No longer considered a fancy name for “Secretary”, the role of the Executive Assistant is one which holds true power and responsibility. And in the ever-changing corporate landscape, the need for skilled EA’s has never been greater.
Massive changes in infra-structure and global boom and bust over the last 30 years has seen the EA role develop from simply administrative support to someone key to the prosperity and success of any business. As middle managers lost their seats in the wake of corporate belt tightening, Executive Assistants were first to step up to the plate and take on crucial tasks which have direct impact on the running of organisations.
Executive Assistants are more educated and ambitious than ever before. Many EA’s are graduates or have post graduate qualifications, as well as rich experiences and diverse skillsets. All of this qualifies them to make key decisions, whether about the day to day running of the office itself, planning and implementing long term business strategies, and everything in between.
An EA is a motivator, mentor, interpreter and coordinator, as well as a manager, often responsible for a variety of their own projects. They have access to all areas of the business. As a trusted confidante to the highest echelons of the organisation, they are party to the juiciest company secrets, while also being considered a bridge between those at all levels of the company hierarchy.
A good EA must have total commitment to company core values and be able to communicate successfully with all staff and clients. They are the peacemakers and the change agents who can remain cool in even the most pressurised situations; mediating, inspiring, cheerleading, coordinating and supporting during everyday operations or periods of instability. Above all, ensuring that everyone stays focused on the long-term success of the business.
Future trends for Executive Assistants
Process integration and automation are making the running of organisations more efficient than ever before, and paperless offices are now the norm. But these systems still require someone to be at the helm, ensuring that everything is running smoothly and that information can be accessed by the right members of staff. In an area changing so rapidly, full understanding of the systems involved will be essential to the success of the organisation.
Social media will continue to dominate the marketing and communication side of businesses, and Executive Assistants will be expected to stay current and relevant in a fast changing culture. Not simply tweeting and updating at the right times and on the right networks but be forward thinking and able recognise new trends ahead of the competition.
The internet, smartphones and the resulting ability to work remotely has made the world a smaller place. More diverse relationships with partner organisations across different time zones means that the working day will become a more fluid concept, with many tasks being completed remotely.
The role of the EA has already evolved to become less solitary, with managers and EA’s often working as a team rather than EA’s simply supporting in the background. This trend will continue, with EA’s tasked with running their own teams and becoming leaders in their own right. With upper management being squeezed to get results, Executive Assistants will be handed more and more projects of their own to oversee, while managing a diverse workload.
EA’s will be more responsible for developing and implementing new ways of working, tweaking company structure and processes to ensure targets are met and all available tools are fully utilised. With access to a global marketplace, EA’s will be increasingly expected to have an understanding of different cultures, and be able to communicate with people from around the world.
Evolving Job Roles
As companies move rapidly to keep up with changes within their industry, the successful EA will adapt their role to plug the gaps in staff skills. Quick to respond and willing to take on more and more diverse tasks, critical thinking skills are crucial. Superior project management will also be key, as EA’s take on more responsibility and play a part in decision making on behalf of upper management. The successful EA needs to be forward thinking and open to new ideas, and be able to communicate those ideas effectively to other members of staff who might be less amenable to change. With growing responsibilities come rising salaries, which will go some way to justifying the heavier obligations.
Many industries are looking for EA’s specific to their particular area. EA’s that specialise in certain industries will become increasingly sought after as business processes become more clearly defined. In particular, companies within the IT, financial and pharmaceutical industries require more relevant experience.
There has been a massive cultural shift in the perception of EA’s and they are no longer seen as sitting on the side lines of company operations. Executive assistants have the capacity to make a huge impact on the company they are working for, whether they consider it a role for life or as an effective launchpad into a managerial career.
A trustworthy and skilled EA is a highly sought-after asset. More and more companies recognise that a good EA is just as crucial to success as a high performing CEO as well as being a member of staff that can provide a massive ROI. Those who have proven their skills negotiate the best packages, and it can be a lucrative career choice for ambitious and dynamic people who are adept at bending and adapting their approach to the changing needs of a company.
With a growing reliance on talented support staff, the evolutionary role of the Executive Assistant will continue to flex in response to changes in company structure, the economy or wider culture. Executive Assistants are here to stay and are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
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