Effective training programs can differentiate the leading self-storage operations from local and regional competitors. Landing capable and reliable employees is important, but you won’t reap the full rewards of a first-rate workforce unless you invest time and energy into training.

Here’s why: When it’s done right, a training program doesn’t simply train employees how to operate the business — it empowers them to execute the vision and strategy you’re counting on to achieve key business outcomes.

When to Train Your Self-Storage Employees

Employee training should be a continuous process vs. a one-time event. Your training program needs to evolve with your business and its employees. Whether an employee serves in multiple roles during their tenure with your company or serves in the same capacity for his entire career, it’s critical to provide training across the employee lifecycle.

Initial Training

Most self-storage operators recognize the need to train employees at the point of hire. However, the training provided during the onboarding process can often become a cursory introduction to the facility, a review of the employee’s responsibilities, and a basic overview of existing processes. 

A more robust initial training program goes beyond the barebones essentials and equips employees with the tools they need to succeed. It introduces them to the culture of your organization, clarifies key goals, and helps them understand how they can help make your goals a reality. 

Ideally, your initial training process should also pair up new employees with a mentor who helps them get up to speed and achieve quick wins during their first days and weeks on the job.

Continuous Education

After the initial training period ends, ongoing training should occur at regular intervals. By periodically checking in with your employees, you can gain insights about the areas in which they feel confident as well as the areas in which they may require more a little more assistance.

Continuous education also creates opportunities to align your employees’ skill sets with your goals for the business. For example, if you have charted an aggressive growth curve for the next six months, you may need to improve your workforce’s customer acquisition and retention skills.

Fortunately, you don’t have to develop all of your company’s ongoing training materials in-house. Allow time for your employees to attend local self-storage conferences, encourage them to enroll in forums and industry training programs, and help them network with other self-storage professionals to keep them knowledgeable and engaged.

Topics to Cover in a Self-Storage Training Program

Self-storage training usually focuses a little too much on the technical aspects of the job (e.g., operating the POS system, using the property management application suite, cleaning the facility, etc.). But the best self-storage employee training programs set employees up for success by covering a more comprehensive range of topics.

Given the competitive nature of today’s self-storage industry, it’s increasingly important to train your employees in both revenue-generating activities and operational routines. Although training programs vary by operation, there are several specific topics worth covering in your employee training program, including:

  • Community/internet marketing
  • Unit pricing
  • Online lead generation
  • Closing skills
  • Upselling/cross-selling
  • Referral marketing
  • Phone sales
  • Customer service
  • Call tracking
  • Rent collection/delinquency management
  • Technology skills
  • Security protocols
  • Facility maintenance

You may also want to think about offering a management training program for stellar employees. It’s not uncommon for skilled entry-level workers to progress to facility management roles. The sooner you can begin to equip talented workers with managerial skills, the sooner your business can benefit from their passion and expertise.

How to Train Your Self-Storage Employees 

Successful self-storage employees learn by doing. But the hands-on nature of the self-storage industry doesn’t reduce the need to develop a robust training program. If anything, it makes that task even more difficult because you have to blend participatory training activities with traditional training routines.

  • Use a shadow system –Create opportunities for new employees (or employees entering new roles) to periodically shadow more experienced employees. It’s particularly useful to allow employees to observe how managers and seasoned peers perform nuanced activities like interacting with customers in-person and over the phone. 
  • Give employees the freedom to make mistakes –Employees make mistakes. But mistakes are part of the learning process. If your employees understand that you expect them to make mistakes, it accelerates the learning curve because they are more willing to try new things within the guidelines you have set.
  • Schedule debriefs –After a hands-on training event (e.g., a shadow day), plan a debrief with the employee to talk about what went well and what they might do differently next time. By affirming positive actions and identifying areas for improvement, you can quickly increase your employees’ confidence. 

Best Practices for Effective Self-Storage Employee Training Programs

Not all self-storage employee training programs are created equal. Although well-intentioned, some training programs fall short because they lack structure and aren’t sustainable over the long term. 

Formalizing your processes and modeling a commitment to continuous education are important steps on the journey to a sustainable and successful training program.

  • Develop procedures. You know the correct process for things like closing out your POS system at the end of the day and contacting the police to report suspicious activity. But do your employees know the correct processes? It’s critical to develop, document, and communicate procedures for all of the routine and non-routine activities that will determine the success of your operation.
  • Create an operations manual. An operations manual is the best way to document processes and procedures. It should include detailed descriptions of operational activities like:
    • Opening and closing procedures
    • Point of sale processes
    • Reporting and documentation
    • Unit cleaning and preparation
    • Rent collection
    • Bank processes
    • Emergency (fire and police) notifications
  • Don’t forget technology training –Many self-storage operations rely on a platform, like PTI CORE,to achieve operational excellence. For new employees, the technology learning curve can be steep, so you’ll need to work with your vendor to identify a training program for bringing new employees up to speed.
  • Consider third-party assistance – There’s a lot riding on the effectiveness of your employee training program and developing a program that meets the needs of both your business and your employees is no small feat. If you’re not sure how to get started, consider enlisting the assistance of a third-party employee training consultant.
  • Identify a continuous education plan for yourself –You can’t expect your employees to take training seriously if you don’t personally participate in continuous education opportunities. Develop a plan for your own continuous education to encourage a culture of constant learning in your operation.

Employee training programs don’t just teach employees – they build them up and empower them to do their best possible work and grow their careers during their time at your self-storage business. 

If you fail to develop a robust training program, you may experience higher employee turnover rates as workers migrate to employers that are more invested in their growth as self-storage professionals. But if you succeed, you’ll gain their loyalty and respect.Just as importantly, you’ll gain valuable partners committed to helping you achieve operational excellence, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth.