Personal assistants, known as PAs, take centre stage in any business and in the lives of the people they support, but are often undervalued and overlooked.
The role of a PA is essentially to provide full administrative support to senior management teams, leaving the top players to concentrate on business development.
According to Aberdeen businesswoman Rosemary McLennan, their role can have a huge impact on their boss's productivity.
“All too often the role of the PA is overlooked, but the influence, experience and knowledge some have can be crucial to how a company functions,” said Rosemary.
“A good, experienced PA can effectively support the boss and team through delicate high-level negotiations, speed up timelines for actions and massively impact productivity on a day-to-day basis.”
Increasing financial pressures have forced many companies to reduce the number of their assistants but this could be detrimental, warns Rosemary.
“Companies downgrade the PA role to cut costs, but in my mind this can prove to be a grave mistake, particularly when the PA’s responsibilities have increased and diversified,” said Rosemary.
“Companies ignore the power of the PA role at their peril, these assistants are worth their weight in gold.
“Because managers are becoming more self-sufficient through the use of today’s technology, a PA’s role has become more that of organiser, supervisor and sometimes trainer rather than that of the traditional typist.
“PA’s are regularly carrying out managerial duties as part of their role.”
To be a successful PA you need to be articulate, organised, trustworthy, discrete and have the ability to filter, assess and carry out a multitude of tasks, often simultaneously.
Ian Orme of Aberdeen based Thorpe Molloy Recruitment said executive and personal assistants should be valued because of their skilled contributions, and can expect to earn between £28k and £40k depending on experience levels, sector and at level of management they are supporting.
“The top payers throughout any industry are essentially very busy individuals – so any support assisting with diary management, minute taking, screening calls is a huge relief,” said Ian.
“As well as being task-orientated people, PA’s communication and organisational skills must be excellent.
“As more business is performed remotely and internationally, they are often more proficient users of presentation and information sharing tools such as SharePoint, Webex, Skype or social media than their managers and their attention to detail means that many tasks can be delegated with confidence.”
According to Ian, PAs also need to have a degree of insistence to ensure deadlines are met or sales calls are screened before distracting the manager.
Having a positive working relationship and a common degree of trust is also essential.
“PAs are often a shared resource, used by several managers, and the role is central to a well-organised team, alternatively it can be working for a single manager on a 1:1 basis, dealing with business and personal matters, requiring a high level of discretion and confidentiality,” said Ian.
“PAs can be a great “touch point/sounding board” as they know what colleagues are discussing or are worried about – they hear the chat which managers are often removed from.
“All too often I hear from managers that they only appreciate how crucial the work performed by their PA is when that support is no longer there.
“They realise how much of their time is consumed with administration which detracts from the time spent on their actual job.”
A summer showcase for PAs, organised by Rosemary McLennan of Aberdeen PA will be held in Aberdeen’s Treetops Hotel on May 16. Ian and his team from Thorpe Molloy Recruitment will be on hand to offer recruitment advice.