Are personal assistants & executive assistants “forgotten workers”?

Forgotten workerThe backbone of many organisations and a key resource for many leaders and managers are the office professionals. But are your PAs/EAs “forgotten workers” when it comes to tapping into their abilities and providing opportunities for development and progression? What can you do in your organisation to help motivate and develop this vital resource?

The secretaries, personal assistants, executive assistants and the many other office professionals perform an invaluable role within the workplace. A research study, “Still in the Ghetto”, first published in 2012, conducted by Kingston University Business School and the Global PA Association1, highlighted that many office professionals did not believe their job enabled them to use their full abilities. They felt that much needed to be done to tap into and develop the skills and abilities of the profession. I wonder how much has changed since the study commenced in 2009.

Developing an organisation’s forgotten workers

My experience and conversations with a number of PAs and EAs at a recent Global PA Conference suggests that, despite the importance of these roles, many organisations are wasting the talents of the forgotten workers in these roles by not recognising the immense contribution they make to their organisations and not providing distinct opportunities for career development and progression for this vital community. Some organisations complain about a skills gap in their companies, yet remain resistant to the development of office professional staff.

PAs and EAs Development — What’s available?

The Global PA Association provides networking opportunities through their events and professional development accreditation through their Training Academy. But what could you offer closer to home? Have you thought about mentoring?

Mentoring for Personal Assistants & Executive Assistants

Mentoring is one of the most powerful learning and change interventions, which can be used in an organisational setting. So use it for the development of your office professionals, including PAs and EAs. There are a number of approaches you could take to a mentoring programme for this community.

An Internal Mentoring Programme

You could create a bespoke in-house mentoring programme to develop your network of PAs, EAs and other office professionals. Design this type of programme to meet the specific needs of your organisation using internal resource as mentors. It would involve following a clear process to implement the programme, including training for both the mentees and mentors.

A Cross-Organisational Programme

This would involve creating a programme between a consortium of organisations, which could be in a similar sector, different sectors or within a group structure of the lead organisation. This type of mentoring tends to occur when an organisation either cannot find the right type of mentor internally, or has a low supply of mentors within their own organisation. So they need to look outside to fulfil the need.

Reverse Mentoring

Reverse mentoring is usually where a more junior or younger person mentors someone who is more senior or older. Hence the usual role model type of relationship is turned on its head. Reverse mentoring can provide a fresh perspective plus a useful perspective an individual may not gain from their current learning network.

It is also possible to blend these approaches into the mentoring you want to provide, depending on the resources available and the specific needs within your organisation.

Benefits of Mentoring

Whichever approach you take, the mentees, the mentors and the organisation all see the benefit. The benefits of mentoring we see regularly from the work we do with mentoring programmes include:

  • Mentees: greater self-awareness, improved performance and productivity, improved knowledge and skills, greater confidence and well-being, better problem solving and decision making and improved career opportunities and advancement.
  • Mentors: similar to those for the mentees plus greater satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Organisations: retention, employee engagement, leadership and behavioural development.

Forgotten workers — what’s next for EAs & PAs?

What’s next for EAs & PAs?Investing in a good mentoring approach for the secretaries, personal assistants, executive assistants and other office professionals in your organisation will generate enormous benefits and successful outcomes relating to the growth, retention and motivation of this vital community.

Remember, a focused and structured approach to mentoring can achieve amazing results and it is not difficult or particularly hard work when you follow a clear process when designing and implementing your approach and programme.

Has this excited you about the benefits mentoring can bring to both your forgotten workers and your organisation?

Get in touch to see how our experts can help you.



1 Truss, Alfes, Shantz, Rosewarne, Parr (2013 first published February 2012) Gender, Work and Organization, Vol 20, Issue 4, Pages 349-363

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