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Tips for Managing a Successful Internal Helpdesk Team

by Katie Joll · Updated Apr 28 2020

Your internal helpdesk provides a vital service for the company.

From managing executive requests to updating knowledge bases, there are many examples of how the actions of your helpdesk team keep things running efficiently in other parts of the business. If you are a service desk manager or team leader, it falls to you to make sure your team can operate as effectively as possible.

What does it take to manage a successful internal helpdesk team? Here are a few key tips:

Get our actionable tips for service desk managers here

Value your team!

Valuing your team and making them feel valued should go without saying, yet it often doesn’t. This is our first tip because so much of the success of your internal helpdesk relies upon how the team working on it feels about being there. People always notice if they’re treated as another number or if their contribution doesn’t seem to be valued.

When people don’t feel valued at work, studies show most people will look for new jobs - 79%, according to this piece for Inc. The implication for helpdesks here is the potential for high employee turnover and a constant state of being “in training” when employees are replaced. How long does it take you to get a new employee up to speed?

Another implication for the team that doesn’t feel valued is low morale. Most people have come across this situation at some point in their working lives. When a team has low morale, there’s a depressing atmosphere. People argue, complain or backstab and too much energy goes into these things rather than providing a good service.

The bottom line: a successful internal helpdesk starts with a happy, motivated team.

What you can do to show you value your team

There are a number of things you can do to let your team know they are valued. It’s important to know your people well and understand what motivates them - that way you can do more of the things that they like. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Be available to help out. We once heard a story from an associate about a business that sent out manager evaluations to their staff. These were anonymous so staff could be confident that they were free to give any sort of feedback.

    One thing that came through loud and clear was that team members felt managers should have been more available to help them, especially during busy periods. The sentiment was perhaps embodied by the comment: “They definitely get their money’s worth from their office chairs.” For them, being available communicated that the manager understood and appreciated what they did.
  2. Check in often. Making people feel valued doesn’t mean having to come up with grand gestures all the time - it can be as simple as checking in, early and often. Greeting people, knowing their names and making the effort to have a chat with them can make a big difference.
  3. Give balanced feedback. Have you ever had the sort of manager that only shows up at your desk when they have something negative to say? It’s easy to feel discouraged if that’s the only sort of feedback you get. Employees need to know what they’re doing well along with any areas where they can improve.
  4. Offer and make employees aware of any opportunities for growth. Adding to this, be transparent about how people get those opportunities. When employees feel you have their best interests at heart, this is an important part of feeling valued.
  5. Recognize achievements. Celebrate the wins, whether big or small. This can be as simple as taking a moment to recognize and thank people during a startup meeting. The point is to let people know that you value their contribution.

Lead with values, standards and goals

Your values, standards and goals influence the climate and culture of the workplace. As the manager of an internal helpdesk, your job is to lead from the front. This means you have to be living and demonstrating the values and standards you expect of the whole team.

Sometimes businesses “espouse” values but don’t really demonstrate them. This renders those values meaningless. Team members are quick to notice when there is an expectation set for them that isn’t otherwise followed by managers.

A Forbes article talks about the importance of transparency among leaders when it comes to goals and values. Here’s a key benefit of being transparent:

“...this transparency then filters down to those we lead. They find us easier to understand and predict, they have greater clarity around what we want and expect from them and can use this knowledge to guide how they work.”

It’s much easier for people to work on your helpdesk, including making good decisions, when they have clarity around the values, standards and goals expected of them. It’s a mistake not to define these in writing for people because you’re then working off assumptions, rather than a clear directive.

Prioritize communication

Effective communication is one of the foundational necessities for a successful internal helpdesk. This means facilitating good communication between management and team members, as well as among the team themselves.

Studies have found that how well you communicate is an indicator for the overall performance of your team. However, this doesn’t mean that quantity of communication is important, more that you focus on the quality.

For example, it’s important to think about communicating the most important bits of information via the most effective means. Teams that are bombarded with emails for every little thing tend to miss key information – they simply don’t have time to read all the emails. On the other hand, very lengthy emails containing a lot of information can also be ineffective.

It’s about finding the right balance that works for your team, as well as the right channels through which to communicate. For example, a quick, yet urgent message might be better communicated at a morning start-up meeting, or as a Slack message.

Communication is two-way and this is an important concept for a successful internal help desk. This means that your team should be free to come to management with their ideas and expect to have a fair audience for their suggestions. Further, give them feedback about their suggestions and make sure they are acknowledged and/or rewarded for those which are adopted! (No one is fond of the sort of manager that takes credit for the ideas that have come from others…)

Successful internal helpdesk teams support effective two-way communication

Give regular feedback

People need to know what they’re doing well and what they can work on improving. If you’re waiting until an annual performance review, your feedback is too late.

Providing regular, actionable feedback ensures that performance is an all-year thing, not something to be put under the microscope in the lead-up to a review. It also means that you create an environment in which continuous improvement is valued.

Feedback can be a good way to keep your team members motivated, but it has to be delivered effectively. If you’re the sort of manager that only shows up when there’s something that needs working on, people start to dread having a conversation with you. Give feedback often and make it meaningful. That means it should include actionable points that the team member has control over.

Collaborate with other departments

If you’re an internal helpdesk, then you’re probably dealing with a few other departments in your workplace. You can improve the effectiveness of your internal team by collaborating with those departments and understanding what they need.

For example, if there are common areas that people struggle with, this can be an opportunity for your team to be proactive. Someone might be tasked with creating a training resource that will help other departments to learn. This can become the go-to whenever related tickets are sent to your helpdesk.

Survey or meet with people from other departments regularly, so that you can ensure your internal helpdesk is providing an effective, relevant service.

Download actionable tips for internal helpdesk managers here

Final thoughts

A successful internal helpdesk will help the company run more smoothly. The effectiveness of your helpdesk always starts with the people working on it.

Valued, motivated team members do effective work. You can support this by facilitating good communication, being transparent about goals and values and providing clear feedback.

Always be looking for those opportunities to improve and encourage team members to voice their ideas.