19 March 2008

Our Changing Role

I don't think any of us will be surprised with these survey results by OfficePro, which show that "nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of managers polled said responsibilities for support professionals have increased in the last five years".

It is also reported that, "Fifty-seven percent of executives also said administrative staff have greater career options than five years ago".

I thought these survey results tied in nicely with my article "Thinking Outside the Job Description Box".

I was speaking with a manager and he related a story about a person who worked for him, but he was quick to add that she was a "secretary" not an "assistant". I asked him to explain what he meant and he said a secretary just completes a job they are told to do, but an assistant goes beyond that and does a task with little or no instruction. He felt an assistant was a greater help to him. It was nice to see that he could see the difference.

As we near Admin Professionals' Week, OfficePro offers the following ways to recognize support staff. APW (April 20-26):

"-- Give thanks. Express gratitude for your assistant's contributions and achievements in person or with a handwritten note.
-- Do lunch. In addition to thanking your assistant, take time to discuss his or her professional goals and potential career paths.
-- Host a party. Plan a companywide event to recognize all administrative staff.
-- Encourage networking opportunities. Offer to pay for your assistant's membership in relevant trade and professional associations.
-- Provide ongoing educational opportunities. Encourage and, if feasible, pay for your administrative personnel to attend professional development seminars and conferences. Support your staff in pursuing industry certifications and relevant coursework."

I have worked at a few offices where they hosted a luncheon for the assistants served by the managers. It was an easier way to recognize the group as a whole rather than individual bosses buying their assistant gifts.

I think of all the things on the list above I like the last two: Paying the membership to your professional organization and providing educational opportunities.


Anonymous said...

I work for a department of about 30 staff, which includes 6 managers. I get bombarded with questions, left, right and centre, but always try to help out.

I really am the "Go-To Guy" and have to wear many hats. If there is a computer problem, they usually go to me first, since our IT Department is really busy and 99% of the time, I can fix the problem.


Richard Rinyai

Anonymous said...

I'm with you...not at all surprised by the results of the survey.

What does surprise me a little is the secretary vs. assistant distinction that manager makes. In my experience--or maybe this is more of a local phenomenon?--they are not necessarily different roles. "Secretary" is simply regarded as an outmoded, possibly even sexist term that has been replaced by the less controversial "assistant." It's more a semantic preference than a different position.

That said, I've been known to intentionally use "secretary." I'm a virtual assistant, and the most effective way to explain what I do to someone who isn't familiar with VAs is to say "I'm a freelance secretary." They understand instantly. Now, VAs are more than simply typists; most have a specialty area (writing and editing in my case) or experience in a niche industry that makes them more than "just a secretary" in the sense the manager means. But it's still a handy description.


Patricia Robb said...

I was a "secretary" in the 70s and there definitely is a difference in what we do now than what we did then. I think this manager was referring to that distinction.

A friend of mine often longs for the day she could just be a "secretary" again, because along with the name change came a lot more responsibility and expectations.

I still on occasion refer to myself as a "secretary" because like you stated, sometimes it is just easier to explain to people what you do by saying "secretary".

The role of the virtual assistant is very interesting to me and I can see it playing a big part in the way we do business in the future.

Thanks for your comments. I like hearing from my readers and getting their feedback.