How to Upskill Your IT Service Desk Team

InvGate July 27, 2021
- 6 min read

Your organization’s IT service desk is the front line of IT and, with an empowered and engaged workforce, it can deliver the effective IT support needed to keep operations running. But while much is written about the importance of IT service management (ITSM) tools, a significant element of your service desk’s capabilities and success relies on its people and how well they’re positioned to deliver what’s expected of them. Especially post-pandemic as the IT-support goalposts continue to move to reflect the changing ways of working and the higher expectations of supported employees.  

To help you and your organization ensure that your IT service desk people are keeping up with what’s needed, this blog looks at ways to upskill your team.  

Recognize the likely skills gap 

It might not be immediately obvious but the people in your IT service desk team are likely to be missing key IT support skills. The absence of technical skills is more obvious, whereas missing soft skills are less likely to be noticed (even with customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys in place). 

To improve, you’ll need to carry out a skills-gap analysis so that you better understand the skills you currently have versus what you need to deliver effective support to the business. Here, hopefully, people will be honest about what they struggle with or where they wish to improve. But not everyone will be aware that they need to improve in some areas. This elevates the importance of end-user feedback. This might not be easy with traditional CSAT surveys where feedback levels tend to be low and biased. So an investment in better understanding the employee experience might be necessary to truly understand where individual skills gaps lie. 

Recognize IT skill gaps

Start with the basics 

While IT service desk analysts are increasingly needed to have appropriate soft skills, they also need a minimum level of technical knowledge. Let’s call this “the basics.”  

Every organization is different, but the technology fundamentals remain the same such that most organizations will have the following to support: 

  • Active directory 
  • Network and voice services 
  • Email 
  • File and print services 
  • Microsoft Office or an alternative 
  • Critical corporate applications 

Make sure that everyone in your IT support team has a minimum level of understanding of these support basics so that they have a solid baseline to work with and build on (even where scripts and knowledge articles are easy to access and use). 

Make information sharing a two-way street 

There are a variety of ways to provide training to your service desk and technical support teams. One way is to apply the shift-left principle whereby more senior IT technicians in second- or third-line support roles make their knowledge available to less experienced IT service desk analysts. Helping them to resolve more difficult end-user issues and questions.  

But here’s the thing – first-line support will often know some things that the second- and third-line analysts don’t. Maybe because they hear about, and tackle them first because they’re the ones dealing with end users the most.  

Whether you shift left and/or right, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open to support knowledge flow between different support groups. Here are some ways to help this: 

  • Ask technical team members to attend guest knowledge-sharing slots at the monthly IT service desk meeting 
  • Get first-line support analysts to spend time shadowing second-line technicians such that they learn stuff that they didn’t know they didn’t know 
  • Run “show and tell” sessions that recognize that everyone has different strengths. For example, some members of your IT support team will know all the ins and outs of the corporate environment. Some will be very process-driven and great with documentation. Some will love automating things. Others will have outstanding people and customer service skills. So make sure that everyone has a chance to showcase what they shine at as they help their peers to upskill too. 

How to Cope When Your IT Service Desk is Overwhelmed

Look outside of the IT department for additional knowledge 

The reality is that, while IT can help keep the lights on, the experts on how to use corporate applications are the people who use it day-in and day-out. They know the minutiae and all the quirks.  

So, again have guest slots at your team meetings for business users to showcase their skills and knowledge. This could be the tasks they undertake every day in the project management system or the most commonly used functions in the facilities system.   

Another upskilling opportunity is to have service desk agents attend end-user training for new products or services to get a high-level view of what they’ll be supporting. They’ll also get insight into the areas where their business colleagues are struggling. 

Build people development and training into your culture 

Make training and development a priority so that employees recognize the need to develop themselves and feel comfortable about taking the time to upskill and learn new things. Some ways to accomplish this include:  

  • Letting your team know that they have a certain amount of time a week or month for training and development
  • Encourage team members to make the most of their development plans and build in opportunities for learning and advancement when setting personal objectives for the year ahead 
  • Introduce a mentoring scheme as a way of sharing knowledge by creating and building on relationships across your IT support teams. 

Drawing of a developer seating on a coach

Use technology to upskill your people too 

While developing your people is a great way to make them better versions of themselves, don’t overlook the opportunities within your ITSM tool to better enable your service desk team(s). Examples of this include: 

  • Intelligent routing – automatically routing calls to specific technicians or queue based on preset criteria such as analyst skill level.  
  • Call recording – if you record the calls to your service desk, even if only periodically, it’s important to review them and use them to discuss training opportunities at one-to-one meetings.  
  • Trend analysis – do some basic trending and look at your top five incident categories and get subject matter experts to pull together some quick troubleshooting guides on how to fix them. 
  • Knowledge management – add these guides to a knowledge base. Make sure this information is clearly labelled and sense checked to ensure that it’s accurate and easy to understand. 

Importantly, technology exploitation such as the above also helps analysts to deliver quicker resolutions and better service experiences to end users. 

That’s our take on some of the upskilling opportunities for your service desk team. What would you add to this? Please let us know in the comments.

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