5 Ways to Motivate Your Staff

What if someone told you that they have a job opportunity for you where you will be underappreciated, yelled at daily, blamed for things you did not do, and where people will forget you are an actual person? People only call for support after they are at their most frustrated point trying to make something that should work, work. The customer will try to fix the problem for minutes, hours or even days before they call and it is always urgent! How many would jump at this opportunity and accept this job? I do not see anyone rushing to apply for this job. Well, this is the life of an agent! The agents are the blood line for the whole IT department. The key is to motivate your staff.

One of my favorite movies is “A Bugs Life”. The movie is great because it lets you experience the life of bugs, from a bug’s point of view. Let’s use the same concept to experience “An Agents Life”. Every moment of their day is calculated to the minute. Service Desk management teams create staffing models to calculate how many full time equivalents they need to accomplish their SLAs. This starts the first minute the agent begins work. The agent must be on time, logged into the ACD and ready to go at the start of their shift. When they log off the ACD system for any reason, they must tell someone where they are going. This is the case even when they go to the bathroom. Oh, and they better not be one minute back late from lunch! If the agent does this too many times, then they must deal with disciplinary actions. At the end of the shift, again the agent needs to tell someone they are leaving for the day. There are cases when the agent must stay past their time, in most cases without extra pay, to finish a call with a customer. Throughout the day they are yelled at but must show empathy and help the customer fix their problem.

Agents deserve more than just a pizza party once a month or a pat on the back when a customer sends back a thank you letter. They deserve a pat on the back every day with or without a thank you note. If one agent fails to do their job, the whole IT department gets a black eye. One agent holds the representation of the IT department in their hand. Talk about pressure! It is management’s responsibility to ensure the success of each agent by leading.

Here are five tips to motivate agents:

  1. Give Them an Opportunity to Grow

Most agents aspire to be more than just working on the service desk. They have goals and want to be promoted to desktop support, engineering team or management, to name a few. Management should work to help them get promoted into those positions. Management should be a cheerleader for all agents on the service desk. If service desk management teams hear about a job opening in another department, they should advocate for one of the agents to fill the vacancy.  Service desk managers should not worry about how they are going to replace their best agent if they leave, or if they can hire someone to fill undesirable time slot such as nights and weekends. Are these issues really worth a person’s future? I think not; they deserve more if you want to get more out of them! I believe in the saying “one hand washes another”, or “one good turn deserves another”. Agents will work hard to do a good job if they realize they will get an opportunity to get promoted. Management does not have to promise a job, but they should work to get the agent a fair shot to interview for the job.

  1. Talk to Them

Everyone is motivated by something, but the only way to find out what it is by talking to them. Agents have families, worries, goals and dreams. Service desk management’s job is to find out what is going on in their lives and what motivates them. There is a saying that states “don’t bring your personal life to work”. How is that working in the real world? Everyone has problems; therefore, management needs to find out what they are and work with them to overcome those issues. There might not be anything that management can do for them, but the agents will appreciate someone listening to them and caring. The key is being sincere, consistent and genuine when talking to the agents. I used to walk around every morning to say “Good Morning” to every single agent, even if I was having a bad day. The surprising thing about doing that day after day is that the agents started to motivate me instead of me motivating them.

The higher the position of the person in management whom says thank you to the agents is, the more they will feel appreciated. This means the CIO or senior directors should stop by the service desk at least biannually to give a personal thank you to the service desk agents. I have seen it too often where a tour of the service desk is given to senior management or customers, and the management team talks over and around the agents instead of engaging with the agents.  You hear statements like “Here is where the Outlook team sits” or “Our goal is to resolve 95% of the calls within 30 seconds and this is how we are doing it”, and instead say “Let’s talk to Jimmy to see how he likes his job and how he helps make a customers’ experience enjoyable”. The agent will be ecstatic and motivated to be given the opportunity to answer questions from the CIO or customer because it shows the highest level of management cares about their opinion.

  1. Trust

What agents need from management is for them to believe and trust them, and to remember they are people too. Trust is a powerful word.

Trust is defined as:


firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something


allow someone to have, use, or look after (someone or something of importance or value) with confidence.

Once you lose trust it is hard to get it back. You hired the agent to do a job, therefore you do not need to micromanage them. If the person cannot do the job, then the agent needs to be released from their employment. If management needs to micromanage the employees, then they hired the wrong person. Yes, some agents will need to be coached to become an exceptional agent, but most will appreciate the flexibility to make a mistake and learn from their mistake. The word trust is a two-way street. The agent also needs to do their part to not have management lose the trust in their ability to do the job. The agent needs to be on time, give excellent customer service, and be a great team member to other agents.

  1. Make the Environment Enjoyable

The environment in which an agent works dictates how much agents like their jobs. If an agent likes their job, then they will perform at a high level. I went to a customer’s service desk and everyone was whispering and had their heads down. The manager did not allow the agents to congregate at their desks unless they were talking about work. The turnover was high on the service desk because of the environment.

The job as an agent is hard and every call is not the same. The agents sometimes require time to decompress after tough calls. The agents should have the right to log off the phone, take a walk outside and yell, talk to another agent, or just sit at their desk in silence. The last thing you want is to have the agent carry the frustration from one call to the next call. The culture of the service desk is a direct correlation with the service desk manager’s leadership in creating an environment they set for the service desk.

  1. Promote Collaboration

If one agent fails, then everyone on the service desk will fail. If a customer has a problem with the service desk in most cases they will not blame it on one individual but they will complain about the service desk as a whole. This means the agent needs to be able to work together to accomplish this task. If one person on the service desk knows how to fix a problem, then everyone should know how to fix the problem. The agents should have a sense of working with their family members. One example would be if someone is having a baby, then give them a baby shower. Another example would be, if someone lost their family member, send flowers, or if someone is having a birthday, throw a birthday party. The closer the agents are the more they will be willing to collaborate.


Being a successful agent is about attitude and passion. It is managements responsibility to move barriers out of the way so they can do an exceptional job servicing the customers. Next time you want to talk to an agent about a bad call or reprimand an agent for being late, think about “An Agent’s Life”.


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