Assistants As People of Influence

What’s around the corner for your career development, and how does the professional landscape as reported by the IAAP align with yours?  Do you see your professional role as one of influence?

Have you ever paused, in the midst of a full work day, to consider your role in the context of how it aligns – or doesn’t – with those of your counterparts in other cities or countries?

Read, volunteer,  network, and emulate the best … and then read and network some more

While many of us were  enjoying sunshine and down time this summer, the International Association of Administrative Professionals  (IAAP) released the results of its 2013 Administrative Professionals Skills Benchmarking Survey, which it undertakes every two years. An international, not-for-profit office professionals’ association, the IAAP has approximately 18,000 members and affiliates. Functioning for the past 70 years, the IAAP’s core purpose is “To ensure individuals working in office and administrative professions have the opportunity to connect, learn, lead and excel”.

The IAAP Survey’s 2013 Respondents

IAAP surveys Administrative Assistants, Business Administrators, Executive Assistants, Office Managers, Office or Department Coordinators and Secretaries.  The 2013 survey, which closed in late May, generated responses from 3,934 such Administrative Professionals (APs). With 0.9% of respondents drawn from outside North America, the responses reflect a primarily North American snapshot, with 92.4% of participants based in the US and 6.7% in Canada. It will be interesting, I think, to see whether these findings resonate with my readers who are logging on to Exceptional EA from 12 other countries beyond North America.

With respect to employment status, 92.6% of participants were working full time at the time of the survey, 3.8% part time, and 2.4% were retired. Another 1.2% were working either full or part time through a temporary agency.  Of the almost 3,400  survey respondents, approximately  83%  were current or past IAAP members.

The Findings: Key 2013 Results

Qualities, Skills and  Responsibilities
  1. Being an effective communicator is the most important quality an EA, PA, AA or office manager brings to the table. An exceptional professional is also approachable, has a clear vision for success, is well organised and is clear when giving direction.
  2. Technology, management and project skills are increasingly important for such administrative professionals.
  3. The responsibilities that have become more prominent for our counterparts in the last two years include general office management, coordination and/or supervision. Travel and meeting planning, project management and software training and/or troubleshooting are also increasingly prominent in our working lives.
Our Sector
  1. Over the past 21 years, salaries have outpaced the cost of living by approximately 13%.
  2. In 2009, with effects of economic recessions broadly experienced, administrative professionals encountered significant increases in the number of executives/managers a given administrative professional was required to support. In 2013, for the first time since 2005, the number of our counterparts who support between three and 11 executives decreased to less than 50%.
What’s In A Name?

The diversity and prestige of positions held by our counterparts continue to increase. The top  two job titles were as follows, with a note that the term C-Suite implies working with people who serve as “Chief Officers” of an area of critical significance to the operation: such people include the CEO, CFO, CIO,CMO and so on.

  1. Executive Assistant  (EA):  44.7% of respondents.  Note that 25% of such EAs report to a director or senior level employee  who is not a member of the C-Suite, and 19.7% of such EAs report to their organisation’s owner, president, founder or C-Suite member.
  2. Administrative Assistant  (AA):  25%  of respondents

Interestingly, IAAAP has identified the resurgence  of the  title  Secretary as a long-term trend as opposed to a one-time statistical blip.  It found that, following decades of decline in use, the number of admin. professionals whose titles contained the word “secretary” grew significantly from eight percent in 2009 to nearly 15% in 2011; this was followed by an additional slight increase in 2013. The IAAP has identified this trend as a matter for further research.

People of Influence

Approximately two thirds of respondents make and/or recommend purchasing decisions for their employers. On average, such decisions are worth approximately $20,000 annually per admin. professional or $240 million in corporate spending annually among IAAP’s roughly 18,000 members. While such decisions traditionally reflected acquisition of courier services and gift items, today’s EAs, PAs, AAs and Office Managers influence purchases related to business meetings and logistics. Hands up, those of you who have recommended IT purchases, conference facilitators and sites, travel and more. When you consider not only the costs, but also the potential to positively or adversely impact an organisation’s functions and success, this influence is significant.

Professional Development

While approximately 75% of respondents’ employers fund external training for them, and roughly 66.6% of such employers provide their administrative professionals with in-house training, the news is not entirely rosy. Such employer-provided training remains below the level of 2009, when economic declines began impacting such employer investments. In fact, nearly 20% of respondents have no employer-provided access to professional development (PD), and approximately 66% received 10 or fewer hours of PD for the period reflected in the 2013 survey.

We are a resilient bunch, however, and not without initiative. IAAP found that approximately 90% of its respondents have some level of post-secondary education, a percentage that has remained consistent in recent years. Only 35% of respondents reflected on their level of education as being complete, although the number of our counterparts who were engaged in credit course work in pursuit of academic credentials did decline slightly in 2013. Another 35% of respondents had acquired an IAAP credential, “Certified Administrative Professional”. However well resourced we are (or aren’t) for professional development, there are additional means for PD and career growth. If asked to come up with a mantra for assistants’ professional development, I might suggest something along these lines: read, volunteer,  network, and emulate the best … and then read and network some more.

  • International Association of Administrative Professionals:

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