I have taken part in a couple advisory board meetings. These meeting are typically held by an educational institution in an effort to get industry advice and what needs to be taught to students in order to keep them up to date with technology and what employers are looking for in a potential candidate so that they can teach what is needed for the work place.
Many technical classes are in place, and it can be quite easy to determine when to implement something new like Windows Vista or Server 2008 in to a class curriculum. Many people on these boards simply provide insight in to their corporate vision. “We’re not rolling out Vista until second quarter 2009”, which can make it easy to determine when to implement a corresponding class lesson.
The one thing that keeps coming up in many discussions is the need for communication skills, both written and verbal. One academic outline had project management listed, but advisory board members insisted on communication taking precedence, especially at such a fundamental level.
Help Desk professionals not only need to be able to convey methodical information over the phone with various users, but they also need to document such calls. Typically done in call-tracking software packages like TrackIT, proper documentation will help with recurring problems and develop a reference database for unique and complex issues. However, it can be frustrating to try and decipher a trouble ticket that is grammatically incorrect and hard to understand.
Not only is communication skills important between support and end users, but it plays an important role between IS/IT departments and their respected personnel. Conveying information from one level of support to the next is key to solving problems. Lets not forget supporting an application and then relaying proper information to the development team in order to resolve problems with the software.
Much of what has been addressed has been applied to the actual role of the IT professional, but what about knowing what ‘tact’ is or being able to get along with fellow team members? Certain topics of discussion don’t need to be communicated to the end user, and blame only inhibits the trust-building relationship between IS and internal/external customers. Some things are better left unsaid.
What’s a supervisor to do? Many IT staff have never been properly coached. Many people, at all levels, have a hard time addressing conflict so they leave things as status quo and let them come to a boiling point when all you have to do is address the issue.
I know a manager that had team members approach her about a problem staff member. He simply had all the answers and was starting to annoy his peers. It wasn’t until the supervisor let him know about the issue that he took it upon himself to fix it. He went and purchased books in order to address his attitude. The change was noticeable and ultimately improved his demeanor thus helping with personal relationships with his co-workers.
We could all use help with our communication skills, but knowing is just half the battle.