Annual Performance Reviews and Appraisals – still relevant?

The annual performance review and appraisal (APR) – where staff are required to complete a questionnaire outlining how they have performed over the past twelve months, what they felt was their best and worst work, and where they want to be in five years – has been part of the corporate landscape for decades. Yet last year David Arkell, head of human resources for Australia and New Zealand GE, a company recognised as an early adopter and champion of APRs, declared the performance review system ‘dead’. And with companies like NAB, Microsoft, Adobe, Motorola, Deloitte and Accenture announcing their decision to scrap the APR process, perhaps the time is ripe for considering whether this version of feedback and reflection is still relevant.

APR are expensive, time consuming and anxiety causing exercises. In my experience APRs involve a manager and an employee awkwardly sitting in an office scrambling to think of things to talk about to validate the gravity of the meeting. Each person feels they are somehow in a combative interchange, and generally in the weeks leading up to the meeting each will have thought of examples to support ‘their side’ of the conversation – where the staff member wants to be paid more they will produce evidence of exceptional work, while the manager often wants to get the staff to do more work for less, and may look for and overplay examples of underperformance to bargaining down a bonus payment or salary increases.

Many problems have been identified with the APR process. In some instances, companies use the reviews to rank their employees (either publically or privately) against one another. Known as forced ranking, this the system championed by Jack Welch of GE in the 1980s and reflects the shoulder pad wearing, big hair style, aggressive Wall Street approach to business and career progression of that decade. The workers in the top 20% were rewarded, the middle 70% were average workers and got nothing, and the bottom 10% got fired. The concept of rewarding workers and letting go under performers in itself is not unreasonable, but the criteria used to arrive at those rankings and the methods for rewarding the top players have, over time, become viewed as inadequate and counter productive.

APRs are almost always linked to remuneration changes – both up and down – and bonuses. Many critics observe that reviews generally only reflect upon recent work rather than the entire twelve month period. This is because human inability to recall in detail much beyond the previous 6-8 weeks means generally speaking it is only the work and attitudes during the most recent past period that form the basis of any review. Hence anything achieved by a staff member ten months ago will play little part in the assessment. Put in a more Machiavellian way, as an employee I only need to lean in for the two months leading up to my annual review.

APRs are expensive. The Washington Post recently reported that management firm CEB, a company that employs 10,000 people, spends $US35 million ($47 million) a year on APRs – that’s $3500 US per person – on the interview and assessment process alone. This figure excluded any increase to salary or costs of disciplinary action resulting from the assessment.

Comparing staff to one another, or assessing all staff for their work contribution via the same set of specific, possibly restrictive criteria is likely to result in an outcome which demoralises a team, rather than motivates. If one employee sees praise (and a raise) heaped on another staff member for work done in a particular area, yet cannot engage in the same way due to the parameters of their own position in the company or job criteria (a criteria they must ensure they can demonstrate they have met when they have their next annual review), an APR may leave staff feeling disengaged with both their job and the company.

By their nature APRs are an individual process, rather than a group one. If I’m an average employee working in a company where salary increase or bonus are directly linked to APRs, I know I need to meet the goals and criteria spelled out in last year’s annual review. I’m unlikely to waste time helping a colleague on a project which does not directly relate to these goals. APRs may encouraging staff to focus on individual goals rather than overall group or company goals that would provide for a stronger business in the long run.

Fascinatingly neuroscience research shows conversations about remuneration and bonuses provoke a “fight or flight” reaction among employees, making them much less receptive and responsive to coaching. Hence employees who are underperforming will not improve where discussion about the need to improve is linked to a potential reduction in pay or bonus. On the flipside, a good employee who needs to meet a fixed criteria to receive increased remuneration, is unlikely to be initiative in their approach to work – keep your head down and keep ticking those boxes!

Perhaps most relevant of all, is the fact that the idea of the APR was first developed in the 1960s during a time when the typing pool reigned supreme, there was no such thing as a fax let alone internet, and snail mail, telegram and telephone were the only means of communicating. Many people worked for the same companies all their lives, gradually progressing up the ranks as experience, skill and, more often than not, age permitted. Under those conditions, having annual corporate goals, and an annual review of where everyone was sitting in the context of those goals was appropriate. The review was undertaken by the employee’s direct manager – not the HR department, as became the preferred option from the 1980s onwards – and away everyone went for the next twelve months.

Much has changed over the past fifty years. We live in a much more agile environment, facing the development of new technologies and work challenges at a blistering pace. Business disruptions can come and go in a period of three months. What was a company’s biggest challenge in June may be forgotten by the New Year. Considered this way, only providing feedback on staff performance annually seems nonsensical.

Exacerbating the speed of change is the increased participation in the workforce by younger staff of a generation where feedback is an integral daily experience in their life. The term helicopter parenting was invented for the Gen Y/Millennium generations, and they have been coached and appraised from infancy by parents, teachers, instructors and coaches. Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, and the myriad other social media platforms are purely about feedback – getting likes, reposts and comments are literally the core purpose of using these services. Without fairly constant feedback from their employers, these generations literary have no idea how they are tracking. The idea of waiting for their annual review, and hence going twelve months without feedback in the workplace, would for many be crippling. For those who find this need for constant feedback unnecessary, it is important to remember that regardless of your personal beliefs, it is a real need for a large proportion of today’s workforce – and it is unlikely to change just because you don’t like it.

Technology is keeping pace with these demands. enables employees to solicit feedback on their performance from peers, past colleagues and even clients. The service allows them to get back an anonymous report with feedback on their performance. The site boasts that it takes two minutes to set up a request, with feedback within two days. And note – recruiters and potential employers can use Checkster to screen potential new staff.
But it’s not just the youngsters of our workforce. Even LinkedIn, the social media platform used by professionals across all generations – where a staggering 37% of users are over the age of 50 – encourages and ranks participants on endorsements received from their peers.
Feedback is without a doubt important for moral, to keep staff on track and working towards unified goals. Feedback may also be legally necessary where that feedback is negative. Should a staff member’s underperformance be so bad that they are terminated, employers will need to demonstrate feedback was given to staff about the concerns. Without evidence of feedback, a wrongful termination may be brought against the company.

Regular feedback up the line to management is also needed or great ideas and opportunities may be overlooked. Making time for regular dialogue with staff may bring previously unconsidered projects or concepts to the attention of managers. Feedback also makes everyone feel like they are on the same team, not working away on a solo project unrelated to other employees or overall company goals.

So even if APRs may no longer be relevant in today’s workplace, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Coaching staff and providing feedback on performance is crucial for a homogenous, productive workplace. Some work places have moved to short weekly informal catch ups, one on one between staff and their direct manger. This might take as little as five minutes, be literally what are you doing, what are you priorities, any ideas or projects I should know about?

Exceptionally successfully Australian software company Atlassian, has replaced APRs with a form of employee feedback known colloquially as “weekly one-on-ones with a twist”. Essentially the company enables weekly catch-up between managers and employees whereby three weeks each month the meeting is about what the employee is working on and if they need any help or guidance. Once every four weeks, the catch-up is dedicated to a particular topic designated by the company leaders. Examples given are that the managers asks staff what they love about their job, or to outline what barriers they encounters in their job and how the manager can help remove them, or the discussion might be about where the employee wants to progress to in the company or in their career.

Others workplaces, including Melbourne HR firm wattsnextHR, have made the Friday afternoon wind down ritual compulsory, using the time to facilitate informal feedback from staff and allowing for improvements and adjustments to company directions as a result. The aim for both companies is purely to increase the level of personalised feedback.

The aim for establishing productive feedback is to ensure problems in a business – be they cultural, operational, with personnel or otherwise – are identified early and solutions can be established. Feedback may also take the form of conveying ‘big ideas’ or suggested pathways for company development. How your business does this will depend on the size of your workplace, the nature of your business and the physical location of staff.

Feedback should always be related to tasks and performance. Set a task for an employee who completes it on time and in an efficient manner? Tell them as soon as the task is done. Give negative feedback and witness that staff member address the issues you raised? Comment to the employee that you have noticed the improvement as soon as you observe it. Regular and meaningful feedback linked to tasks and performance and given in a timely manner is less time consuming, less expensive and far more productive than an APR. Hate giving positive feedback and feel it’s not your job to coach employees? I don’t want to be the one to tell you, but perhaps management may not be for you!

Simone Hill

SSAA Membership 2015-2016

It’s that time of year again with membership renewals just around the corner. By now most of you will have received your renewal invoice in the post and may be evaluating the benefits of SSAA membership and what aspects have been useful to you in the past year.

For those members who have contacted the SSAA to obtain legal advice throughout 2015 the pros of renewing may be more obvious than not (especially if your situation was particularly tricky). However it is sometimes difficult to put a price on less tangible services, particularly if you haven’t had need to use them recently.

We believe that your SSAA membership goes beyond simply providing legal advice and in fact offers a useful framework for running a self storage business to best practice standards. Without your support the SSAA would not be able to assist members with running successful, legally secure and profitable self storage businesses. An outline of benefits provided to members can be seen below.

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If you have any questions about your renewal or have yet to receive an invoice please contact our office on AUS 1800 067 313 or NZ 0800 444 356.


Advantages of using self storage

If you are unsure about renting a self-storage unit, or trying to pile all your belongings into a separate room or garage at home – check out the advantages self-storage units offer. From ease of access, to the safety of your items on a long-term basis, there is nothing that beats a professional self storage facility when it comes to storing. See why!

Advantage 1: There are a vast array of self-storage units with different sizes to suit your belongings from small lockers, right up to a 3m x 6m unit large enough to store a car. Staff should be able to help you estimate how much space you need so you don’t end up renting a huge unit and only filling part of it. If you have a lot of items you also have the option of renting more than 1 unit.

Advantage 2: They are perfect for storing office items as well. If you plan to move in a bigger office, but you want to keep it clean and comfortable, you definitely have to check out the options for office storage units. With different shelves, bookshelves and racks – you can easily organize hundreds of paper files, catalogs, dismantled office desks and other office items. Temperature controlled units are also perfect for storing important documents or archived files.

Advantage 3: Many self storage facilities have state of the art security to protect your belongs. This can include things such as CCTV cameras, individual door alarms, heavy duty padlocks, pin-code access gates and an on-site caretaker. Ask about security when visiting a potential storage location.

Advantage 4: The self-storage companies offer different discounts if you are renting a unit for a longer time or are a loyal client. Ask staff about their specials, buy-back guarantee for return of unused containers and discounts before you begin storing.

Ella Andrews is blogger and freelance writer, who is very passionate about home improvement, remodeling, interior and exterior design ideas. She’s been writing about similar topics for a long time, but is also constantly searching for new sources of inspiration. More helpful tips and advice on removals and storage see:

2015 Winner – Facility of the Year: U-Store-It, Keswick

This award was proudly sponsored by Visy Boxes and More.

Congratulations to U-Store-It Keswick for taking out the 2015 Facility of the Year Award!


The Adelaide family owned and operated company U-Store-It focuses heavily on brand recognition, product offering and most importantly customer service. The latest development at Keswick is a state of the art facility setting the bench mark in self storage by offering the following tailored features to satisfy the local target market needs:
• 9m wide central driveway
• 4 x large ride on passenger hoists
• 28 high definition digitally recording cameras displayed on multiple 42“ flat screen TV’s with 3+ months of recording time
• Individually alarmed units combined with a high tech building alarm system for added security
• Individually lit units
• Undercover loading
• Kitchen and meeting room facilities
• Complimentary truck and trailer hire
• Unit Mix – with almost 1700 units the facility offers sizes from as small as 1m x 1m x 1m up to large commercial size units for its business division
• Multiple access points (3 in total)
• Full time Maintenance

The facility is tilt up concrete with windows at the end of corridors to provide natural lighting and ventilation. Concrete floors are coated to ensure a bright, shiny and fresh feeling throughout the facility. The Internal and external drive up units are covered by a large canopy allowing customer’s protection from the elements. These features make this award winning facility a stand out from its competitors. There has been substantial capital investment in the presentation and offerings of this facility that aim ensure that USI remains the market leader and the facility is timeless.

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U-Store-It Keswick is ideally located only 1.3km from the CBD and strategically positioned in between Adelaide’s two largest main arterial roads – Anzac Highway and South road which holds over 80,000 cars combined per day. It is also located across the road from the army barracks large land holding that is scheduled to be converted to residential zoning in the coming years. The facility will provide a high end storage solution for the high density living located only 150m away.

U Store It 3

Already the facility has relocated over 500 clients across two locations and will boost numbers significantly with existing clientele. Whilst the local market has been very flat in SA recently, Keswick has been an outstanding performer with consistent unit growth without the use of discounting until July 2015. This is proof that clients value customer service and value for money products over price in the retail environment.

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Another important factor contributing to U-Store-It’s performance is the fantastic business culture created within the company. U-Store-It emphasises the family owned and operated core values through heavy promotion of a community culture. Regular events are held such as family picnic, team members are encouraged to participate in charity events and staff are included in decision making processes. “Our team is our greatest asset and are treated as such. This is evident with our average team members being with USI for almost 9 years. We recently had a staff member hit 25 years which was a great celebration” says General Manager Andrew Eastwood.

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With a proven business plan, a solid capital investment on facility presentation, facility features, growth and development programs, change management strategies, state of the art facilities, exceptional team members and commitment to the improvement and longevity of the industry the Keswick facility is well deserving of the SSAA 2015 Facility of the Year Award.

Discounts Done Right: 5 Tips on How to Win the Price War

Let’s take a look…What is a Discount?Before we go on, we need to get our head around what a discount actually is. According to Google, a discount is “a deduction from the usual cost of something.” From this, we can see that for a storage facility or marina, a discount is a deduction off the monthly rental.

It’s important to remember that a discount is NOT a giveaway.

A giveaway is defined as “a thing that is given free, often for promotional purposes.” This can be anything from a month’s free rental to free merchandise. Often, many people confuse these two things and this skews their discounting as a result.

What kind of discount should I offer?

Now that we know what a discount is, we can look at how to offer one. That is, of course, if we need to offer one at all!  Too often, I see people give away money that could otherwise be theirs just because they think they need to discount. In order to seek the answer to the discounting question, you need to look at what “phase of your business life” your business is in.

Ask yourself this: Which phase is your business in?

  • Startup mode (1 – 6 months of opening)
  • Build-up stage (6 months – 18 months)
  • Maturity (18+ months)

Discounts Done Right: 5 Tips on How to Win the Price War...

The discounting rules are different for each phase – so understanding this at the outset is very important.

Typically, if your business is in Startup mode phase then cash flow is king! By this I mean that you should be looking at doing any type of reasonable discount to attract business. At the end of the day, you need to realise that you have an empty facility or marina and you need customers who will be the foundation of your Rent Roll. Typically these discounts will have a large financial incentive tied to them.

If your business is in the Build-up stage phase, then the discounting plans should revolve around maintaining your customer base and increasing your market awareness of the storage facility or marina. The discounts at this point would not be as dramatic or as long term as Phase 1 discounts and will be attractive to those customers who are looking for longer terms of rental or specific features of your site i.e. Haul-out facilities for marinas or longer access hours for storage.

If your business is in the Maturity phase (or is classed as mature; generally over 80% occupied), then the discount structures should reflect this. Discounts should be smaller, short-term incentives that briefly impact the bottom line but allow for a small percentage of your customer base to refer other people as potential customers and gain a small financial recognition for doing so. Continue reading via the Discounting Whitepaper (scroll to the bottom of the page to download a copy).

Ben (International Sales Manager, StorMan Software).

2015 Winner – Regional Facility of the Year: Storage King, Berkeley Vale

This award is proudly sponsored by Midland Insurance.

Storage King Berkeley Vale is a new, purpose built, multi-level ranch style facility which lies midway between the larger centres of Sydney and Newcastle. It services the central coast of NSW which has a mixed demographic (due to being an established holiday destination and a growing residential area), which includes small business people, tradesmen and contractors, retirees, students, large and small families, professionals, renovators and more.


Storage King Berkeley Vale provides lockable units from 2.25square metres to 27 square metres as well as hardstand for cars, boats, caravans and shipping containers. The majority of larger units are drive-up style, and the buildings have extended eaves to protect customers and their goods from the weather during the move-in or move-out process. The facility also offers many of the modern ancillary aspects to storage such as environmentally friendly pest control, managed storage, 24 hour recorded close circuit surveillance, back to base monitoring with instant alerts to staff in case of alarm trigger, customer goods insurance, courtesy move-in truck and trailer and a box and packaging shop.


The business is currently in the process of expanding from Stage 1 (2179 square meters, which reached 71% occupancy within 8 months of opening) to Stages 2 and 3, which will afford it approximately 5000 square metres of lettable area by the end of September 2015, including 36 square metre clear span high ceiling units (designed to fill a market niche for small business clients).


2015 Winner – Manager of the Year: Linda Barker, Fort Knox Self Storage Moorabbin

This award was proudly sponsored by Aon Risk Services.

Area Manager and Manager of Fort Knox Self Storage Moorabbin, Linda Barker is without doubt a well deserving candidate for the 2015 Manager of the Year Award. Linda’s dedication and commitment to the growth and success of her site and the wider Fort Knox group is evidenced by her 13 years of service with the company. Since her humble beginnings as Site Manager for Fort Knox Self Storage Ringwood, her career has developed and grown to include Area Manager and Trainer for the group.

Fort Knox Moorabbin

As a company trainer, Linda is responsible for the induction, OH&S, sales and customer service training of all new employees. She was a key stakeholder in pioneering new training material and manuals which are designed to improve team member’s skills and knowledge. She has creatively developed group activities and games to ensure team participation whilst having fun and learning new skills. Linda has also assisted in the development, implementation and roll out of numerous policies and procedures such as performance reviews and reward programs and incentives.

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With an eye for detail and a complex understanding of both the business needs and the needs of the client, Linda is a hands on manager with a proactive approach. She has great analytical skills, and has assisted in the trial and implementation of numerous strategies, software and structure changes. Linda has always gone above and beyond to ensure her site increases growth and occupancy and has attended frequent networking events in her own time with local businesses and council chamber of commerce.

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Linda actively engages all team members to improve their own personal growth and development, not only as a group but also one on one to help individuals improve their competencies at a speed in which they are comfortable. Linda has a caring disposition and great patience which is invaluable in her role with Fort Knox.

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2015 Winner – Service Member of the Year: Steel Storage

6 December 1990 was the date Jon Perrins, established Steel Storage in Brisbane, Australia. From the start the company became a driving force in the Australian self-storage industry and helped establish and grow the European and Asian self-storage markets when both were still in their infancy.

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A longstanding member of the SSAA, Steel Storage was one of a small group of original Service Members of the Association and Jon campaigned to get Service Members onto the SSAA board in 1997. Jon himself served on the board for 5 years, was Chairman for an additional 2 years.


Celebrating over 20 years in the industry in 2015 Steel Storage is a dedicated group of service professionals whose combined experience in the self-storage and construction industries is considerable. Their team actively leverage off each other’s strengths and knowledge to deliver clients solution based outcomes in both design and construction.

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Steel Storage employees are enthusiastic about their roles and helping others achieve their goals. This is evidenced by the longevity of employment of the majority of Steel Storage staff, loyal sub-contractors and the many long term repeat clients they have the privilege to work with.

Steel Storage aim is to share their knowledge about the self-storage industry to solve problems or present client opportunities and ultimately grow the industry itself. They provide energetic, enthusiastic and reliable service. Their focus on the facility users experience ensures that they consistently deliver clients operational efficient, attractive, profitable and state of the art facilities. Steel Storage are well deserving of the 2015 Service Member of the Year Award.

2015 Winner – Small Operator of the Year: Storex Self Storage, Dandenong South

This award was proudly sponsored by Boxes by the Fox.


Storex Self Storage opened its second facility in April 2015 in Dandenong South approximately 6 minutes from Eastlink’s Greens Road exit. The site, which is prominently located and has thousands of vehicles passing daily, operates as a feeder facility for their original site which is slowly being converted to truck parking.

Sign & Staff

The new site provides storage units (4 sizes) mostly via orange shipping containers, as well as powered spaces and a large hardstand truck and equipment storage yard. The facility has 1800m² of warehouse and office space which will allow for further expansion and the provision of internal storage to clients within the coming months. These spaces have already allowed the facility to attract local businesses and clientele that may not have otherwise utilised self storage.


The facility has a structured maintenance program, which they provide email updates to clients about, to ensure customers have a clean, pleasant experience. Storex Self Storage also offers a customer lounge for entertaining and/or training for clients, whom they encourage to “drop in for a cuppa and chat” (which allows them to garner valuable feedback). This is an important part of their business as you “cannot fix something if you don’t know about it”.




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