A brief diversion on my time management theme, to discuss an issue that’s been bothering me for a few days…
My workplace recently went through an efficiency process, and it was a great excuse to make me really investigate and assess the way I do things. So often we take for granted that the way things are always done is the way they should continue to do them, without taking the time to work out how it can be done quicker, better and simpler.
This process especially saw me change the way I was collating work. As part of my role, I would send out a document to a number of staff, requesting they provide their updates to me by a certain date. On that date I would then create a new document, and copy and paste all of the changes I received in the number of separate documents that were sent to me, and reformat the data. I changed this so that I send out a hyperlink of the document, and request that people update the final document directly. Then my only role is to do a last check on the document once it’s due to make sure there are no errors, reducing my time significantly. Not only this, but sending out a hyperlink of the document to staff reduces the storage space in your email system, and now I’m in the good books with the IT team!
Something this simple, saved me at least one hour every week. Just like that.
However, what I realised with this change, is that other staff interpret efficiency savings differently, and instead of improving a process, are choosing to eliminate the admin work they complete for staff from their role entirely.
This concerns me and got me thinking.
In the current climate and since the Global Financial Crisis I have seen a number of EA’s, administration assistants and receptionists have their roles made redundant, due to the processes they used to perform not being required anymore. I returned to an office recently and re-assessed the receptionist role, which was the position I started in, and a role I felt I had refined and made into a really decent job to start in a company with all the tools you needed to learn and progress your career further. The processes put in place were smart, efficient, and kept the front desk working like clockwork. What I found when the role was re-assessed was the current employee had put all of those efficiencies into the too hard basket – had seen them as not being required and the role could make do without them. It resulted in a number of issues to do with couriers, mail tracking, and invoices – quite basic things that when done well shouldn’t even be noticed in the company. When done poorly they are a huge headache for staff. When removed into the too hard basket without telling anyone, they don’t become a problem until there is a major issue, which is unfortunately what happened in this case.
To me, the proof lies there. Maintaining an efficient role is paramount and it is your responsibility. Admin can be seen as basic, and this is why a lot of lazy people move into this role, and find themselves shopping online all day, irritated when they have to stop what they are doing to answer the phone. What an ideal job right? Well yes, until you’ve removed everything of importance in the role and the company realises it doesn’t need you. By then you realise the dole doesn’t provide you with enough income for that online shopping addiction you’ve developed.
So if, during an efficiency process, we decide instead to remove the task completely, doesn’t this also affect the other people around us? As an example, if we choose to ask all of our staff to book their own travel, does this not only have repercussions to our monitoring expenses, budgets, accuracy and risks (ensuring key staff aren’t travelling on the same flights) but also to our staff feeling valued that someone will assist them to ensure their trip is accurate and exactly what they need?
And why are some people so keen to see the roles they’ve completed for so long disappear? Does this not make them also feel undervalued, and not important?
In a time where customer service seems to be lacking, is the service an Admin role provides to staff something that can be really appreciated by staff when done well?
I recently read an article that said due to the recent popularity of the TV Show Mad Men, the role of the Secretary was becoming even more important and the traditional role is being revived. Top level EA’s are in such demand, that they can demand high salaries and challenging ‘Executive style’ type roles. In conjunction with this through, Virtual Assistants are also increasing in popularity, where online sites provide you with a dedicated email resource to help with any admin assistant requirements, reducing the need to a physical presence in an office.
I would have thought that this role of Secretary – which has been around for decades – would have found a strong foothold in offices around the world, but it seems to me that the generation of people that are now in this type of role don’t have the pride in their work to do the job well, or drive to make the role a great asset to a company’s customer service culture.
What do you think? Is the admin role as I know it extinct? Or can I not see that it is making way for something bigger and better, and I’m just focusing on the worst case scenario?