As your company grows, you need to maintain an appropriate level of help desk tier 1 staff to provide your employees with frontline support for basic computer and IT issues.

Users will expect the help to be there: Research by Robert Half Technology and HDI indicates that today's users demand IT support to be available anywhere and at any time. Here are some tips to help you determine your staffing requirements for help desk tier 1 support, so your team can be highly available.

What does your environment look like?

Every organization is different. The diversity and complexity of your IT footprint, as well as the number of employees, will affect how many help desk tier 1 support staff you should hire. If you're rolling out new computers and a slew of enterprise applications using multiple networks and operating systems, help desk tickets will be much more varied than a company using primarily one type of PC with one operating system.

An overall employee-to-help desk ratio of about 70:1 for organizations with a single operating system and network is considered suitable. That number drops to 45:1 for enterprise networks using a number of operating systems and no consistent hardware standard.

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The number of help desk personnel should then be distributed into tier 1 and tier 2 professionals with the following considerations in mind:

  • Are you centralized? The layout of your corporate network makes a difference. An organization with 75 employees in three different offices is less centralized than one with 225 workers in a single office. In many cases, help desk tier 1 support provides assistance over the phone, so their physical location can be a moot point. However, even in a highly distributed organization, centralizing the help desk tier 1 support function may make it easier to manage help desk tickets and oversee all IT support effort.
  • What is the relationship between help desk tier 1 support and other IT professionals? At most companies, help desk tier 1 support is part of a larger ecosystem of technical assistance. The other members of the team will also influence how many staff members you need. For example, if you don't have a dedicated help desk manager, it probably means that help desk personnel are in charge with organizing, prioritizing and managing tickets, as well as fixing problems. It could mean you need more personnel. If you have a smaller help desk tier 2 team, it could help to have some "hybrid" tier 1 members, capable of assisting tier 2 personnel on certain projects and offering increased flexibility beyond the usual tier 1 tasks.

Help desk tier 1 staff are the critical front-line force for fixing the most common sources of technological disruption. An accurate staffing approach can help cut down on lost productivity while users wait for IT issues to be resolved, and can also encourage tech teams to focus more on preventive and lasting solutions than emergency quick fixes.

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