Everyone on your IT service desk team has individual strengths, and these strengths represent great opportunities for overall team (and organizational) success. Everyone has weaknesses too, and while it’s counterproductive to focus too much on them, it’s actually worse to ignore both a person’s strengths and weaknesses, according to the Gallup State of the American Workplace report for 2013. One-quarter of American workers polled felt that both their strengths and weaknesses were ignored, and of these workers, 40% were disengaged at work. Only 22% of employees who felt their supervisors focused on their weaknesses were disengaged.
The report also found that simply having their strengths acknowledged makes employees 7.8% more productive, and that teams that focus on strengths are 12.5% more productive. If you’re ignoring the strengths of your IT service desk workers, you could be needlessly hindering productivity.
So how do you make the most of your IT service desk’s team’s individual strengths? Here are some ideas.
Supplement Formal Feedback with Informal Interaction
The formal feedback you offer during annual employee reviews is important, but it’s not everything. Informal interaction with your IT service desk team members can yield information you may have never picked up on otherwise. You can simply ask each team member informally: “What do you think your strengths are on the job?” If they’re reluctant to speak up, you can prime the pump: “I’ve noticed you keep meticulous records. how did you learn to do that?” Informal interaction can open up possibilities that might never have occurred to your otherwise.
Name Employee Strengths; Don’t Take Them for Granted
There’s certainly a place for the generic, “Great job, Matt!” But naming employee strengths gives them more impact: “I noticed you took a lot of notes at the project kick-off meeting. Could I get a copy? You probably caught some things I misses.” Naming individual strengths is important, but don’t let them lead you to pigeonhole employees as “the one who’s good with difficult people” or “the one who’s never late to work.” This can blind you to other strengths they have to offer.
Consider Cross-Training Involving Those With Exceptional Skills
Jax knows how to diffuse the tension with even the most difficult and demanding end-user, but some of his technical skills could use work. Amy is known as “The Printer Whisperer” for her ability to get any printer back up, but she has a hard time handling difficult end-users. Perhaps these two could handle tickets as a team so that they could help each other by sharing their strong skills and working on their weaker ones. Mixing it up this way can help build team unity as well.
Offer Training Opportunities So Team Members Can Develop Strengths
Everyone’s training budget is tight, but try to find ways for team members to pursue training that builds on their strengths. Adam showed real promise with his first presentation at a conference last month, so perhaps he could enroll in a public speaking training program. Kate has picked up some valuable programming skills informally over the years. Perhaps she could be enrolled in a programming course to further develop these skills and have even more to offer the IT department.
Apply Individual Strengths to Achieve Team Goals
Suppose you have a big project coming up. Maybe a major business process is moving to the cloud, or a fleet of aging servers is being replaced. Break down the phases of the project into detailed objectives so you can assign the right IT “superhero” to each task. Naturally there will be issues like seniority that have to be handled with sensitivity, but giving team members the opportunity to shine not only helps the project go better, it helps morale.
While it’s important to know what your IT service desk team’s weaknesses are, knowing what their strengths are gives you a positive basis for interaction and helps you make the most of those strengths. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is ignore your team’s strengths and weaknesses and treat everyone as interchangeable. Of course IT team members should have some flexibility and be willing to stretch their competency, but if team members feel they are interchangeable parts in a machine, they’ll be disengaged and less effective.
Make sure your IT team has outstanding IT service desk and IT asset management software and you can be confident they can put their strengths to work every day.
About Laura Miller
Laura Miller is the Senior Director of Sales Operations, ITSM at SolarWinds. She works one-on-one with customers ranging from SMB to Fortune 500, providing them with a modern way to look at service management. Laura's ITIL experience and ITIL v3 Foundations certification provides her with a unique understanding of the service management industry. Her guilty pleasures are anything chocolate, ice coffee, and reality TV.
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