Despite the plethora of new technologies and services that are making life a lot easier for the business community, the linchpin to any organization’s success is still the quality of the individuals it employs. From their skills and knowledge to their customer service, few companies will survive, let alone thrive, without their support.
That’s a premise IT channel organizations should be particularly focused on. With a heavy dependence on skilled professionals and around-the-clock support needs from their key customers, employees are the lifeblood of the business. The “people” element of these organizations often is its biggest variable.
The systems and technical infrastructure provide what the management team hopes will be the optimal framework for delivering products and services, but it’s the individual employees, contractors and customers who can truly make or break the business. That’s why solution providers always should take time away from the tools and machinery of their organization each month to properly assess how their “human” resources are faring.
Are you encouraging employees to get the proper training or facilitating it yourself? Have you scheduled a discussion with collaboration partners to assess the performance of each team? Of course, spending some time with customers to discuss issues and opportunities always should be a priority. Without a solid understanding of what each of these business-critical groups need, organizations risk not only their profitability and reputation but also their long-term viability.
The “people” in your organization should also play a major part in your long-term strategy. The business plan should not only detail who is responsible for each activity, it also truly needs to highlight the training and support required to help them get the job done properly. That aspect of the strategy is commonly overlooked, but the companies that address those requirements and include realistic timelines for their completion can significantly increase their chances for attaining a successful outcome.
It’s Project Management 101: Let your people know specifically what they need to do and how long they have to do it. The final piece—making sure they know the consequences if it isn’t completed and enforcing those rules—is most important. None of that will work if your team isn’t provided the proper tools to get the job done right. That includes:
- Certifications: Do they understand the standards and have the specific skills needed to support a specific technology or vendor? Some solution providers are wary of helping their key employees attain these accreditations, fearing they will leave for “greener pastures” after completing the program. Guess what? The smartest individuals may leave quicker when they realize their long-term career goals aren’t being supported by their employer.
- General training: Is your team prepared to implement and support the latest technologies, including the third platform (cloud, big data and social media)? Have they been properly educated on all the tools and back-end systems your business uses? Cross-training your team not only enhances their value to you, but it often builds their self-esteem as well as their own work satisfaction.
- Mobility and remote solutions: Can your reps access the account information they need to close a deal from outside the office? Do your techs have the ability to open and close tickets in the field? Mobile devices and applications can help them get the job done more efficiently. While providers typically “eat their own dog food” and implement the same technologies they sell in their own business, that’s not always the case.
- Your support: While not technically a tool, when the boss has your back during the toughest of times, it matters. Loyalty has to be earned and the companies that go out of their way to encourage and care for their team members are more likely to get it.
While technology training still remains the foundation of service excellence, giving employees the skills needed to troubleshoot issues and provide quality advice to your customers is just as important. In an era of cloud and managed services, customer service improvement programs are key to retaining and upselling existing accounts. With continual development of your staff’s proficiencies, your organization also will be better prepared to address the similarly changing needs of the markets it serves.
What are you doing today to keep your employees more satisfied in their jobs? Are you likely to retain their services for the next three to five years or more? If not, the alternative involves investing significantly more of your resources for new employee recruitment and additional rounds of basic skills training. That’s not only a drain on your financial bottom line, but it slowly (or quickly, in some cases) wears down the morale and quality of your team.
Of course, the best way to avoid that problem is to take care of the great people already on the payroll. Focus your time and energy on refining your most critical resources rather than finding their replacements.