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Employee experience: internal help desks and the future of work

The future of work is now, and the workplace is anywhere we work. Since last year, Zoom’s daily active users skyrocketed from 10 million to a jaw-dropping 200 million, and it became an overnight household name. Employers and employees alike are finding that shifts made in the past year have slowly cemented into sustainable reality.

By Mechele Neeley-Scholis, Senior Vice President, People Partners

Published March 4, 2021
Last updated October 18, 2021

With new ways of working, employers must adjust with savvy and speed to create the right employee experience—one where the people who make up a company feel connected, supported, and included.

Good news: In our recent Employee Experience Trends Report, we identified key guidance for HR teams to make decisions and promote the best possible experience for employees.

Foster cross-team collaboration

It’s now a pretty common story: Company XYZ had a sensible, multi-year, well-plotted course for digital transition. And on a dime, it had to institute that plan overnight. Our research shows that 75 percent of company leaders, in fact, agree that the pandemic compressed the timeline for acquiring new technologies. For tech decision-makers, the number leaps to 90 percent, and a third of them say their digital plans have accelerated by four or more years.

What is an internal help desk?

Many of the tech decision-makers are folding internal help desks into their accelerated digital plans. This is a centralized hub for employees to access information around processes, products, and services offered internally.

That may differ from a standard help desk, which is a centralized team within a company that serves employees or customers en masse, using a software product to organize conversations.

Even companies that weren’t investing in internal help desks prior to COVID-19 have changed plans and are now planning to start. Key areas of focus include tools to boost employee productivity (33 percent), helping internal departments manage requests (32 percent), and expanding live support for employees (31 percent).

The imperative of connecting distributed teams has driven these decisions. Teamwork no longer hinges on contact with the person you sit next to. To be digital-first and virtual, we have to evolve our mindsets and behaviors and simplify how we approach our work.

Embrace and adapt to volatility

Two crucial concepts for internal help desks go hand in hand: volatility and agility. At peak volatility in 2020, HR help desks saw 11 percent more fluctuation in employee support request volume compared to 2019. HR help desks are also managing more data overall.

Your people want to figure out how to thrive in these circumstances: We believe that the best way to adapt to change and uncertainty is to build flexibility into tools and processes. That allows everyone, from HR teams to the employees who are dedicated to thriving, to respond to everything in an agile fashion. “The habits employees and managers are forming now will have a long tail and influence the way organizations operate for years to come,” said Teresa Anania, VP of Customer Success at Zendesk.

We must always remember that in HR, even when we’re talking tools, we’re talking about supporting human beings.

According to our 2021 Employee Experience Trends Report, high performers are 21 percent more likely to have adapted their help desks by adjusting the channels they offer or their agent workflows. This offers so much actionable insight—much of it tied to self-service.

What internal help desk buyers want in 2021

Most IHD buyers plan to ramp up investment this year. Top areas where they plan to invest:

  • Tools to increase employee productivity (79 percent)
  • Automating business processes (73 percent)
  • Helping internal departments manage requests (68 percent)

The trend toward self-service has been growing for years, for both employees and other customers. People want to help themselves. We believe this is especially relevant in this time of heightened uncertainty. Our Employee Experience Trends Report found that at peak volatility, HR help desks saw 11 percent more fluctuation in employee support request volume compared to 2019.

Harvard Business Review wrote at length about a pandemic of burnout. In their study of 1,500 respondents across 46 countries, 85% said their well-being had declined, and 56% said their job demands had increased.

High performers are 60 percent more likely to offer self-service for employees, and high performers are 37 percent more likely to have content in their help centers. Your employees who need help may be facilitating school for their children or caring for an infant or an elderly relative—they can go get the answers to the questions at 2 a.m. if that’s the right time for them. And, just as in a business-customer relationship, when your employees help themselves, it deflects tickets, freeing up space for your HR teams to work on high-level issues.

Adopt the right tech and tools

Now more than ever, tools are a make-or-break aspect of supporting your employees and the ongoing health of your business, no matter the challenges or the volatility we’re facing. Despite the rapid evolution that so many companies have achieved, 1 in 4 HR help desk agents says they don’t have the right tools for remote work. Luckily, most HR teams report plans to boost investment in engaging employees, with 61 percent expecting a bigger budget in 2021.

Our research has found that high performers are:

  • 33 percent more likely to use an analytics solution
  • 51 percent more likely to use developer tools
  • 58 percent more likely to use apps and integrations to extend their CX solution

Zendesk's internal help desk helps companies help their employees. Learn more.

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