How to Set Up an Employee Help Desk
Sharlyn Lauby

By: Sharlyn Lauby on November 24th, 2020

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How to Set Up an Employee Help Desk

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

When we are in a typical workplace and need help, we can usually walk around the corner and ask someone for assistance. With increased numbers of employees working from home, “walking around the corner” just isn’t possible anymore. But employees still need help and organizations still want to offer assistance.


One way that organizations can achieve this is by setting up a “help desk.” We’re familiar with the concept of a customer “help desk.” It’s a combination of technology and human support to help customers with questions and issues. The same principle applies for an employee help desk. The goal is to use technology and human support in an efficient and effective way to take care of employee needs.


There are three notable benefits to using a help desk for employee support:


  • It’s good for the employee because they can get answers to their questions and they’re not spending their time being frustrated.
  • It’s good for the business because everyone is focused on getting the work done, which benefits customers and the bottom line.
  • Finally, it’s good for the HR department because they can streamline processes, creating better consistency in HR messaging.


6 steps for setting up an employee help desk

Creating an employee help desk doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require some planning. Here’s how organizations can set one up:


1. Using your employee service philosophy, decide what your employee help desk will offer. Resist the temptation to put too many offerings in your employee help desk. Everything cannot and should not be a help desk offering. That being said, there are things that definitely make sense to be handled by a help desk. For example, benefits enrollment. Whether it’s the initial enrollment for a new hire or annual enrollment for current employees, the help desk can answer common questions about forms and deadlines.


2. Determine your staffing and technology needs. An employee help desk might benefit from a two-tier structure. The first level is technology based. Employees are able to find their own answers using FAQs or knowledge portals. The second level would be reserved for unique situations and handled in a person-to-person interaction. An example of the two-tier structure might be that the help desk technology can explain to an employee the form(s) and steps they need to follow to request tuition reimbursement. But if an employee wants to discuss whether a specific degree is covered under the tuition policy, that might involve a person-to-person chat.


3. Establish a priority system for inquiries and requests. While all requests need a response, they don’t all have to be answered immediately. Technology can assist with setting expectations by providing an automated reply after an employee makes a request. Technology can also direct employees to an FAQ in case the employee missed it initially (i.e. "here are some articles related to your request"). Ultimately, HR departments will want to establish a priority system for responding to inquiries. This will often be driven by the department’s deadlines. For instance, at the end of the month, expense report questions might take a higher priority, so they’re processed in the same month.


4. Reach consensus on standard and personalized responses to employees. Another area where technology can bring tremendous value is in automated replies. HR departments can create standard replies for common questions that employees would receive. The response can be tailored to the organization’s brand and personalized with data from the employee’s file (i.e. first name, department, etc.). If you’re looking for a case study that shares just how much personalization can be implemented, check out the stories of the University of Texas and Travelex who implemented a shared service model with help desk activities.


5. Give employees a human option. Technology can do a lot of things to help employees. Organizations should take advantage of the benefits of technology. But there might be some moments when employees need to speak with a person, and they shouldn’t be denied that option. An example might be if an employee would like to request a department transfer. Perhaps the first response is to send the employee the appropriate form. But if they have additional questions, then they have the option of talking with someone in human resources.


6. With employee service offerings in mind, track key metrics. Think back on the HR department’s customer service philosophy and the help desk goals to establish key metrics. A couple of examples might include asking employees about their awareness of the help desk. A low score could be an indicator for HR to do more internal marketing about the service. Another metric would be to ask employees to rate their experience, similar to a net promoter score. These metrics can be used to expand the program offerings or make adjustments.


An employee help desk creates a more human experience

In today’s hybrid work environment, an employee help desk can offer onsite and remote employees quick responses to their questions. And that’s what everyone wants.


Employees are able to focus on the work, which in turn, allows HR to focus their in-person interactions on those activities that require a “human” resource. Better resource allocation in HR creates opportunities to expand service offerings to the organization. The combination of all these things helps the employee and the organization achieve its goals.


Setting up a successful employee help desk is exponentially easier when you have a way to effectively manage cases. For a deep dive into how HR case management works, download the whitepaper, Understanding HR Case Management.

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About Sharlyn Lauby

Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc., a Florida based training and human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent. Sharlyn sees human resources as a strategic partner - the marketing department for a company’s internal clients rather as administrative. During her 20+ years in the profession, she has earned a reputation for bringing business solutions to reality. Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources for Right Management Consultants, one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms. She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development. Publications such as Reuters, The New York Times, ABC News, TODAY, Readers Digest, Men’s Health and The Wall Street Journal have sought out her expertise on topics related to human resources and workplace issues.