Help Desk Organizational Structure for Success

Before you meet your new help desk team, I suggest you understand the help desk organizational structure. Understanding and optimizing the help desk organizational structure is an important critical success factor in achieving team and company goals. The first step is to obtain an organizational chart from your supervisor or the Human Resources department. You should also obtain a staff list, which includes name, job position title, salary, and hire date. With this information you can determine many important factors such as supervisor to staff ratios and seniority.

Help Desk Organizational Structure: Supervisor to Staff Ratio

A significant factor in employee engagement is the supervisor to staff ratio. If the ratio or span of control is balanced correctly, supervisors can provide proper coaching, direction and mentoring. Focused supervisors with correctly sized teams will allow good communication to improve efficiency and reduce issues. If the supervisor to staff ratio is too high, your team could suffer engagement, moral, and employee productivity issues.

So what is the right supervisor to staff ratio? There are many factors to consider such as work complexity, staff demographics, staff engagement and budget constraints. If the supervisor is a subject matter expert for one or more technical areas, they will be engaged more providing technical direction. This engagement is increased if the customer support provided by the staff is frequently complex and the staff have unique job function roles within the team.

Help Desk Organizational Structure: Demographics

The demographics of the staff will also determine the ratio. If the staff tenure average is under three years, the staff will require a higher level of coaching and work direction. If the team has a higher percentage of contractors, you may have higher turnover and less company engagement. A higher percentage of staff working from a remote work location may require more management overhead.

Help Desk Organizational Structure: Budget

Your department budget is also an important factor in determining the supervisor to staff ratio. Budget constraint can lead to supervisor layoffs and organizational restructures that lead to staff ratios that are higher than ideal.

For a help desk with complex procedures, specialized job roles and the need for management approvals, the ratio is typically not more than 10 to 1. For a help desk with repetitive tasks, a generalized job role and scripted escalations, the ratio is typically not less than 15 to 1.

Prior to meeting your new help desk team you should have a good understanding on staff seniority.

Seniority can be based on position title or date of hire. It is important to understand feedback when you meet your team. Comments from staff that have a long history with the company can provide great context about issues but could also be complacent. Staff which recently joined the company may have experiences from another company and identify work practices that are an issue.

Help Desk Organizational Structure: Job Descriptions

One of the best ways to understand the current expectations of your staff is to review their role job descriptions. A well-defined job description is critical to define the primary functions and duties for the position. So what should be reviewed from the job descriptions? You first should determine if there is one general job description or are there multiple job descriptions based on experience and specialty skills. Just having one general job description for the entire help desk staff, will not promote a career path. It means as help desk agents season and mature in their position they will not have the opportunity for internal position within the team. In a mature help desk structure, you will see job positions have a level 1, 2, and 3 tier level experience modifier or you may have a junior and senior level. Level 1 or junior positions will perform routine duties under direct supervision. As staff become more senior this can change to indirect supervision. Industry standard help desks will have 70% to 80% level 1 or junior help desk agents with a 20% to 30% of more experienced or senior level help desk agents.

A well-defined job description will describe the most important abilities and skills necessary to be successful in the role. A job description is also a good foundation to use for measuring performance against. During interviewing candidates for open positions, an accurate job description will improve the result of attracting ideal candidates that meeting the qualifications you are seeking. This will also lead lead to better hiring decisions and less issues down the road. For a help desk position some of the key abilities and skills are good communication, problem solving, specific technical knowledge, and customer service skills.

Help Desk Organizational Structure: Generalists’ vs Specialists

There are two different job categories to consider. The first is called a generalist. Generalists possess a small or medium amount of knowledge about a wide range of technical topics. A generalist is best positioned providing first level support to callers with issues. For smaller help desks almost all of the staff are generalists to provide proper coverage. In medium to larger companies, generalists are positioned on the front line taking the call first. If the issue is more complex, issues will be escalated to specialist or second level support. A specialist will have high level of information related to a small scope of technical topics. A specialist can also be someone that has a specific role within the help desk or IT department. These roles could be major incident management, problem management, knowledge management or such.

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