By Roddy Adair, Director at Hays Personal & Executive Assistants…
The question ‘is this the end of the PA?’ has become all too familiar over the past few years as organisations have prioritised digital transformation, questioning whether the role of the EA/PA still has a part to play in the modern working world.
The focus on digital transformation has collided with the challenges organisations faced at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic as many were forced to make redundancies, often affecting admin and business support staff.
This has left many PAs and EAs left questioning their roles. However due to the vast amount of change in the world of work over the last 18 months in particular, the role of the PA/EA is evolving – and for the better.
So, what’s changed?
The market for PAs, EAs and admin staff was undoubtedly affected by the pandemic, much like other industries – however appetite to hire for these type roles has returned and high-calibre PAs and EAs are very much in demand.
The difference is the duties and skills needed by an EA/PA have changed, and as such we’ve seen the roles evolve into much more strategic and influential positions. We’ve also seen some organisations take the chance to change the name of these roles into business support, team assistants or business manager.
The role has certainly evolved and now we see specific requests for specialists’ skills. Without the volume of typical activity such as travel booking and diary management – PAs and EAs are freed up to excel at a managerial and strategic level – adding more value to an organisation. Throughout lockdown as companies adapted to home-working – many upskilled to support on areas such as office management, HR, health and safety and internal comms – making role remits much broader than they were before.
How can PAs and EAs build upon their skills?
Employers are looking for professionals who can offer strategic support to executives – whose own evolving roles as leaders means they need their assistants to operate as true business managers.
Here’s my advice for PAs and EAs who are looking to build their career over the next 12 months:
- Look to gain specialist expertise
Employers are increasingly adding to the traditional PA and EA remit with additional responsibilities in specialist functions such as HR and finance.
A background in these areas will provide you with the opportunity to add insight and business acumen to your day-to-day role as well as traditional PA support. If you don’t have a background here, try to get involved in projects that enable you to work closely with specific functions – and pay attention to what makes different areas of your organisation tick.
This will stand you in good stead for a competitive salary and put you well ahead of the competition.
- Embrace new technology
Automation is revolutionising the world of work and organisations have sped up their digital transformation efforts during the pandemic. For the PA and EA profession, it could transform careers for the better, freeing up time from administrative tasks such as diary management and allowing you to be more analytical and managerial.
Pre-empting how new technology will potentially affect both your organisation and your own day-to-day role is an important step for utilising automation to its best advantage. Taking responsibility for innovating your role will also stand you in good stead, allowing you to free up your time for more strategic duties.
It’s key to also take advantage of as many technology training opportunities that you can. This will help you ‘futureproof’ your skillsets and remain adaptable to the implementation of any new tech tools or software. Technology is always changing – so stay up to date.
- Hone your soft skills
Despite accelerating technological innovation, soft skills such as communication, emotional intelligence and relationship building remain key to any PA or EA role.
Excellent soft skills allow you to build strong alliances with the teams and individuals you support, and help you align with other departments across your organisation. In turn, this will help you better understand how you can add value and where you are most needed.
Identify which soft skills you need to work on and upskill in these areas. If you are applying for a new role, be prepared to show how your soft skills helped achieve wider organisational objectives.
For the PA/EA profession, there’s plenty to look forward to and with more employers continuing with their recruitment plans – now could be the time to make your next move.
And if you are looking to upskill or hone existing skills, you should attend next month’s PA Life Skills Academy. This two-day event will provide you with access to top trainers in a range of different disciplines. Find out more here and book your place today!