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HR help desk full guide

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A guide to human resources help desks

Last updated July 3, 2024

Your HR department manages a lot – from payroll, policies and employee benefits to the overall employee experience (EX). Instead of leaving your HR reps to drown in a sea of requests, damaging employee morale, you can provide them with the tools they need to thrive.

Turn to an HR help desk for the easiest way to manage HR tickets and ensure everyone wins: HR staff get the right tools to deliver efficient and personalised support, and employees get support when needed. Read on to learn how these systems can be your team’s life raft to escape the flood.

More in this guide:

What is an HR help desk?

An HR help desk is a technology HR teams use to track, manage, prioritise and resolve employee support requests efficiently. When paired with AI, HR helps desks enable businesses to deliver 24/7 service, automate workflows, create employee self-service content at scale, and more.

HR teams can use a help desk to provide fast and personalised support to employees across the channels that are most convenient for them, like Slack, Microsoft Teams, email and more. They can integrate a self-service portal to empower employees to resolve requests independently to manage growing conversation volumes.

Just as you want to give your customers the easiest and most accessible path to answering their questions, your internal operations should allow your employees the same opportunity.

Why businesses need HR help desks

If you’re a customer-first business, your customers’ happiness probably takes precedence over nearly everything. But prioritising your customers shouldn’t lead to a neglected workforce. According to the Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report 2024, 90% of EX leaders believe an excellent employee experience is key to retaining top talent. If high-value employees feel they might be more satisfied working elsewhere, they’ll move on.

Disengaged and unsatisfied employees hurt the bottom line, but it’s a problem that has a solution. Implementing a standardised system to handle employee requests can support your broader employee engagement initiatives by providing a dedicated channel where you can hear and serve them.

Bottom line: HR help desks make it easy for companies to manage high volumes of employee requests, streamline processes and standardise service delivery and responses. The result is more efficient and effective HR teams and a better employee experience overall.

Core features of an HR help desk

Here are some of the top features to look for when choosing HR help desk software.

Five icons represent five HR help desk features.

AI and automated workflows

Just as automation allows your business to serve your customers better, it can also help your employees – 81% of EX leaders acknowledge AI increases organisational efficiency, according to the Zendesk EX Trends Report 2024. AI chatbots built into an HR help desk software can act as the first point of contact, using AI-powered intent recognition to deflect employee queries and provide support without your HR team ever needing to get involved.

The bots should be pre-trained on HR ticket data, allowing them to understand the nuances of employee enquiries right out of the box. This frees HR professionals to focus on strategic initiatives and provide personalised support when needed.

Automated help desk workflows can further enhance efficiency by intelligently routing tickets based on urgency, language, intent, sentiment and more. AI-powered workflows can also suggest pre-written responses to employee requests. This reduces HR workload, upholds service quality and maintains adherence to service level agreements (SLAs) by ensuring faster and more accurate support.

Omnichannel ticketing system

Ticketing systems built into HR help desk software can make it easy for HR team members to manage and respond to employee issues and requests. When paired with AI and automation, teams can make sure tickets get sent to the best-suited individuals.

An omnichannel HR ticketing system can improve performance and response times because all tickets are visible in a single workspace. Imagine businesses supporting employees across multiple channels – like email, Microsoft Teams and Slack – and the conversation stays connected. This ensures HR agents have key context, like an employee’s job title and past support issues, at their fingertips to deliver the most effective support over any channel.

Omnichannel ticketing systems also enable agents to change communication channels seamlessly. For example, when an employee reaches out over Slack and the agent needs to switch to email, an HR help desk ticketing system can do it efficiently without interrupting the conversation. Team members can also create tasks and alerts for each request, tag and reassign certain duties to others, and categorise requests by urgency or topic.


Staffing limitations are a common barrier for organisations looking to improve efficiency. Adding an HR help desk self-service portal helps extend a lean team’s ability to assist employees. Self-service empowers employees to find answers without involving an HR employee. HR staff can build an internal knowledge base that addresses employees’ most common questions.

The knowledge base can include the employee handbook, onboarding documents and standard operating procedures. HR teams can also suggest articles from the knowledge base to reduce the time they spend handling tickets. When teams need to create self-service content at scale, they can utilise AI to help. For example, AI saves agents time by automatically turning a few bullet points into a complete article.

Reporting and analytics

HR ticketing systems should also provide HR leaders with reporting and analytics capabilities to monitor and continuously optimise their internal support operations.

You should be able to measure:

  • Article views: Identify which articles in your internal knowledge base get the most and least traffic.
  • Requests: Determine what types of employee requests are submitted the most and to which HR teams.
  • Quality assurance and workforce management metrics: Gauge your team’s effectiveness by tracking criteria like response times, average handling times and employee satisfaction scores.

Tracking key help desk metrics can help reveal trends and gaps in service delivery and team performance, allowing you to make informed decisions that improve support operations for HR staff and employees.

Enterprise-grade security

HR service desks handle highly sensitive data, so you should implement safeguards to ensure data isn’t compromised. This data can include everything from National Insurance numbers and health insurance information to performance reviews and disciplinary records.

A breach of this data could have severe legal and financial repercussions for the company and damage employee trust. Features like access controls, data encryption and secure storage help ensure that only authorised personnel can view this sensitive information and protect it from cyberattacks.

Benefits of HR help desk software

From improved employee satisfaction to increased team productivity, HR help desk software has several benefits.

Five icons represent key HR help desk benefits.

Improves employee satisfaction

Satisfied employees are loyal, but it only takes one or two slip-ups to chip away at that satisfaction. Say an employee submits a harassment complaint about their co-worker. They wait patiently for a few days but never get a response. The employee then emails HR only to discover they lost the complaint among other employee requests. Eventually, HR addressed the complaint, but the employee experienced unnecessary harassment whilst in limbo, and their morale suffered.

An HR help desk ticketing system helps teams avoid communication gaps, offering a reliable system for handling employee requests and avoiding mistakes that negatively affect employee satisfaction and wellbeing.

Enhances employee onboarding

You likely already have a system for onboarding in place, but modern technology can speed up the process so new employees can start their actual work sooner and succeed in their roles. Here are some of the ways HR help desks make this possible:

  • Employees access help centre content to review company policies and find step-by-step process instructions.
  • Businesses can build a self-service portal where employees can manage and track their requests.
  • Businesses can provide fast, 24/7 support with AI agents to assist employees working outside the organisation’s core hours.

Onboarding is a cross-department effort that requires tight coordination between teams. HR help desk software gives you the tools to standardise the recruitment and onboarding process so the experience is smooth for every new employee, regardless of which team member is assisting that day.

Boosts team productivity

Giving employees the tools they need to be effective in their roles should be a priority for every company. An HR ticketing system contains the specialised tools teams require to be productive and live up to organisational expectations.

HR help desks use AI to answer employee questions, manage knowledge base content and intelligently route tickets to the best representative. This automation frees HR staff to focus on more strategic activities. Meanwhile, collaboration features enable seamless communication and knowledge sharing amongst team members, helping them do more in less time.

Helps with proactive issue resolution

Few things can kill employee motivation like an apathetic employer. If your employees regularly encounter issues with your internal processes and you do nothing to resolve them, they’ll quickly become frustrated and disengaged. However, proactively addressing issues increases employee satisfaction.

With help desks, HR staff can view metrics in real time, which allows them to identify potential issues before they have time to escalate. For instance, if a high volume of enquiries revolves around a specific topic, like how to make a PTO request, your team can write a self-service article with relevant instructions.

Provides actionable insights

Information gained from employee feedback is limited by what employees recognise as an issue and what’s worth improving. Collecting insights on your internal operations can fill the information gap and provide evidence to support any claims.

Help desk software provides analytics tools that let your management team track KPIs and identify trends in HR support, such as ticket response times and resolutions. Data-driven reports offer insight into how well your HR team performs, which allows you to make adjustments wherever they appear to fall short.

3 HR help desk use cases

A woman in a purple shirt and pants reads about three help desk use cases on her laptop.

HR service desks have multiple applications within a company, and you aren’t pigeonholed into using them just one way. Here are some ways companies use help desks to streamline workflows and improve the employee experience.

Standardise management of leave and life events

When an employee requests leave or reports a life event such as marriage or childbirth, standardised workflows in the HR service desk guide the HR rep through the necessary procedures.

Moreover, the system displays key employee context, including tenure, department and previous leave history. This enables the HR rep to make informed decisions and provide personalised assistance, ensuring that you meet the employee’s needs efficiently and accurately.

Streamline onboarding and offboarding

When a new member of staff joins the company, standardised onboarding workflows can assign tasks to specific team members, so the new employee receives all the credentials, equipment and necessary paperwork. Similarly, during offboarding, the software automates the process by guiding HR agents through necessary steps like revoking system access and collecting company assets.

Additionally, the increased process visibility provided by the software gives hiring managers insight into the status of new hires, facilitating better planning and resource allocation. Measurement and reporting tools embedded within the software allow HR managers to quickly identify gaps and inefficiencies in the employee onboarding and offboarding processes, enabling them to make data-driven improvements.

Securely document performance management

Managers can easily record performance evaluations, feedback and goal-setting discussions in a centralised and encrypted database within the software. This ensures that only authorised personnel can access the information, maintaining confidentiality and compliance with data protection regulations. Additionally, administrators can track any changes made to performance records using auditing tools, further enhancing data integrity and security.

How to choose the right HR help desk software

While HR help desk features are typically the first things you look at when choosing software, you should evaluate other factors before selecting one. Here are a few criteria to consider and questions to ask.

A list of ways to identify the best HR help desk software is accompanied by an illustration of a man on a bike.

Consider its ease of use

An intuitive design that features a user-friendly interface and simple navigation is crucial. This will minimise training time for HR staff and encourage self-service by making it easy for employees to submit questions, access knowledge base articles and track the status of their requests. By empowering employees to take ownership of their HR needs, you’ll reduce the burden on HR. Zendesk, for example, provides pre-trained AI that your HR team can immediately deploy to handle more requests, saving them time.

Search for a flexible system

Look for features that allow easy customisation, such as configurable workflows and reporting dashboards, that your business can implement without costly software development. This ensures the software can handle your unique HR processes and provides data that aligns with your priorities.

As your company evolves, the HR help desk ticketing system should adapt to accommodate new needs, ensuring it remains a valuable long-term tool. Zendesk integrates with over 1,500 apps and integrations, allowing you to extend the system for any function.

Prioritise a low total cost of ownership

The cost of a product can be a huge barrier for companies selecting a help desk. Unfortunately, the advertised price doesn’t always account for the total cost of the software. If you choose a free help desk ticketing system, you might discover the service costs thousands of pounds more than you were expecting throughout its life cycle.

Determine if the software has hidden fees, like necessary add-ons, or requires extensive coding knowledge to set up. A product that doesn’t need a dedicated technical team to maintain it, like Zendesk, is a more cost-effective solution in the long run.

Frequently asked questions