Stop the Turnover: Maximize Help Desk Employee Retention & Prevent Agent Burnout

IT help desks have some of the highest turnover, which is very costly, pushing 40%. Why is that? John Loyd suggests several reasons, including high stress, lack of experience, and feeling ineffective. And so, how can organizations and leaders go about maximizing IT help desk employee retention?

Happy IT Help Desk Personnel

Photo Attribution: Viktoria Kazakova/


It is important from the start to fully train help desk personnel, in software, the IT environment (hardware, software, personnel), etc. as well as customer service skills. A structured training manual should be in place, along with a carefully planned training schedule. These can help take away immediate frustrations and intimidations early on with the person's experience in their new job.

  • Assign a mentor

    This person shows their trainee how things work in your organization. This also gives extra value to the mentor by assigning them special responsibilities that are deemed highly important to the success of the help desk, which can create for the mentor a sense of belonging and being needed.

  • Have help desk personnel spend time with tech support

    This makes their abilities be much more well rounded and can help them solve problems more often on their own, increasing their value to the help desk.

  • Provide training as needed in an ongoing way

    Once again, this can help keep personnel from becoming frustrated in not being able to provide successful assistance to customers.

  • Allow personnel to attend training in areas they are interested in that are not directly related to the help desk

    This can help them learn more about the company itself and help keep them interested in their work experience there.

Positive Perception

An employee will only stay at their current assignment if it remains interesting, provides something they want, affords them to be important members of the team, is not overwhelming, and is part of a team or environment that shows it cares about its people. Here are some suggestions for creating that kind of workplace:

  • Rotate jobs

    Have them do things other than the same routine and assignments over and over each day. Train them so they can answer phones, provide deskside support, help with computer issues (both hardware and software), perform hardware or software installs, etc. This can help keep the job interesting and prevent frustrations caused by constantly being in a repetitive environment.

  • Personal responsibilities/projects/challenges

    Make sure the employees feel needed and important by assigning them special tasks or projects, such as the mentor process mentioned above, even if they are not directly related to support on the help desk. This can give someone the sense of belonging and importance needed in a team environment.

  • Recognitions

    Likewise, make sure to recognize accomplishments often, and highlight good job performance. This can be anywhere from noting positive customer survey responses to how someone successfully implemented a new solution rollout.

  • Visibility

    Promote the help desk and its accomplishments within the company. The help desk members are unsung heroes that keep employees and customers happy.

  • Promote life outside of work

    Encourage outside activities and breaks from the daily help desk routine, especially when with family and friends, and support people in their lives outside of work, even inside the work place. While getting a job done is important, if that becomes the only thing a person is allowed to focus on, it will quickly become a burden they might not be willing to bear very long.

  • Create a fun work environment and encourage teamwork

    Add a game room, teams room, online hangout, etc. so people can get to know each other more when not working.

  • Extra pay

    While pay exclusively won't keep employees around, it can often be an extra factor that does help. Try paying staff 10% higher than market rate as an added incentive.


How the team is run and the perception of management can make a big difference in an employee's work life. Here are some suggestions that can help:

  • Meeting one-on-one with everyone

    To start, listen, listen, listen. Employees are people too, and like promoting outside life, they are not robots, and treating them like people and being interested in them -- their lives inside and outside work -- can help them feel a bond with their work "family" as well as others close to them. Knowing they have a supervisor that actually cares about them can create a loyalty that is hard to be broken, even if the work environment is tough at times.

  • A Day in the Life

    Do their job with them every once in a while. First, you will get some firsthand experience in their every-day environment, and you might learn some things that can help you make it better. And second, it shows you are willing to get into the trenches with them, which can help them perceive that you always "have their back."

  • Be available

    Let them know you are there for them whenever they might need. This can help them feel not only that you do care, but it might help you learn of terminal issues before they get to the point of losing the employee.


Work is work, but life is also life. The help desk can be a grueling place to work, which is why it and like customer service jobs have some of the highest rate of turnover. But with some employee-focused procedures, strategies and activities, the burden can be lightened, and even help desk personnel can be willing to "go the distance" with the team.