How to tackle the bad egg - IT Support management tips


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17-Jan-2018 09:01:00

In my last piece, I talked about Problem Management and how it is often confused with Major Incident management. In fact, while the two are linked, they are very different beasts. However strong your Problem Management, you must be ready for business critical incidents.

Do you have a bad egg? Negativity is contagious and having one member of staff consistently underperform can have disastrous effects on team performance.

Creating the right environment, processes and management style can not only prevent bad eggs from finding their way into your team, but ensures that the good ones stay good.

How to hire the right Support Service Analysts

As the old adage says, prevention is better than cure. Having run successful IT Support Services teams for over 25 years, we at Plan-Net have continued to sharpen our hiring strategy. Finding the right people for your team gives you a clear head start in avoiding bad eggs, making their way into your team in the first place. Through constant review of our practices, including feedback from successful applicants, we now have a very high success rate in finding the right people. Here is the three-step process that has become Best Practice in our own hiring methodology:

Telephone Screening:

You have whittled away at the stack of CVs in your inbox and have a good handful of candidates which on paper have the right skills and experience. Bringing them all in for a face-to-face is time-consuming for you as a busy hiring manager which can slow down the hiring process and make you miss some vital must-have attributes that any analyst in your team should exhibit.

Whether you have additional support or the whole responsibility for all stages of the interview, it is much more efficient to start with a phone call. This gives you the perfect opportunity to get a few of your key interview questions answered and also enables you to assess their telephone manner. In just a short call, you will quickly learn whether the candidate can communicate clearly, politely and with the professionalism and the confidence you need your team to convey.

Face to Face Interview & Proficiency Assessment:

Now that you have a good quality shortlist of 3-5 candidates per role, it’s time to book in that face-to-face meeting. It can really be considered as a two-stage process but can be done in one sitting. This is when you can ask more in-depth questions about their experience and get a feel for the candidates’ personalities for culture-fit. It also gives the candidates a real sense of your business, expectations and what they can expect from you in return. However, discussion over a candidate's experience may not reveal the truth about their aptitude. This is where we have adopted more objective practices in recent years and seen huge benefits.

Introducing a proficiency test can be very revealing in a number of ways. Not only can this provide a very clear indication of the analyst’s knowledge and technical ability, you will also see how they cope under pressure. To this end we place our candidates in a series of ‘real world’ scenarios within our testing environment. They take a number of calls from a senior analyst or manager who require technical support. This process is invaluable in establishing:

  • End to End Customer engagement
  • Responsiveness
  • Technical proficiency
  • Ticket Quality

Clearly, the ticket logging toolset may be different to what the individual is used to, however certain essential practices (including detailed troubleshooting steps) are not reliant on the technology the individual is using. As part of the selection process the individual will be assessed for Telephone and Ticket Quality against our live service criteria, these results will then be used by the hiring manager along with their interview notes, to arrive at a decision.

Onboarding + Training:

Now you have selected the best person for the role, the management process gets into full swing. Setting out a clear onboarding and induction process is a great way to set goals, align expectations and give your new hire the tools to succeed. In essence, you are stopping a good egg from going bad from day one.

Consider if a one-size fits all training schedule will work for your all new IT Support staff. By developing a framework, it will save you time and help your new team member hit the ground running. Your training schedule should align with the overall team objectives and business goals so having this ready for them before their first day, helps set the standard early and give the training relevance to the SLAs you work towards.

Having a new hire twiddling their thumbs can leave them frustrated and anxious. Start as you mean to go on by keeping them busy from the get-go and nourish their enthusiasm with the training and hands-on experience they need.

Do you know how long it takes to train a new member of staff in your team? Set a time-frame (e.g. three months depending on your own team and the candidate’s starting point) and ensure that they get very close support / mentoring until they are at the required level to pass their probation period. Catching potential problems early is key so during their training period, ensure new recruits have a one-to-one meeting on a weekly basis to check that they are getting what they need, that they are progressing at the expected rate and giving them the opportunity to raise and concerns they may have.

Retaining the Good Eggs

Your new hire isn’t so new anymore. They have reached a point where they can work relatively autonomously, they know your tools and processes well and are providing a good level of service. Fostering a strong team dynamic and culture certainly helps with retention. No analyst is an island and after all, you are running a team, not a coaching programme for one. Keep your finger on the pulse with what drives each individual, their personal goals, recent achievements, ideas and overall contribution to the team’s objectives.

I ensure regular one to one meetings, on at least a monthly basis, are undertaken for each team member for those exact reasons. Allowing one-to-ones to lapse is a sure-fire way to make someone feel undervalued and to lose motivation, positivity and drive. If there are signs of underperformance, you can refer back to the KPIs that were set out in the very beginning. KPIs can evolve to keep a staff member striving to improve with your core indicators tied solely to team objectives and one or two personal growth goals agreed and added on a quarterly basis.

Though of course, there is always room for one to slip through the net despite all the best planning, management skills and coaching you can offer. If this is the case and you are confident that you have delivered everything you can to help but KPIs are consistently falling short, it could be that it is just not the right person for your team.

Despite your best efforts, sometimes things just don’t work out. Often these cases are not down to aptitude but attitude. A lack of motivation could, for example, indicate that an analyst has outgrown their role. After a year or two as an analyst, they may be looking for progression and if you can keep hold of a highly skilled person by giving them a more motivating challenge, then you could see things turn around.

If all else fails, you will have to make a tough decision, but make sure the rest of your team does not catch the bad egg contagion before you have dealt with it. By getting your hiring, training and ongoing management right, you can almost always ensure only the best analysts join your team and nip any issues in the bud.

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Pete Canavan
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About the author

Pete Canavan

Pete Canavan is Support Services Director at Plan-Net. An accredited ITIL Service Manager, he has a proven track record in IT with special expertise in the Legal & Financial Services industries.

With two decades in the IT field, Pete has acquired extensive experience in business relationship development, service transformation, project and people management, training and client/supplier relations.

Pete's other passions, besides Plan-Net of course, are his family and football.

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