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New helpdesk job & must performance out 2 staff

By honeybee ·
I started this job a month ago and have been directly told that I must performance manage out two staff. The staff in question are lacking in all proactivity and when I sat them down to see what project work, etc they would be interested in they both said they don't want to do anything. There day-to-day work quality isn't great either
I'd really like some ideas here please - my managers have given me no directives apart from to 'get it done' - I am new in this field and would appreciate the benefits of your knowledge.

I was thinking that my first task would be to identify who was doing what with some kind of time\activity sheet - however I wasn't sure how to implement this?

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Time/Activity Sheets

by BFilmFan In reply to New helpdesk job & must p ...

Unless you are performing project work, I truly am warning you against doing anything other than tracking how many calls are recieved and how long are spent on the calls.

Far too managers create a time sheet that has numerous tasks in an effort to make they and their staffs accounting for time and company resources.

Are these folks the typical helpdesk staff which take in calls and pass them on to engineers to be resolved?

If so, I recommend that you identify customer service and help desk skills that are needed to meet your operational and service level agreements.

And without directives, there is mission to accomplish.

What is the percieved issue with the helpdesk and the staff? Does upper management understand their mission?

I would advise you to look at some of the articles here on TR and take a look at some of the ITIL documentation floating about the net for a better idea of service management activities.

Best of luck with your new assignment.

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Well you need to find out what they do do

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to New helpdesk job & must p ...

Calls logged, processed, actioned completed, reopened etc. You should have something to do this anyway, otherwise how do you know how the department is performing?

It's alright saying performance out, but some of your other people have to take on their work, or you need to find a way to reduce your total workload by the amount they do achieve. Once you've got some real numbers you can light a fire under their asses and see what happens.

It's not clear to me, do management want to reduce manning by two or do they want 'dead wood' chopping out. ie. if you turned these two people into assets would they be happy ?

You're on the right track, with you need some numbers to assess their performance. You've got to apply the mechanism to the whole department though, so 'accusing' all your staff of not performing would be a bad move.

That's why your best bet is departmental performance, but log who did what and you can analyse by individual. The other thing you need to is to get some buy in off your people to log what they do. Maybe a productivity bonus , or a contribution to annual appraisal, or just plain team pride. If you present it wrong, it's going to look like a management wheeze to reduce wages and it will annoy everybody. Go there and your best people will go leaving you with the two people you consider to be lemons.

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What's required and what's needed

by rosearch In reply to New helpdesk job & must p ...

Couple of things happening here. Initial impression may be that these two need to be performance managed (they don't sound inspiring!), however it's worth checking whether the 'direction' from above actually matches the real business needs of the organisation - which means understanding the role they are filling and the nature of the work that they are handling. Even if you know that management wants them 'out' it's worth knowing what the impact on your work areas is going to be - and it's always worth 'going through the hoops' to do these things properly.

Sometimes (sometimes) folk who appear to be 'doing nothing much' are actually performing 'hidden' tasks that aren't in their 'job description' and are actually doing something that requires a good deal of sophisticated job knowledge and skill and which (and this is important) adds value to the company. Even within a team who all share the same 'job description' some individuals may have (informally) taken on 'special' responsibilities. The final 'kicker' here is that the individual may not realize they're 'doing this special function' and isn't necessarily going to look more eager, or intelligent than any of their colleagues. Now one of the ways to 'discover' these 'extra angles' is to move the folk out and see what stops working, but depending on the nature of your business it's sometimes good to know 'up front'.

So that's the conceptual groundwork, start with the job and don't assume you really understand what's going on in the job. Then move on to the man/woman. So then, when you do start talking to the individual your understanding of the job gives you solid metrics to measure and assess them against - and a reference point to start discussions about their strengths and weaknesses. Straight-forward stuff..

How best to understand what's going on in the job? Well the activity-timesheet is indicative but suffers from two big failings. Firstly: your people may not fill it out accurately for reasons of laziness, sabotage or overwork. Secondly: if you are collecting information about 'categories' of work, if you leave out a category (possibly one of those 'invisible' functions these guys perform), then you don't get to collect information on that category. Going to folk 'who used to work in that job' to get their views (and to 'endorse' the activity-timesheet design) might help. However they aren't necessarily going to know what job mix the current occupants are doing, and likely suffer from a prejudice common in (the lower ranks of) IT, that anyone below them 'in the ladder' is less 'clever' and less hard working (something which every real manager learns is not true).

Frankly, if you can afford the time, I'd recommend sitting in their chair for a shift, or ideally two. They might find it 'difficult' or resent it, but you simply paint it as 'the way' that you get to understand and appreciate the WORK they do (whatever that might be). From that perspective you might see that they are doing a lot of 'soft' work (such as customer 'soothing', or little research jobs for folks - or running a repair business on the side..).

So then you are in a better position to design the activity-sheet sheet (because sitting in on a shift or two wont give you a total understanding of the volume of workflows that MIGHT be important to you). At the same time, however, you are now able to 'speak the language' of the specific job, and talk to the two guys about their performance against metrics using very specific (and appropriate) terms and examples. You have ALSO been able to observe them 'close up' for a period of time, and you might discover they have 'hidden' talents that the organisation needs somewhere (and depending on how you feel about them at this stage you might discover they are 'needed' a very long way away from you indeed...).

There's a bonus (but not for the faint hearted). While you are 'playing' at being the helpdesk operator (or whatever) it's a chance to put your deputy in YOUR job and observe his/her performance from below. Normally when whoever does that job fills in for you while you are on vacation or off sick. You get to see the aftermath of their occupancy (and it might always 'look good'), but you NEVER get to see them 'in the job'. By having them in the job while you're still there means you get a chance to experience them 'being your boss' - admittedly for only a brief period, but it can be extra-ordinarily enlightening. Not only of course might you observe that your deputy does things that irritate, but you might observe things that they do very well (better than you in fact..). In which case you can (very quietly) 'adopt' some of their management style (if it works for you).

That's just a few quick thoughts. Just one more though - document every step. Even if things seem to be progressing smoothly towards a satisfactory outcome, if things get derailed it helps to be able to produce a documentary record of all of the steps along the way. Just to show that you were doing things 'by the book' (and kill any arguments about 'who did/said what').

Cheers, Tban/Rosearch.

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Be Careful

by davebkelly In reply to New helpdesk job & must p ...

It can be a bit of a mine feild sorting the wheat from the chaff. The best way of doing this, I have found, is to create a PDP (Personal Development Plan) for each of your staff. What you do is create a list of the key headlines of what you expect from your staff. i.e. "Arrives for work on time" or "Is polite and couteous to users" then score them out of 5 on each point. Get them to do exactly the same and then have a meeting to discuss the differences between your scores and theirs. Then, once you have established the differences and discussed them, you can create an action plan for the employee to improve their scores.

As the manager, you document any agreed action plans that you put together with your employee. And agree to review the action plan at a set time period. This will go one of two ways, your guys will either buck their ideas up and start to fulfill what you have agreed with them, in which case, their performance improves and you save on recruitment costs or they don't bother and you can hit them over the head with the "agreed" action plan, give them one last chance to perform and then show them the door if they dont improve.

Don't let your employer force the issue on you as the last thing you need is to get rid of the guys without just cause and end up on the wrong side of an employee tribunal.......

In short........ if you sack them, make sure you have documented proof of why you did and make sure that it is reasonable. With the ideas above, you have documented proof that they said they would do something and didn't.

Let me know if you need any examples and/or any more help.

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Staff career development?

by Vawns In reply to New helpdesk job & must p ...

Hi Honeybee,

Have you thought of talking to your Management to see if the performance of your staff could be managed and improved on as opposed to simply being managed out? There could be lots of reasons for lack of productivity, over work, lack of recognition, unreasonable demands from senior management etc. Think it may help you to try talking to them again. The following link might have some useful ideas for you:

Hope this has helped,


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Thank you all for your input - I really appreciate it

by honeybee In reply to New helpdesk job & must p ...

Dear All

Thank you for your input - I really appreciate you taking the time here and wanted to give you some more background.

The helpdesk where I work is currently very under-utilised (we are talking 6 or so calls a day each for three analysts) we need to have three staff to cover shifts. The last helpdesk manager was fairly incompetent and didn't value-add to the helpdesk at all. The company wants to keep the service in house as it is very in-house knowledge oriented however needs the helpdesk to take more work on. The analysts are all being paid quite well at competitive market rates.

At the moment the staff take their half a dozen calls (which are not that hard to resolve - after a month in the job I know more than the staff) and after taking their calls they read, plan weddings, one runs his own business selling bootlegged cds, etc.

I have tried sitting with them - which was so disliked I am doing it regularly to show them that things are changing and assigning project work.

I am speaking with each staff member once a week and they all keep telling me they don't want to do any project work - the project work I've given them was terribly done - they are working on the theory that if they do something badly enough I won't give them anything else to do.

They are failing their pdps\kpi's however our HR department have said I need to show more than this to be able to manage them out.

I have offered these staff more training in areas of their interest (which was rejected - they stated they weren't interested in doing anything more), project work for interest (which was also rejected), time spent furthering their knowledge with other departments (which was also rejected)

I truly believe that I have done everything that has been suggested here and they have flatly replied 'no - we don't want to do anything' - which when you consider that out of a full day they are doing about an hour of work and that is all they have had to do for the last five years.

I am sitting down with each of them this week to have a serious hr-monitored conversation to explain that their roles have changed and they need to comply or we will be moving to a probation period.

HR here are very concerned about making sure everything is above board which I agree with, and the executives have made this one of my PDP projects for the year.

If you've ever been in a similar situation I'd love to hear how you handled it.

Thank you

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A few ideas

by johanv In reply to Thank you all for your in ...

Hi there,

Sounds as if you have a right joyful environment to work in there and I would like to suggest the following:

1. Discuss implementing a dedicated helpdesk system (We are using Track-IT with great results) with your Manager/Director. Get their buy-in to introduce a system which will not only manage all support calls (from a service level point), but also generate valuable KPI reports.
2. Make it clear to your team that IT is a service department and that end-users are customers and therefore Service Levels will be introduced along with projects to benefit end-users.

The above are just measures that have helped me establish a well oiled IT Department with satisfied end-users and by no means exhaustive. Makes you sometimes wonder why you got into management

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