Hiring the right staff – and keeping them

I’ve been posting here about some of the issues addressed by the new report we’ve published with the Service Desk Institute (SDI), Evolving Your Service Desk. My focus is on the challenges that are pushing the service desk to evolve, and so far I’ve covered the recent escalation in shadow IT and the difficulty of retaining knowledge.

In this blog post, I want to look at the threats posed by recruitment problems and staff attrition, and the implications for the service desk’s evolution.

As various surveys have shown, ‘millennials’ are especially hard to recruit and keep (although other staff with well-honed service desk skills are also in high demand). To attract and retain the millennials, it’s important to pay attention to the working environment. They’ve grown up in a socially-enabled, technology-rich world. When they come to work, they expect to find collaborative business applications with the same familiar ‘social’ user interfaces that they use in their personal lives.

When it’s difficult to recruit people with the right technical attributes, there’s a temptation to overlook other characteristics, such as communication skills. This is dangerous, because hiring someone who doesn’t fit in with the company culture can be disruptive. Also, they are likely to leave after a short period of time, meaning their training was a waste of money and valuable time.

Once you’ve been to the trouble of attracting the right individuals, obviously you want to hang on to them. A certain level of staff turnover is inevitable and even desirable, but if it’s too high you risk setting up a vicious circle of poor morale and attrition. It’s worth putting in some effort to make your service desk a congenial and stimulating place to work.

SDI’s research shows that a high proportion of service desk analysts currently feel pressured or stressed at work. In addition, respondents reported spending a lot of time on firefighting – not the most rewarding type of work for ambitious individuals who are typically keen to learn and to move forward along a clear career path. Reducing the time spent on mundane tasks will enable service desk teams to embrace innovative projects – and that will both build their skill set and boost their morale.

The SDI report suggests some simple ways of tackling these issues without disrupting your service desk. On the contrary, these changes are likely to result in service improvements that managers and end-users will notice and appreciate.

In the next and final blog post in this series, I’ll sum up, and tell you how the future of the service desk looks to us.

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