Dealing with underperforming employees is tough. No matter how many courses you attend, books you read, or years of experience you have, we think one of the hardest service desk manager tasks is supporting underachieving analysts while maintaining team morale.
To help, here are ten tips for managing an underperforming service desk analyst.
Tip #1: Get your facts straight
All too often new service desk managers inherit “problem” or underperforming employees and then treat them as such until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sometimes it’s a clash of personalities, sometimes things need time to settle. Either way, take the time to look at the facts before jumping into action.
Tip #2: Talk with them
Start with getting a handle on things from the other person’s perspective. How do they think things are going? Have they previously been made aware of their performance issues? Talk with them, highlight the issues, and agree a plan to improve things together.
Tip #3: Tell them what’s wrong
Use clear examples to explain any shortcomings. For instance, just saying that someone isn’t good enough is vague and unhelpful. There’s nothing actionable about such a statement.
Explain things by giving clear examples of what the issue is, for example: “I’ve noticed that when you close off tickets you put “fixed” in the resolution details. While I understand that it’s important to be able to move on to the next call, we need to be able to know how an issue was resolved for when if it happens again.”
Tip #4: Set targets
Agree a plan with actionable targets and make sure that your analyst is engaged and understands what’s needed of them. An example could be: “In future, I need you to add a couple of lines on what you did to resolve the issue in the resolution section when closing out the incident. This will help the next person who deals with the end user to understand their ticket history, especially if the issue reoccurs.”
Tip #5: Schedule regular check-ins
Ensure that the analyst knows who they can go to for help and check in regularly such that they feel supported and you know that they’re staying on track.
Tip #6: Reinforce the positives
Also look for what the analyst is doing well. If you consistently focus on the negatives, then the person that you’re trying to help will likely disengage and feel that any efforts to improve are pointless. Like the Force in Star Wars, it’s all about finding a balance.
Tip #7: Formalize a plan
If the analyst is showing no signs of improvement, then it’s time to formalize things – perhaps in the form of a performance improvement plan. As with the above, make your targets clear, easy to understand, and with clear due dates such that nothing is lost or missed.
Tip #8: Loop in HR
If you’re at the point of more formal improvement initiatives, engage human resources (HR) to make sure that you’re following the correct process, the employee gets the support they need, and that everyone who needs to know is aware of what’s happening.
Tip #9: Track feedback (to a schedule)
Check in with the employee regularly. Are they on target? Are they starting to turn things around? Is there anything that would help them work to the required standard – for example additional training or shadowing a more experienced team member? And does the person have all the equipment needed to do their job?
Tip #10: Always agree next steps
Build a plan for next steps. In a perfect world, performance issues would be addressed quickly, and the person gets to course-correct without any formal action. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and if the person still isn’t improving then it’s time to protect the rest of your team. Again, work with HR to ensure the right policies and procedures are followed such that everyone knows what’s expected of them and there’s absolutely no room for confusion.
So that’s our top ten tips for dealing with underperforming service desk analysts. What would you add to this? Please let me know in the comments.