Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Start a Team Mentoring Program

Most support teams are pretty diverse when it comes to skill sets. Some techs excel at customer interaction while others are experts at telephony and others are the hardware specialists. It’s good to have a specialty.  We can be good at many things but generally, to be great we must concentrate on one area.

A lot of Good can be better than Great

In managing teams I found it’s better to have a lot of employees who are good at many things than a few employees who are great at one thing each. Vacations and sick days alone really kill you. That’s why I like to have a mentoring program within my team. A lot of organizations refer to this as skill sharing but I’ve had more success calling it mentoring.

Make everyone a Trainer

There are few ways to do it. One is to schedule two hours a month, or even a week devoted to training. Ask each team member to prepare a course to give the rest of the team in those hours. Some members will be too shy to present. While it is great to encourage people to face their fears, never force it. If an employee just does not want to present ask a less shy employee to work with him or her or ask that they write up something.

Don’t stop the program when everyone has had their 2 hours. Start over again. Each area of expertise has should have a lot to offer. Encourage your employees to create training around incidents where they learned something new about their area.

Another mentoring method is just that, mentoring. Team up people with different strengths for a few months at a time. Be clear about why you team them. Ask each tech to mentor the other one on their specific strength. Spell it out. Make sure the techs know you mean their ability to analyze network issues, not their wicked Xbox skills.

Everyone Wins

Mentoring others helps the team become more diverse in their skill sets and, therefore, stronger. It also develops leadership skills in people who likely want to eventually move into management roles. It’s a good trade off for everyone involved.

Do you have a mentoring program within your team? Tell us how it works for you. What problems, if any have you run into?

For more ideas on how to get the most from your team check out our Practical IT Manager Gold series. http://117.240.88.103:8484/toolkitcafe/product/practical-it-manager-gold-series/

Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Respecting Your Users

I spent years in phone support. I was a frontline tech, a manager and, at times, a trainer. I always liked the job but I was one of the few. Most techs hate it and would rather do anything than take calls. I think there are a couple of reasons.

Would You Like a Hot Apple Pie With That Password Reset?

The first thing people hate about working phone support is they are on the phone. That sounds silly but working a phone room feels like a low lever job. You have to wear a headset which always looks funny. Management counts the number of calls you take and coaches you on how to take more and worst of all they monitor you. Even when the pay is good those three things together make employees feel like they are just one step above wearing a hairnet. Heck Some hairnets look better than the headsets.

The big thing techs always complain about though is the callers themselves. Techs go on and on about how stupid the users are and how much they hate them. I never could figure out those techs. I mean the only reason we had jobs was we knew more about computer systems than the callers. Did they really want the callers to be able to figure these problems out on their own?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

For the most part I always liked my users and liking the people I supported sure made the job a lot better. Once I was in management and training I did my best to change tech attitudes about users. This was my philosophy. What job would you rather have, one where you take care of a bunch of whiney idiots who can’t take care of themselves or a job where you solve technical problems for intelligent professionals. I always worked with smart professionals and I was always happy in my work. The difference is really in the tech’s attitude and respect, not the users’ education.

For more tips on how to manage check out The IT Project Manager’s Toolkit (below). It’s an invaluable asset for working with people.