Executive assistants are the backbone of the modern business, so how will their role likely evolve in the rapidly changing work environment?
No longer a byword for secretary or PA, executive assistants are an established powerhouse in the modern business landscape.
Cuts to middle management in pursuit of a more streamlined business have seen EAs step into crucial roles and take on more strategic responsibility. They are accountable for key decisions in everything from running the day to day of the office to managing projects and even planning and implementing long term business strategy.
With access to all areas of the company, EAs are the gatekeepers and coordinators of central staff relationships. Done well they keep the ball rolling through calm or storm and know the business better than almost any other employee.
So what are the essential skills for an EA to succeed and what does the future hold for this dynamic role?
Essential skills for a successful EA
Executive assistant is no longer merely an admin role. The current day strategic function of an EA usually incorporates but is not limited to:
Providing strategic counsel.
To truly excel at the strategic role of executive assistant there are a number of key skills to accomplish:
To put it politely the expectations for EAs are often very high. In fact, the impossibility of tasks that are asked are only matched by the tight time frames in which they need to be completed. To succeed in this sink or swim environment EAs need to have a dogged resourcefulness to get things done quickly.
2. Technical expertise
EAs need to know a business inside out and interact on all levels. To do this they should have a good working knowledge of all the professional tools staff use. These could be communication platforms like Slack, system apps, plugins, CRMs and automation technology. The time pressure of this role also means that fixing technical issues so that tasks can be completed is a valuable skill set.
3. Strategic thinking
Having oversight over the broad range of business functions comes with the responsibility of making informed decisions. EAs need to have a solid foundational knowledge of every department, its problems, responsibilities and aims in order to provide the most valuable strategic insights.
4. Calm under pressure
Pressure is part of everyday life for an EA and knowing how to balance this and continue to function at a high level is essential.
Top level EAs deal with a lot of sensitive information. From HR information to financial reports it is crucial that this information remains private. Trust is one of the most important attributes of an EA and the company needs to be certain it can trust an executive assistant to be discreet at all times.
The future for EAs
The role of EA has shifted dramatically from its initial inception and there is no suggestion that this evolution will slow down any time soon. Companies are moving rapidly to keep up with their industry competitors and successful EAs will need to move with them - adapting their role to respond to business needs and likely taking on greater responsibility for upper management. The following are some key areas that will change the EA role:
Potential threat from AI
This is not a threat confined to executive assistants but it is definitely a worry - particularly for those more confined to the traditional job role. AI assistants that can efficiently organise meetings, plan diaries and other administrative tasks are increasing in sophistication all the time, Many business leaders are coming to view them as cheaper and more effective alternatives to having a full-time member of staff.
There are however many aspects of an EAs role that AI would be incapable of facilitating. Notably the human interaction, requiring emotional intelligence, lateral thinking and more strategic capabilities. EAs who build themselves a role that takes on significant management and strategic oversight are unlikely to be outmatched by AI, instead working alongside them to be more productive.
Adapting to technological developments
Digital transformation has been a priority for businesses over the last few years. Process integration, automation and paperless systems are now essential to office efficiency and they need a competent hand at the helm. In a constantly progressing industry landscape having a full understanding of the digital systems required for success will be a huge asset.
Similarly, technology is becoming increasingly central to office communication. Remote working, multinational companies and work travel mean that conference calling and accessible online systems are fundamental to the business. It is likely that EAs will be progressively more involved in planning and maintaining these sort of digital connections.
EAs are increasingly moving away from solitary supporting roles to becoming managers and leaders in their own right. As they become more of a key strategic partner in the business they will have more projects to run and will be in constant contact with almost all staff members.
To learn more about recruiting the ideal EA or enhancing your skill set get in touch with the recruitment specialists at AccountAbility today. Executive assistants are the backbone of the modern business, so how will their role likely evolve in the rapidly changing work environment?