As an MSP, you have a strong dependency on your staff, whether it is the sales team, customer support staff or the technical team behind the services you provide. However, the better these teams are, the bigger the target they become for your competition.

Obviously, I am not going to recommend that you aim for a team that is not good enough to be targeted. What a good MSP must do is create an environment where staff would prefer to stay rather than go – and to have back-up plans in place when the inevitable does happen and someone leaves for pastures anew.

Pay and perks can set you apart

The area of great focus on is pay. Sure, your pay has to be competitive – but it is not the only item that an employee should be considering within their overall package. There are fringe benefits – how good are areas such as healthcare support, holiday pay, and flexibility around work hours? Can the employee choose to work exclusively, or for a period of time from home? Can they job-share with someone else to better fit in with family life?

Other areas to look at here are things like on-site catering, more time allocated to go out for lunch or coffee breaks at nearby facilities, or hiring a food truck to come round and give everyone a chance to buy good coffee, tea or snacks.

Create an environment that promotes individual success

On the whole, creating a workplace that is based more around deliverables rather than hours worked is far better for creating a well-rounded environment. Set targets and monitor them: if a worker carries out their assigned work in a short period of time – great. They can have more time to themselves, or you can agree with them on how they could get paid more for doing more – if they so wish. For those who struggle to reach agreed targets – sit down with them and find out why. Do they have problems in their private life? If so, can you arrange suitable help for them? Is it a case that they just didn’t really understand the objective? If so – explain a different way and make sure that they have understood – in the friendliest way possible.

It could also be that they don’t have the correct skills to meet the targets. Continuous training is a key area for a happy workforce. It is in your best interest as well to make sure that your teams are all up to speed – they must be more knowledgeable than the customer, otherwise they could become scared to talk to them. Also, provide plenty of options to attend workshops and to access training material. And, encourage them to share their findings amongst the rest of their team as appropriate.

With all this, ensure that individuals get the recognition they deserve. In many cases, this may just be a gentle “thank you” for a good job. If what the individual has done is outstanding, then something a bit more generous may be required. Avoid the situation of having a rock-star do-it-all, know-it-all highly decorated individual – this just breeds resentment within the overall team. Small prizes that range from simple certificates to vouchers to cash payments are all suitable – as long as they are all shared where they need to be shared.

Next, you need to have a listening and responsive environment. Create a place to work in which everyone is happy to speak up – to proffer ideas, to give constructive criticism, to recognise when something is going wrong, and to help to sort things out without the need to be asked.

If individuals do have problems with another worker, don’t sit on the issue. Find out the root cause. Is there something substantial to the story, in which case can the offending party should be taken into a quiet environment and talked to in order to sort the problem out? Is it a clash of personalities where the best thing is to move one or both parties into new groups where their skills will still be used, but they won’t need to be working with each other? Does an individual feel undervalued?

If so, discuss what they believe they have done and measure it against what you believe they have done. If they are right, be magnanimous and give them recognition for their efforts. If they are wrong, discuss rationally with them why their perception of what they have done does not meet the agreed objectives, and try to come to an agreement on how to move forward so that they are both meeting objectives and can then gain the recognition they will then deserve.

Always have a backup plan

One aspect that must be recognised and dealt with is that people will leave at some point. This may be due to a variety of reasons – and you must accept that it is going to happen. As such, do not fall into the indispensable employee mode.

They may be very good at what they do, and you may have done whatever you can to keep them in the team. But, if they leave and you do not have skills available to take over the employee’s responsibilities, you are in a very bad position.

Try and ensure that the very skilled person mentors an understudy, passing on as many skills as possible. Again, give recognition for this. Get them to come up with a set of policies and procedures for a handing over their responsibilities, should anything happen to them.

After all, sometimes, a person’s inability to carry out their tasks comes down to illness or accident, rather than a choice to leave the company. Test out these plans to ensure that they work and to identify holes in the plan.

Trying to manage teams of employees is never easy. However, it is far easier to lose the trust and goodwill of a team than it is to ensure a happy, well-adjusted workforce. Taking the above pointers could ensure that, even if you do not have the best salary package around, your employees may just decide that the overall quality of life is better if they stay with you.

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Clive Longbottom

Posted by Clive Longbottom

Clive Longbottom is a UK-based independent commentator on the impact of technology on organizations and was a co-founder and service director at Quocirca. He has also been an ITC industry analyst for more than 20 years.

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