Staff management is something that certainly is a core of every business and especially in working with MSPs we’ve come across some models of management that just do not work for the benefit of the business nor do they benefit their staff members.
One of the things that make your staff managing practice worse is 100% every minute tracking.
It’s understood that every companies goal is to scale their business and make a profit, but the way businesses are working toward this goal is often very flawed due to an unproductive environment and unrealistic expectations.
Make the best environment for your employees and your clients will be happier too
The quality of the effort your staff puts into working on tickets is much more important than the sheer time they spend or pretend to spend on a ticket.
As a leader of your company, you can contribute to your staffs’ productivity by improving the environment and implementing practical changes to the way you manage your staff
The reason why 100% every minute time tracking does not work to your advantage and creates a bad environment is because:
- Sets an unachievable standard for your employees
- Stresses them out
- Makes them more inclined to “cheat” and put in unproductive times
We’ve seen that it makes no difference whether your technicians are juniors, working on simple tasks or senior high-level engineers, they will probably not want to stay in an environment that sets unrealistic expectations for them and will often become unmotivated and want to leave.
This leads us to the question of what kind of people you want working for you.
As a company that provides staff to MSPs, we’ve connected more than 30 companies with technicians that went through our testing and training system.
This experience gives us a unique position, where we can have a clear insight into what both sides in this contract require in order to be productive and make noticeable results.
Finding, hiring and keeping quality employees is key to leading a successful MSP
At Support Adventure all of our staff goes through a training and testing system that tells us if the person has the required knowledge and is ready to start working with MSPs.
The other part of the hiring process is making sure there is cultural compatibility that will set them for success once they start working for MSPs.
Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is communicating with MSPs about the needs of the staff and setting clear boundaries, ensuring that the way they manage the staff creates a comfortable and productive environment for technicians to do their jobs well and feel good.
It is become our practice to turn down MSPs that do not meet these requirements for a simple reason that, after some time, the technicians will leave their workplace on their own, leaving all parties dissatisfied.
This is especially the case with high-level engineers, people who’ve managed projects, have their own companies and know their value.
People like this love working in IT because it is exciting and challenging. Because they can do honest work and see the results of their effort clearly.
Micromanaging them and making them log every minute of every hour of their working day stamps out this spark because it:
- Makes them feel like they are not appreciated
- Creates an impression they are being policed
- Turning their focus away from actually doing the tasks
High level engineers don’t only consider salary when choosing which MSP to work for, they also highly value work ethics and a healthy environment
They will be familiar with the way you manage your staff and know what to expect as soon as in the first interview with your MSP company.
From our experience, this first impression is crucial when hiring experienced technicians and having an interrogation-style interview can ruin your chances in hiring great technicians.
Setting realistic standards will make management easy and more straightforward
Time tracking in staff management is a great tool that helps you estimate and have an insight into your employees’ productivity but only when used correctly. You are investing money into someone working at your help desk and it’s natural that you want to have a clear idea if they are wasting your resources or not.
Before you undertake this kind of assessment there are things that you need to keep in mind when setting standards for your staff. Some of them are:
- How much time you think is necessary to spend on a specific issue and implement it
- What is the difficulty of the tasks that are part of your day-to-day
- Your employees need idle time and time for themselves
Setting realistic standards and achievable goals makes a more comfortable environment for your staff and thus makes them more productive.
You can easily check if your standards are attainable by putting yourself into their shoes and thinking about how much time you, as a leader, actually spend working. Take into consideration the little things that keep you going throughout the day and how they help you be more proactive and make better decisions. The same goes for your staff.
Setting an unrealistic standard and extreme policing or micromanaging may push your staff to:
- Lie about when tracking their time
- Track absurd things like going to the bathroom or making coffee
- Feel dissatisfied and thus less productive
Being fully aware of these issues and being willing to take action to improve it you will set a good example and propel your business into further, overall success.
Watch your employees and business flourish by letting them work from home or remotely
The things that we talked about in the article so far hold the same weight whether your staff works from an office or from home.
As we are in a pandemic and the current situation sets some new norms for our daily life and businesses, more people and companies are forced to or decided to work from home or remotely.
Working from home has a lot of benefits and top tier engineers are very aware of that. Whether you are hiring remotely or locally, more and more people are turning to businesses that have an at least 2 workdays work-from-home policy.
From our experience, working remotely is greatly beneficial for MSP businesses and it allows them to hire talented technicians for half of the price they would in their national environment. This is great news for staff as well because it still gives them a higher standard of living than in their home countries.
We have great experience in this field and can offer consulting, staff and jobs for MSP companies and technicians.
Working from home sets a unique environment and our policy is as long as there is no noise around you, you have a power source and stable internet you are good-to-go!
However, this type of work also has some challenges
- Some people are parents and need to occasionally tend to their children
- Some people need to take shorter breaks more often
- Some people are more comfortable working different hours than others
All of this makes us human and requires us to be managed in humane ways. From our experiences, some systems and procedures work miracles when it comes to time tracking and we encourage MSPs to adopt them
A good time tracking system and having regular meetings are crucial in this case.
Ticket notes will take your business to the next level
One of the best ways to check if your staff members are doing a good job is by looking into their ticket notes rather than their timesheets.
The quality of the tickets determines the further success of your MSP and is a clear determinator of whether something is not working right.
To ensure that your staff are solving tickets in the most efficient way you can take practical action by following the suggestions below:
- Make a solid framework
- Write a step by step procedure
- Set realistic criteria when it comes to escalation
- Educate your staff on how to improve their weaknesses
When a ticket is written well and documentation is on point it makes it easier for you to assess whether the time your staff tracked is truly how much work they’ve put in and as well, gives you the right idea whether or not your standards are attainable or not.
The optimum – what do the numbers say
At Support Adventure, we are constantly in touch with both the technicians and the MSP businesses they are working for to ensure that they are both satisfied.
Because we can see both sides’ perspectives, we have a good insight into the difficulties and challenges that come with proper staff management and a good work environment.
What we’ve learned so far is that most of the highest-level engineers prefer the following
Spend 65-80% of the time on tickets
Our top-tier engineers have a lot of knowledge and they want to put it into good use for the benefit of your company, and their personal satisfaction which they get from improving themselves and completing complicated tasks. Apart from working on tickets, they want to broaden their contribution.
Some of that energy they are happy to spend on working with other departments like sales, process improvement, internal systems…
|Percentage of the time spent on tickets||Impression|
|0-50%||The company is chaotic and does not take their work seriously so they will not take my effort seriously as well|
|60-80%||The company is responsible and leaves me enough time to work on more important and interesting issues for me, making me happier and more productive|
|90-100%||The company has set unrealistic expectations for me and I can not attain them without feeling miserable with no time for myself|
Identify your staff’s strengths and where they shine
Your most experienced and knowledgable staff has a variety of skills and a brilliant mind trained to work in a systematic way. This means that they can spot the flaws and weaknesses of your business and improve the way it functions.
They can greatly contribute to improving automation, documentation, internal systems and basically make them more stable, easier to manage and failure reporting more verbose.
Have a disturbance-free environment where they can focus
Other than policing and 100% every minute time tracking reporting another issue that can ruin your technicians’ productivity and focus is a constant distraction.
Things like ring groups, being torn between 2 or more tickets and not knowing their role in your company are a big red flag when it comes to creating a productive environment and thus making your clients satisfied.
Feel free to have some idle time
We are all human, engineers too! Enjoying a cup of coffee while gazing through the window, going for a short walk or running a small errand is a daily need for all of us.
Working full time means a person spends 8 or more hours of their life, 5 or more days a week working for your company. It is impossible to avoid and sustain from all the things that make us human.
Fulfilling our daily needs makes us happier and sets us up to be more focused and energetic.
Having a couple of short 15 minute breaks, having time for a proper meal will not do any harm to your MSP business, on the contrary- It will greatly improve it!
How do we do it successfully at Support Adventure
At Support Adventure, the system we use can serve as a good example of healthy time tracking. We’ve made reporting easier, expectations clear and the criteria reasonable.
We’ve organized a reporting system for our staff to follow during their working day that makes them log in the time they’ve spent on a specific task in the increments of 15 minutes.
For example, if a customer reaches out asking for a password reset, the technician will spend 3 minutes resolving the issue, and the next 5 writing the ticket notes and making sure that everything is tidy. These 8 minutes are rounded up and logged in as 15 minutes, or 0.25% of an hour.
This means that they can work from 8 am for 1 hour or 4x15minutes and log that, get up from their table and make a cup of tea or coffee, spend 15 minutes refreshing and then log in the time they started working, which is in this case 8.15 am.
We’ve seen this system work excellently with both staff management and time tracking and our staff.
Some of the tools for great time tracking are:
Make a timesheet for your staff to log time into, explain the basics of your system and set a realistic standard making sure there is enough room for them to breathe, avoiding micromanaging.
Focus on making your staff accountable for their progress and judge them by the actual results.
Be realistic about your goals and criteria when leading an MSP
At Support Adventure, as a part of our procedure, we are talking with technicians and MSPs as often as possible to make sure the cooperation is going well and to encourage both sides to communicate issues they might encounter.
This is important because it allows us to work on the solutions for staff managing.
Following this example, it is important for your business for you to have a realistic view of the state your staff is and be in touch with the challenges they are facing.
You can only do this with communication. It can be scary, awkward and unpleasant both for the leader of the company and the staff member to open up and talk about their pain points.
Nevertheless, it is necessary!
After 15 minutes of discomfort, you will be left with a clear idea on how to drastically improve your business longterm.
To summarize, here are the good vs. the bad MSP time tracking practices:
|Environment||Supportive, clear communication, culturally compatible, friendly, strong sense of community||Policing, stressful, closed to constructive conversations, no teamwork and cooperation|
|High-level engineers||Distraction-free workplace, engaging tasks, idle time, respect, working on improving the system||Multitasking, dealing with low-level tasks, working solely on tickets, no time to blow-out steam|
|Working from home||20-100% of the time, having regular online meetings, clear communication, comfortable environment, know how to write tickets, can reach help anytime||0% of the time, no possibility for remote work, unclear ticket notes, no communication with teammates, bad time tracking records|
|Ticketing system||Structured, solid guidelines, clear procedure, attention to detail and quality of notes, well organized, escalated well||Chaotic, no clear instructions in an “every man for himselfs” manner, focus on speed rather than quality, badly documented|
|Time tracking systems||Have space for idle time, realistic criteria and expectations, does not require extra work to record, clear instructions||Micromanaging, 100% time tracking, unrealistic criteria, disregards staffs needs during their workday|
Become a good role model for your employees and inspire them to do great work!
Turn to yourself for insight and think about the ways you are managing your time at work yourself. The quality of the effort you put into completing tasks certainly depends on your environment, and you can apply the same principles of a healthy workplace when managing your staff successfully.
Work on creating a good time tracking plan and give out clear procedures on how to complete them, educate your staff on how to be better at time management and give them space to breathe and re-energize.
These are all good practices and will bring tangible results, improving the general satisfaction of both your employees and clients.
Your clients can tell whether the person they are speaking to is happy and in a good place or dissatisfied and carry themselves as if they are being forced to do something they do not want to.
Have you need for consulting, staff or interesting ideas to share, feel free to book a meeting to contact our founder and director Eric.