It is a feature of the profession that many IT managers see the solution to performance improvement is through better processes, tools and technology.

Of course, these are important – but the fact is high performing people can overcome the limitations of processes and tools. It is also true that the benefits of processes and tools only come about when they are enthusiastically adopted and used by engaged and high performing people.

So how can IT managers develop high performing IT teams and IT people?

  • The good news is there is no real mystery and its not complicated to understand the principles (Principles of high performance)
  • However while it may be “simple” – its not necessarily “easy”
  • It also needs sustained effort and changes in behaviour and mindset for line managers

Here’s an inspirational blog from Sally Bogg, IT Help Desk Manager at the University of Leeds in the UK. She describes the practical actions that the Help Desk team has taken towards high performance. As her blog summarises:

When we started out on our Service Desk Certification programme 3 years ago we really thought it would be about processes, procedures, tools and technologies but what we learnt is that really it is all about people. A good service needs good people and a strong team and that is what we have. Our improvement process has really focused on the development of a team that can stand tall and be proud of the service that they deliver. Happy people really do give good service!

Let’s take a look at the ways that Sally and the team have brought the High Performance principles to life through a series of practical actions.

The Performance Management System – The model says “Ensure all employees understand what is expected of them, what the expected standards of performance are and how these will create organisational success. Provide feedback from multiple sources – not just from the direct manager.”

Day to day work – The model says “Take time to match people to their roles. People who understand and enjoy their work perform better. Provide the big picture – explain how roles and current assignments contribute to your organisational success”.

Sally and the team’s story …

We created the IT Help Desk Vision, Mission posters, these provide the whole team with a common goal and shared sense of purpose and helps ensure that we are all pulling in the same direction.

We make sure that we share our customer feedback with our key stakeholders including the senior management team and we have a customer feedback page on the IT intranet.

As part of the work on Service Desk Certification we have introduced a staff satisfaction process

Opportunities – The model says Provide people with opportunities which enable them to utilise their strengths. Training provided should be relevant to their assignment and their role. Timely training and on-the-job coaching provides the best learning.

Sally and the team’s story …

we have developed a culture and working environment that gives people the opportunity to learn new skills and improve their knowledge.

We work hard to ensure the role of IT Support Advisor is as varied and interesting as possible. Everyone gets the opportunity to work in the different areas of the service; phone, face to face and email and we take turns to work on our additional services.

We also aim to provide career development and have developed processes to support job shadowing and secondment opportunities. We have supported staff in long and short term secondments and we provide help with writing job applications and putting CVs together and always encourage individuals to apply for internal roles.

We have implemented rigorous recruitment, induction and training procedures and our standard training package

Most people are stimulated by leadership roles even in spot appearances … when we have visitors we usually allow someone on the desk to take the role of visitors guide and on the odd occasion when there are no supervisors or managers around we have let others step up and take the role.

we appoint project leads from within the team to be the main point of contact and represent Help Desk at project meetings.

Formal Reviews – The model says “Emphasise the positive. Only discuss performance weaknesses when you also have specific suggestions for improving performance. Formal reviews should also discuss your employees’ long-term career aspirations.”

Sally and the team’s story …

We also regularly audit staff skills via our skills matrix. This gives us an understanding as to the level of skill from a technical and customer service viewpoint.

Informal Feedback – The model says “Specific, timely, accurate, balanced feedback from a knowledgeable source is the most powerful driver of high performance.”

Sally and the team’s story …

We also provide the team with individual call coaching that gives both team members and management with an on-going quality and personal development mechanism.

they are actually quite good at praising each other and you can regularly hear team members telling others they handled a call really well or did a good job an a tricky techie issue.

A High Performance Culture – The model says “Encourage the taking of risks aligned to organisational objectives. Remove the fear of failure. Ensure good communications and allow a free flow of business performance information. Differentiate between good and poor performers.”

Sally and the team’s story …

We have put ourselves forward for number of industry awards and events. We get the whole team involved in putting together the submissions for these and it is actually a great exercise in team building.

Giving people the chance to talk about the great work they do are great opportunities to raise the profile of the service and give people a real sense of achievement and pride.

Interaction with employees – The model says “Help your people find solutions to business problems; coach them don’t tell them. Provide the resources needed by the team to be successful. Set clear and consistent expectations. Do not chop and change plans and priorities.”

Sally and the team’s story …

Staff that are given continuous training and evaluation are better able to deliver the excellent customer service we are looking for

And does this work? Here’s some tangible measures to demonstrate the progress made by the team.

Staff absence days have halved, service levels are up, 1st contact resolution up by 4%, phone wait times down by an average of 26 seconds

Excellent staff retention rates (average length of service is 4.2 years) .

Customer satisfaction is up from 88% to 98%!


Improving customer experience through employee experience | sallytwoshoes

High performing IT organisations

Role of line managers


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