staff onboarding for MSPs, a woman entering through a door

If you run an MSP you know that your staff is crucial for your business. The way they operate can either bring success or be a major set-back for your company. You can find yourself repeating the same story over and over again and going over explanation after explanation just to encounter the same fallacies and incidents occurring again and again!

If you want to turn-around your whole MSP game, start from the ground-up and follow this comprehensive planner for maximum efficiency in new member on-boarding.

How did it come to this? The answer usually lies in the way you are onboarding your staff. Some MSPs just wing it when hiring new staff, with another consequence of that being that they don’t even hire the right people for the position to begin with. This goes for your technicians, coordinators, managers…

This issue requires opening another topic but if you want to know how to hire the best remote talent, or what to look for when hiring a manager, we can provide you with the best staff or a free consultation about your work or staff management systems and documentation.

It certainly is nerve wracking having to micromanage your staff and takes your focus out of the place where it should be – growing your business! Even further, if you don’t have all of your policies in place and make sure new members are following them, it can be a threat to security and have legal repercussions.

To prevent disorganization that slows down the growth of your business and degrades its quality, it is necessary to re-examine the root of the cause. 

Presumably, you have all systems in place, created firm procedures and escalation hierarchy, document everything well through a ticketing system and you are utilizing tools and softwares in the best way, but things still do not move smoothly. 

What needs to change in order to get to that place of consistency and clock-work like work-flow is going back and creating a training (and testing if necessary) onboarding system to put things in place.

If you want to scale your business you probably want to create a onboarding system that:

  • Is consistent
  • Is reproducible
  • Has your companies values built into it
  • Has a clear framework of expectations
  • Has all the resources needed for getting the work done in one place
  • Provides a step-by-step procedure and escalation guide
  • Has an overview of the Communication Policy

GETTING STARTED – COVERING THE BASICS

Whoever is training your technicians should have already onboarded them and passed all the information on to them. What is that information?

First of all it is strongly recommended that you have the training material in writing. If you plan on hiring more than 2 or 3 people in a year, writing the guide is crucial.
Video is also a great way that shows your values. Some people prefer PowerPoint slide presentations as well! You can choose the means of communication that you like the best but what is important is that you iIntroduce your staff to the training materials that are presentable, comprehensive and engaging. A material they can refer to any time they have doubts or want to double-check something.

The most overlooked step in on-boarding is staff credentials: Before on-boarding your staff, you should have credentials already created in their name in a structured way so that your staff will be ready to go! They should be ready to log in to set up the system and see practically how things function, without wasting both your and their time running in place and doing nothing.

Basic information about the company is something that is so obvious it is sometimes not even mentioned in the onboarding material! Regardless of how simple this sounds it is important to have all the basic company info available to your new members! They should have a document at their disposal with all the basic information of the company, the phone numbers, emails and addresses.

What is the name of the company you present to your clients? How should your technicians answer the phone? 

These are the basis of a practice that builds employees confidence so they can build up their knowledge and integrate your company well.

COMPANY CULTURE – INTRODUCE YOURSELF

MSP staff onboarding, lotus blossom

Laying out the ground for introducing your new member to your company starts with creating a general feel of the atmosphere in the company so they can slowly start learning the ropes.

When we onboard an MSP there are a type of questions we would ask to get to know the company and their values. We believe they will bring value to you on your journey on improving staff on-boarding and bringing it to the next level.

  1. What are your core values and what does the company stand for?
  2. What makes you stand out from other MSPs?
  3. Do you have a business plan and a certain promise you are making to the users?

Like response time, always answering the phone, empathetic staff, fast service etc.

  1. What is your promise to your staff? In what kind of environment will they work in? What is the hierarchy, are they feeling like part of the team, is there an open-door policy?

Any promises you’ve made to your clients should be known to your staff through this document. In order to fulfil the expectations you’ve set and not feel like they’re running around in the dark, feeling inadequate for some mysterious reason, your technicians should be aware of the type of policy you have for communicating with the clients.

This should be done in detail, and if possible, with a list of all resources that will help them on that journey in an easily accessible document.

Another very important topic is the environment your staff works in. From our experience with working with over 30 MSPs and connecting them to the best talent, at Support Adventure we’ve had a unique insight of what each side needs. One of the common recurring issues were technician ring-groups, which are a disaster for both the business and technicians

Ensure that your staff is working in a distraction free environment to the best of your abilities.

If your staff is overwhelmed by the scope of their tasks and responsibilities you can hire a dispatcher or a help-desk manager to alleviate their stress.

The most important points when on-boarding new members of your MSP:

  1. Rewards and repercussions
  2. Hours, time tracking and work-from-home policy
  3. Hierarchy
  4. Job distribution and responsibilities
  5. Escalation policy
  6. Communication policy
  7. Documentation policy
  8. System and Software
  9. Security
  10. Auxiliary tasks

Rewards and repercussions

Your members should be aware of any incentives or repercussions certain behaviour triggers. Before hiring them to work with you, make a spreadsheet regarding the time of the month their payment will be sent, the exact base amount, any holidays, free days, work at home days, sick days, etc, so they have a base set up with which any oscillations will be compared with.

One other important part should be – what happens when you don’t want them to be a part of your team anymore. Do you let them know a month in advance? When is their contract reviewed? – All that should be clear beforehand.

What do you reward? What do you penalize? It should always be fair regarding the position of the person in the company and it doesn’t have to be in money. You can gamefy the approach to incentives so that the person who gets the most tickets gets an amazon card, or keeping a tidy documentation brings them 5% more monthly.

Hours, time tracking and work-from-home policy

What are the working hours, how long is the lunch break, how much time are they required to record weekly. 80%? How your staff tracks time is affecting their productivity and well being. 

At Support Adventure, we use a virtual clock-in software and Google Time Sheets where our members document the time they’ve spent working within the company on various tasks. We believe 100% every-minute time tracking is undermining the quality of your staffs work by focusing on the quantity, not the quality of their work. 

If you allow work from home (which we recommend) – write that in the document.

Hierarchy – the ecosystem of your MSP

Your new staff should know what is the hierarchy ladder in your company and who can they turn to with escalations, questions or anything else they would need in the course of the time while they’re working with you. 

A high-level overview of the company, the function of the help desk and the management system as a whole: is there a dispatcher, is there a service desk coordinator, client managers, account managers, operations managers should be known. 

Make them understand the hierarchy – offer a clear description about who is working above them and who their direct report is and who is that person’s direct report so they can understand the whole ecosystem of the company and how it works.

Job distribution and responsibilities

Jigsaw puzzle falling into place. Job distribution in new staff onboarding

Make clear boundaries about the scope of their job position.

If we look at your business as an exchange in which your staff gets a kind of security (financial or other) for the work they provide you, then these two sides correlate and can be adjusted according to the amount of effort both sides put into it.

Write a clear description of the actual work your staff will be doing in your company. What are daily/weekly/monthly/ requirements for a helpdesk technician? What is outside of their responsibilities?

As an example, here are some responsibilities a help-desk technician is required to do against the tasks that are outside of their job description:

TECHNICIANS SHOULDTECHNICIANS SHOULD NOT
Work on ticketsSell features
Fill in documentationIntegrate accounts
Escalate issues following the procedure guideManage accounts
Report to help-desk managerReport to CEO

Once their responsibilities are clear to them, they are aware of the hierarchy and who their direct contact is, they should know how to write tickets and escalate them

Ticketing system policy – how to fill in tickets and escalate them properly

What happens when your technicians answer the phone? Do they need to create a ticket immediately? The answer, from our best practice is: YES! This will make it easier to find the client and the issue in the system, especially in case of escalation.

Ticket writing and escalation procedure is most important to an MSP. Create a procedure that considers the importance of the information from both a business and a technical perspective.

Following this rule – what is the information they need to include on the ticket? Define that as precisely as possible in a way that makes it easier for your technicians and business to function smoothly.

What happens if they can not solve the ticket? Do your technicians write to live chat and hope somebody will give them an answer or that another technician picks it up from there? Is it a transfer escalation where they write notes on the ticket and assign it to someone else or leave it in the queue, so it is off their plate?

Our favourite approach is the hybrid between the both. If they work on a ticket for 30 minutes and they can not solve it, they will write in chat hoping for a quick win answer. Then, if not, they will write a complete note on the ticket and assign it to the dispatcher or leave it unassigned in the queue so it will get to a technician who knows how to solve it. 

Note writing guide we’ve created is here for you to download for free to help you make the best out of ticketing systems.

Communication policy – How do they reach you?

This is especially important for remote workers and relating to clients. 

  • Internally, your technicians should know when to use email, tickets, chat, telephone, when to book a meeting.
  • Externally, your customers should have an idea of the time it will take to solve their issue and which communication channel to utilize that matches the urgency of their issue.

What is the emergency threshold? Make it clear which issue rings all the bells in your company. 

This part of the on-boarding material should state how you want people to communicate and when:

URGENTNOT URGENT
ChatVideo meeting booked in advance
PhoneEmail
Email with URGENT as a subjectTicketing system

How to schedule calls? For non urgent matters, use Calendly to book calls regarding tasks that do not require immediate attention.

Who is monitoring tickets? Are the technicians responsible? They certainly are, but there should be another person to oversee that that will regulate everybodies tickets, including the ticket writing guide. Service coordinator, dispatcher or a manager should be in charge of that, checking that the tickets are filled properly.

This is why respecting escalation procedures and hierarchy is important – it builds consistency, good work flow and accountability

Documentation policy overview

Documentation policy for MSPs, a man picking  a book of a bookshelf

Describe what’s the consistency at which the documentation is done in your business to make sure everyone is contributing. This goes for audit procedures too. 

Your technicians need to know what happens when documentation is missing.

Make it obligatory that any in-person interaction with the clients (technician going to the office to bring a new server, cable etc.) or future steps required are documented as well.

Put everything in writing. Eliminate any ambiguity to make sure that the process that’s being followed works. The communication policy and escalation procedures you’ve employed will help in finding missing documentation and information by ensuring you have a clear pathway of communication and can reach each person in your company asap.
Systems and software resources

The system-related training resources should be a large bulk of  your onboarding manual. Having a list of softwares you utilize in your company is half of the job done. Different MSPs use the same tools differently so describe the way you want them utilized.

You should ask yourself: 

  • What are the stances you set up? What workflow do they trigger? What are the expectations of using the system? 
  • What does it look like when they are doing what you have set up for them to do according to your ideals and requirements?

You may use Connectwise, like a lot of MSPs do, but the way you are doing it can be greatly different to the one your technician was using when with another company.

On day one your members would get credentials and resources so they can look into the systems and figure out what is expected of them to do and, most importantly, following which procedures.

At their own pace they should learn this before doing actual tests – write tickets where they can demonstrate applying the procedures you’ve envisioned for your company. These are real-word situations which make a good technician and good technicians are made by doing, in practice. Not by theoretical instances but with practical effort.

Make a list of which ticketing RMM, antivirus, chat, phone softwares you use and write a procedure guide on how to utilize them. Describe the systems, the way you want them to interact with the systems and clients with a check-list that ties that all together so that they know what it looks like when they’re doing a good job and that they can be held accountable for that. 

Security policies and procedures implementation

Train your staff on how to check that a person, company, request is legit. If you don’t have security policies you should employ them immediately.

Security is something MSPs lack definition in and luckily, we didn’t hear a lot of horror stories but there sure were some chilling moments! It is very possible that if you don’t have a security policy for your technicians and a way for them to authenticate users you will end up with security breaches.

  • Find a secure way they can send and store passwords (hopefully not in ticket, but in ITglue with a log).
  • Another topic that is often overlooked is in regard to the communication between your MSP and the clients. Are the calls being recorded? If yes, you should let your customers know to avoid legal complications. 

Auxiliary tasks to fill idle time – what should they do? 

MSP staff onboarding, people rising hands, listening to a lecture

There is always work to do, use time for documentation, updates, training to enhance their skills. Have a sheet listing extra work your technicians can do in their down time or a procedure to reach out when they have idle time to fill.

IDEALLY

Have a training plan that gives them the firm introduction to the actual nuts and bolts. A standard operating procedure document that your company is using – a manual they can constantly refer to to view what your company does that should be updated as you change policies so that everybody is on the same page. If somebody is not following it you make them aware of that. 

Put a person in charge of checking this so that there is not a crack which misunderstandings can slither through.

The document should reflect the best practice of what you are actually standing for. 

Create a list of expectations and how their performance is judged. Don’t move the bar but feel free to evolve this over time. Make them feel like you’re on their side and make it easier for them to grow:

  1. Encourage writing down questions and make sure that the training material is engaging.
  2. Encourage bringing new ideas to the table and make your members feel comfortable working in a productive environment.

Make the company culture transparent, the environment productive, the hierarchy clear and communication, escalation, and security policy procedures, with all the resources they need in one place, with their credentials and accounts ready from day one, making sure they know all the basic company information.

Reach out to our founder and CEO, Eric Mut and talk about how you can optimize your practice

Categories: MSPs