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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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Managing and Retaining Technicians: 6 Steps for Creating Value

Posted August 16, 2017by Ian Waters

Managing and Retaining Technicians: 6 Steps for Creating Value

As a managed IT services providers (MSP), you understand that great technicians are hard to come by, and sometimes even harder to keep hold of. As business owners and managers, we invest so much time and money into staff recruitment and training that it can hurt when vital employees leave. All that investment literally walks out of the building, and if not addressed properly, that turnover can be a repeating drain on your business.

So, what are some tips for properly managing a team of technicians? If you are having trouble retaining your IT staff, it may be time to start engaging with your employees and implement a training and development plan.

Staff development plans help employees feel included in decisions, supported and challenged in their work, and seen as an important and valuable part of the team. Incorporating these plans is a great way to address your technician’s wants and desires and reduce turnover. All successful staff development plans will include some of the following items to help drive personal development and enable a happy and gratified workforce.

  • Achievement recognition
  • Discussions on work-related problems, needs or concerns
  • Setting of training or business goals
  • Regular one-on-one reviews or check-ins

How to Create Value for Your Technical Team

Now that we know what elements should be included in your staff development plan, let’s go a bit further to discuss the six specific steps you can take to better manage your team of technicians and ensure they have a long-term career path with your company.

1. Recognize Excellent Work

In order to get technicians to take pride in their work and aspire to be among the best, you need to do something that will encourage them to be the best. This can be in the simple form of recognizing good work when it’s done. Record well deployed projects, take note of well-handled telephone calls or proper updating of documentation. Then, during a monthly review meeting, point out this work and say why it’s been noted and congratulate the responsible employee.

Recognizing excellent work can also help improve morale and company culture. Being handed a gift, certificate, or even verbal-recognition can inspire your team to perform their best. It gives a clear indication that you are taking notice of your employees and their achievements. So, be sure to take the time to recognize the good work your tech team does because it will help them feel satisfied in their day-to-day, while maintaining a heightened level of work. 

2. Set Goals and Record Achievements

Every employee needs to have a clear set of goals outlined as part of their development plan. These goals can be set based on a number of criteria, including strengths and weaknesses, career and skill progression, and more. Work with your employees to set goals, along with certain dates so you can track the pace of development and ensure that there is always some form of development happening. Additionally, be sure to record these goals in the employee’s staff development folder and celebrate when certain milestones or achievements are completed.

3. Track Performance Metrics

Tracking performance metrics is a great way to fairly measure employees against their goals and even their peers. For example, engineers working at a help desk can have metrics such as:

  • Time on the telephone or chat
  • Number of tickets opened
  • Number of tickets closed
  • Total amount of time logged

Whichever metric you choose, these can be used to fairly benchmark your technician’s progress or how well they are performing against other team members.

4. Invest in Skill Development

Similar to how your business has its own target markets and expertise, your employees should have the required knowledge and skills in those areas as well. If you sell yourself as experts in Office365, then this should be at the core of your staff training. If you focus on network infrastructure or network management, then focus on these specific skills. 

The goal here is to create an environment that encourages technicians to gain more knowledge or get more certifications. If you're a Continuum partner, recommend your techs get certified in the various product modules offered by Continuum University!

Also, don’t forget about the soft skills your staff should be aiming to improve, such as communication, listening, or teamwork. There are a range of classroom and online customer support trainings available, and these should also be at the core of your training programs.

If you want to better engage your technicians, you need to embrace their interests and try to include training in those relevant areas. If an engineer loves working with Windows Servers, Active Directory, or Hyper-V technology, then they are likely to do well and even excel in these areas. Therefore, their development plan should reflect their own interests and try to build a career path in these areas where possible.

5. Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Speaking of skills, a big part of each employee’s development review should be identifying their strengths and weaknesses. These can be based on their performance metrics, noted by their team leader and discovered through one-on-one discussions.

As a best practice, strengths should be promoted and used to drive career development. Similarly, weaknesses should be turned into development goals which may require additional training or shadowing of a team member who excels at these specific skills.

6. Create a Clear Career Path

After you’ve identified and set certain goals, you should come full circle to create a clear and achievable career path for your technicians. Anyone who truly wants to progress in their career and move up in the ranks will do the work required to get them there. Your goal should be to provide a clear career progression path for your employees that outlines what goals need to be met to move onto the next level. This allows your technicians to think of their role as a career, not simply a one-off job.

I’ve seen many cases of employees who are unsure of their own career progression, and this ultimately leads to increased turnover. Without a definitive career path, employees will hesitate to take on more responsibilities and do only what is required because they will have nothing to aim for.

Summary

To get the most out of your employees and reduce technician turnover, you need very clear career progression paths as well as regular performance and development reviews with your team. Be sure to set development goals, invest in their skills, and recognize and promote achievements, and this will translate into a more engaged and loyal staff.

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Ian is a Senior Partner at MSP Southern IT Networks and works as the Technical Director. Ian has been working in IT for over 14 years since finishing his Degree in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. He is also an Office 365 expert and author of the book Microsoft Office 365 – Exchange Online Implementation and Migration - Second Edition. Follow him on his personal blog here!

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