It should come as no surprise to anyone that has ever managed a busy help desk, it is extremely difficult to find and retain qualified help desk employees. Many IT people view help desk positions as an entry point into the career, but seldom view the help desk as a long term career. For this reason, they gain some experience with IT and immediately begin to look around for a more challenging or lucrative career.

With the cost of training and recruiting so high, it often makes sense to spend some additional resources trying to keep your current staff happier. Just providing the typical help desk associate salary to your people is not enough to keep them interested. If an employee is never challenged, they will eventually get bored and begin the job search elsewhere. There are a few techniques you can use to increase the effectiveness of your employee engagement and increase your retention rate.

Job Titles

Every manager wants to be a director, every director wants to be a VP, and every help desk associate wants to be something else. This is the way the corporate world works and title enhancements along with a token salary increase can work wonders towards retaining your best employees. Every help desk should have multiple job titles within their ranks, regardless of how many employees you have. You don’t know have to give out “promotions” like candy, but always giving each of your employees something look forward to helps. Try something like:

Help Desk Associate: This is the entry-level help desk position.

Senior Help Desk Associate: Perhaps after 12-18 months, you can promote your workers to a senior position. If you treat this like a big deal, so will they. This not only gives them a sense of pride, it also helps them on their resume. Hopefully, the latter perk will never come into play but as long as they know they are moving forward in their career this is usually enough to keep them with you. This promotion should also come with a small raise. You don’t have to break the bank, but even a token will help your retention.

Help Desk Supervisor: If you have a top performer that you absolutely don’t want to lose, you can promote the individual to the Help Desk Supervisor. Once again, a small raise will work wonders in this situation. The Help Desk Supervisor may have the identical role as he had the day before he was promoted, but the title change will make the employee extremely happy.

Projects

Try to give your help desk employees relief form the day-to-day grind of working on the help desk. Any easy way to accomplish this is to give these individuals projects. This could range from short-term of only a day or two, to a long term project to improve a process or do really anything but answer the phone. Don’t treat this as a perk though; instead go to them because you need them! By making your employees feel like they are more than help desk techs, they are more likely to enjoy working every day. Where possible, work with other IT groups and see if there is anything you can assign one of your people. All IT groups have projects that are in the queue, they will likely be happy to hand off some low level items to you.

Be Flexible

When someone is clearly getting burnt out, be understanding and give them what they need! This may seem counterproductive to a lot of you. However, this technique can change the entire dynamic of your help desk. Every once in a while give someone a day off or suggest they take a long lunch and relax. Even if you get in the habit of cutting someone from work randomly early on Friday’s, people will be more than appreciative. Most help desk employees I have worked with work over 40 hours per week anyway. Letting you know you appreciate their efforts and are willing to reward them with a few hours off makes them feel like they are needed and appreciated.

These simple techniques can be the difference of having to train a new person and having a great employee stay on years after they would have left otherwise.

Kevin Cevich is a technology writer for a large help desk website. You can view more information about help desk staffing including how to write a help desk job description there.