Not long ago, every top executive in corporate America had an office and a secretary who answered the phones, scheduled appointments, and tracked important correspondence. There was a clear delineation between the boss’ duties and those of their staff.
While the responsibilities of administrative support staff have evolved in response to changes in technology and business organizational structures, the need for administrative staff to keep day-to-day operations running smoothly remains high, and the return on investment to companies that hire capable administrative employees is significant.
Benefits of Administrative Assistants
The technological tools available in the workplace allow managers and executives to be more autonomous than ever before. Online calendars, mobile devices, and email have all but eliminated the need for letters and day planners. Leaders at all levels have the tools in their pocket to manage their own schedules and easily respond to clients’ and employees’ questions. Yet, these are not the tasks top executive leaders are hired to perform. Organizations that employ talented administrative assistants to complete these tasks reap a wide range of benefits.
- Centralized Communication – Because managers, executives, and employees spend many hours each day attending meetings and working on projects, they may be challenging to reach. Slow communication between employees and with clients can hinder progress and deter business. Administrative staff can provide a reliable point of contact for all parties involved, relaying messages, answering questions, and following up on leads. This consistent communication eases the burden on busy supervisors and relieves the communication frustration.
- Save Time – Executives with competent administrative staff can delegate responsibilities, allowing them to focus on essential tasks under their purview. The daily distractions of answering phones, running reports, abating concerns, and scheduling appointments are tasks that you can delegate to support staff, freeing up time in your schedule to devote to implementing a new initiative or staffing key positions.
- Clerical Expert – Every job comes with tedious paperwork, whether it be expense reports, making reservations for an upcoming conference, or preparing visuals for meetings. Procrastinating or avoiding these duties can be costly if you must book travel at the last minute or walk into a meeting without well-polished handouts. Observant administrative assistants learn to anticipate these needs and take care of them promptly, saving you money and effort.
- First Impressions – Clients and coworkers begin forming their first impression of your company as soon as they step through the front door (or talk to someone on the phone). The friendly, professional greeting they receive from your support staff is essential to putting your best foot forward.
With a plethora of benefits, why are so many companies cutting back on administrative staff?
Simply put, administrative assistants cost money. Maintaining the profitability of a business is a delicate dance and deciding where spending is most beneficial is essential. However, a quick analysis of the cost versus the benefits of hiring admin support illustrates how important these employees are. Paying support staff to run office operations draws much less from your budget than paying managers and executives to perform the same tasks. In the end, you are paying less for more efficiency and accuracy.
Developing a reliable working relationship between executives and their support staff is critical. When administrative assistants fail, it’s often because of roadblocks in communication. Assistants need to understand work expectations clearly and should feel free to ask for clarification where necessary. Onboarding your administrative staff and setting clear expectations from the beginning preempts potential misunderstandings.
Identifying the Best Candidates
The administrative support staff is most successful when they can understand and fulfill requests from the executives they work with and anticipate their needs as well. The emotional intelligence and situational awareness to read subtle changes in the behavior and body language of those they work with can be crucial to tailoring responses and defusing difficult situations.
Finding an executive assistant that understands your workflow and preferences can be challenging. However, the right person can be an indispensable asset. Because finding the perfect assistant is rare, executive assistants often follow an executive throughout their career.
As you interview candidates for this position, look for individuals with excellent communication skills who are gifted in reading people and situations. Expert problem-solvers who do not shy away from challenges and performing tasks outside their comfort zone will be able to adapt to your needs and interact professionally with employees and clients on your behalf. Administrative recruitment staffing firms can assist in the process, drawing candidates from an expansive geographical area to find the perfect fit for your organization and your professional needs.
If your office does not generate enough work to employ a full-time administrative assistant but would like to reap the benefits, there are several options you might consider.
- Sharing an assistant amongst a group of executives
- Hiring a temporary admin assistant during your company’s busy season
- Bring on a temporary assistant with the possibility of hiring them on full-time as your company grows and your needs expand (temp-to-hire option)
Despite the current trends to cut back on staff and flatten business structuring, wise executives still opt to budget for administrative assistants. With the day-to-day operations in good hands, they are free to concentrate on moving the company forward and meeting customers’ needs.
In every company, the administrative support staff is needed to ensure a smooth running of office operations. There are undoubtedly many benefits of hiring administrative staff, but why are some businesses cutting back? How does a company identify the best candidate for the support staff position? Can staffing firms help assist in the process?