools, we can help our self-storage managers excel, no matter which learning style works best for them. By building a multi-approach training program, you’ll create an environment that breeds success.
Scott Weatherwax is owner of Weathermax Consulting LLC and operations director for Atomic Storage Group, a boutique self-storage management company. Scott has more than 20 years of experience in the public and private sector including retail, manufacturing, technology, commercial property management and self-storage. With a passion for strategic planning and process improvement, he strives to cultivate strong relationships with diverse populations while executing operations according to time, quality and cost-efficiency standards. To reach him, email [email protected] or connect via LinkedIn.