How well equipped were you when you landed in the starting blocks for your current job? With thanks to all who participated, here are the results of my latest weekend poll.
My third annual poll on assistants’ onboarding
This marks the third consecutive year I’ve asked assistants around the globe about your onboarding/job orientation experiences. You’ll find I’ve included the 2017 and 2016 results in the data below.
For 58.5% of respondents, there was little to no onboarding
This year, 24% of you reported that you received no orientation at all, compared to 31% of respondents in 2017 and 30% in 2016.
Cumulatively, 58.5% of this year’s respondents reported receiving (a) no onboarding at all, (b) part of one day, or (c) a single day dedicated to onboarding. That means you had to be ready to roll up your sleeves and hit the ground running. According to at least one respondent, that’s reasonable. As s/he put it, “When you’re at the executive assistant level, onboarding is pie in the sky. At this level you should know exactly what is expected of you.”
This year, 17% of respondents were able to rate their orientation experiences at 4 or higher, with 5 being the highest possible ranking. That’s down from almost 20% last year. At the other end of the spectrum, 29% of respondents gave their onboarding experiences the lowest possible rating.
What resources should an assistant expect?
People perform better with benefit of resources such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and access (electronic or otherwise) to a procedures manual, employee handbook and organisational policies. Yet, for three consecutive years, only 13% of respondents reported that they had access to a procedures manual when they were new on the job. Some reported that they’d subsequently developed such resources for future reference.
When it comes to SOPs, there’s been a consistent year-over-year decline in assistants who had access to such procedural guidelines when new on the job. This year, only 15% of respondents reported access to SOPs when they were new in their roles.
On a positive note, we’re seeing slight increases each year in the percentage of respondents who had access to their predecessors upon assuming the role. 28% of you reported having the benefit of being able to turn to the person who held the role before you.
What types of jobs are we talking about?
69% of this year’s respondents reported that they’re Executive Assistants (EAs). 13% identified as Personal Assistants (PAs), while 11% are Administrative Assistants, 5% are Managers or Office Managers and 2% are Chiefs of Staff.
The majority of this year’s respondents, 65%, agreed with the statement that expectations of job preparedness increase with the level of responsibility held. 29% of you believe that this depends on the employer.
What do people value in onboarding?
Plenty! Check the data below for a summary of what assistants valued in terms of their onboarding experiences, and what they wish had been made available. You may do a courtesy to not only future hires, but also the organisation, by sharing these recommendations with your HR colleagues.
POSITIONING ASSISTANTS TO CLEAR EARLY HURDLES AND START PERFORMING
Note: Information below reflects the percentage of respondents who selected specific responses from multiple choice options. In instances where more than one person offered similar responses to an open ended question (and there were a number of such instances with this latest Weekend Poll), I paraphrased such responses rather than duplicating all of them.
On a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (ideal), how would you categorise the quality of the orientation you received when assuming your current role?
- 5 out of 5 (ideal ): 6% of respondents, compared to 11% in 2017 and 35% in 2016
- 4 out of 5: 11% of respondents, compared to 8% in 2017 and 30% in 2016
- 3 out of 5: 29% of respondents, compared to 29% in 2017 and 13.5% in 2016
- 2 out of 5: 25% of respondents, compared to 16% in 2017 and 13.5% in 2016
- 1 out of 5 (poor): 29% of respondents, compared to 34% in 2017 and 8% in 2016
- Note: 2% of respondents selected “Other” in 2017 and offered comments.
How much time was provided for your orientation/onboarding?
- None: 24% of respondents: none, compared to 31% in 2017 and 30% in 2016
- Part of 1 day: 16.5% of respondents (the first year I’ve included this option, based on responses in 2017)
- 1 day: 18% of respondents, compared to 19% in 2017 and 28% in 2016
- 2 days: 16.5% of respondents, compared to 14% in 2017 and 14% in 2016
- 3 days: 11% of respondents, compared to 11% in 2017 and 5% in 2016 (In 2016, another 8% reported four days’ onboarding)
- 5 days: 7% of respondents, compared to 5.5% in 2017 and 5% in 2016
- 2 weeks: 7% of respondents, compared to 5.5% in 2017 and 6% in 2016 (In 2016, 2% of respondents reported a month of onboarding)
- Note: In 2017, 14% of respondents selected “Other” and described their experiences.
Did you have benefit of a procedures manual?
- No: 87% of respondents, consistent with the results in both 2017 and 2016
- Yes: 13% of respondents, consistent with the results in both 2017 and 2016
Did you have benefit of access to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?
- No: 85% of respondents, compared to 77% in 2017 and 75% in 2016
- Yes: 15% of respondents, compared to 20% in 2017 and 22% in 2016
- Note: In both 2017, 3% of respondents selected “Other” and offered comments.
Did you have access to the incumbent after s/he departed the role?
- No: 52% of respondents, compared to 60% in 2017 and 48% in 2016
- Yes: 28% of respondents, compared to 26% in 2017 and 22% in 2016
- N/A; I’m the first in the position: 20% of respondents, compared to 11% in 2017 and 28% in 2016
- Note: 3% of respondents selected “Other” in 2017, and 6% did the same in 2016 before providing comments.
Which of the following best categorises the nature of your admin. role?
- Executive Assistant: 69% of respondents, compared to 48% in 2017 and 58% in 2016
- Personal Assistant: 13% of respondents, compared to 18% in 2017 and 18% in 2016
- Administrative Assistant: 11% of respondents, compared to 11% in 2017 and 18% in 2016
- Management Assistant: 0% of respondents, compared to 7% in 2017 and 3% in 2016
- Chief of Staff: 2% of respondents, compared to 2.33% in 2017 and 3% in 2016
- Legal Secretary/Paralegal: 0% of respondents, compared to 2.33% in 2017 and 5% in 2016
- Manager or Office Manager: 5% of respondents, compared to 2.33% in 2017 and 8% in 2016
- Note: In 2017, 9% of respondents selected “Other” and gave other position titles. In 2016, 5% of respondents identified themselves as Executive Secretaries.
Is the statement that expectations of job preparedness increase with the level of responsibility consistent with your experience?
- Yes: 65% of respondents, compared to 64% in 2017 and 63% in 2016
- It depends on the employer: 29% of respondents, compared to 25% in 2017 and 28% in 2016 (when 3% selected “Other” and offered comments)
- No: 6% of respondents, compared to 11% in 2017 and 6% in 2016
What change(s) would you recommend to the onboarding/orientation you were provided?
Readers recommended providing the following.
- Induction/orientation/onboarding program, with documented procedures/a procedures manual
- Ready access to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
- Access to policies/a policy manual
- Employee handbook
- Contact information; overview of all departments/divisions
- Technology check list / list of software programs used in the role, along with information for account set up/access guides and training
- Mentor or buddy system
- Introductions to colleagues (there were suggestions that this may be best handled by someone other than one’s principal)
- Opportunity to meet and speak with one’s predecessor
- List of EA LinkedIn groups or forums to follow
- Job shadowing option
While one reader recommended pacing the onboarding process so that a newcomer is not overwhelmed, another offered this perspective: “When you’re at the executive assistant level, onboarding is pie in the sky. At this level you should know exactly what is expected of you.”
What did you most value about the orientation you received?
Here’s what other readers said their organisations are doing very well. Note: While acknowledging that some readers offered comments about poor orientation practices, I’ve summarised and am focusing here on what’s been well executed.
- Thorough onboarding plan, with a journey map so you knew where you were going, and what to expect when
- Introductions to colleagues and an understanding of the broader business
- Current handbook
- Time with the incumbent / sufficient handover
- Mentor/buddy to answer the newcomer’s questions / a point person to whom the new colleague could direct questions
- Documentation of expectations of the role
- An outline of “who’s who” and what they do within the organisation
- Procedures manual
- The principal’s (boss’) demonstration of trust in the newcomer
- A principal who is a knowledgeable resource and readily available to the newcomer
- The gift of time to settle in before tackling significant responsibilities
- Colleagues across the organisation who were patient and steered newcomers in the right direction / took the time to explain their roles / took the time to get to know the newcomer / gave the newcomer a better understanding of procedures and duties / steered the new colleague in the right direction
- Arriving to find IT accounts established and functioning on day one on the job
Interested in more on previous year’s polls on assistant’s onboarding/orientation experiences?
Click on any of the four links below.