Ask for perceptions of a stereotypical secretary – office bimbo, short skirt, files nails or office dragon The traditional secretary answers the phone, takes dictation, does a bit of typing, filing, makes tea and a few appointments. Before WW1, secretaries were men – the ‘keepers of secrets’. This adds more weight to the role, but that has diminished over the last 40 years or so. Having a secretary became a status symbol – like the company car. But does a newly-promoted young executive know how to use the secretary he has been given? The role has changed dramatically with the advent of the personal computer – now everyone can type their own correspondence. But who knows the correct layout of a letter? What comes first on the page – the date or the addressee? Should the subject line be centered or not? And who decides whether the company house-style uses open punctuation or not? Who sets up the filing system – use an alphabetical, subject, colour, date or other scheme? Do they have a bring-forward, follow-up or ‘tickler’ system in place to ensure things don’t get forgotten? The organisational structure is key to an effective, smooth-running office. Run out of paper, petty cash (or coffee) and the office grinds to a halt. Yesterday’s secretary has evolved into the ‘office professional’ of today – a role with many names such as Executive Assistant, Office Manager and often the Manager’s PA assumes responsibility for these tasks. The time saved by not taking dictation is now spent ensuring the office runs smoothly – often taking on HR, Facilities and other management roles which previously had a tier of middle-management to run it. The effects of technology have affected secretaries more than most – as managers and executives now type their own letters and e-mails there is more time to do other things, like troubleshooting when things go wrong with the photocopier, or assisting other staff in creating a powerpoint presentation or resolving a query with an excel formula or macro. Given that most traditionally-trained secretaries can touch-type, their keyboarding skills are usually faster than other managers and a last-minute report can be dictated straight onto the computer whilst their knowledge of software is often more wide-ranging than their managers. Today’s office incorporates ‘Administrative’ staff as well as Office Managers. Those who don’t have the wide-range of training and experience fall into the former category – those that do into the latter. Admin staff often don’t have the problem-solving skills a trained secretary who knows how to research for solutions does. In the corporate world, today’s office professional often takes minutes of meetings straight onto a laptop – Board Meetings and Steering Groups still need a secretariat – who said the ‘keepers of secrets’ were no longer applicable to today’s office! In many meetings it is the comments and discussions that are not minuted behind closed doors that affect policy, and the trusted PA or office professional is privvy to those, more than other managers.
All businesses experience peaks and troughs and sometimes need additional resources to help them through the peaks. Outsourcing these needs is becoming more and more popular as technological advances mean this can be done remotely or virtually. As businesses are pressurised more and more to scale down overheads, increasingly staffing and accommodation comes under the spotlight as one of the most expensive resources an organisation needs. Therefore, outsourcing requirements on an ad-hoc basis is an effective way to manage the peaks. Of course, you can hire a temp from an agency which is probably the first port of call when needing additional admin resources. However, a temp is employed by an agency and can choose to do the work or not. After the first day or two, there is no obligation on the temp to continue in that assignment – the agency can send a replacement who has to learn the ropes all over again. The agency will charge a fee for supplying the resource who may be good or may not….. If the first one is no good of course you (as the client) can request a replacement – who has to learn all over again – at your expense. Have you ever wondered why you can be unlucky enough to get a series of ‘useless’ temps? Perhaps they are not employable as permanent staff….. Another solution would be to recruit a permanent part-time member of staff – but in addition to the agreed salary you have to pay for their holiday, sickness absence, training courses and having made this investment they can then leave and move on to something better. This is on top of being comitted to paying that salary whether times or good or bad….. Casual labour is a less reliable option – and now even more complicated with Inland Revenue rules and regulations making a ‘cash-in-hand’ option risky. Businesses have to be more accountable for cash transactions nowadays and severe penalties if caught. With no contract of employment and only a verbal agreement, if something goes wrong, you have no redress – and that goes for confidentiality as well as reliability. So outsourcing is an attractive option – you get the same person each time and they don’t need to spend time learning the ropes each time, an effective office professional will keep notes each time they work for you. A VA or Virtual Assistant can work for you on a regular basis, remotely or on your premises if you employ a freelance professional which means you don’t have to provide a desk, computer or other equipment and you only pay for the hours worked – no sickness, holiday or training to fund. And when your business has a quiet period – perhaps around Christmas, you don’t have the added expense of that salary to find! If you need help on a regular basis, many VA’s or freelance secretaries have a retainer agreement at a lower hourly rate than on an ad-hoc basis and you have the assurance of knowing that administrative support is there when you need it. Many of the tasks undertaken by a PA can be done virtually by a VA – perhaps travel planning, diary management, audio-typing, research, event management, powerpoint presentations, mailshots and many others – do you really need someone sitting there occupying space on a 9 – 5 basis?
Already alluded to the limited skill-set held by an Admin Assistant – many of today’s young people have grown up with computers and can find their way around the Microsoft office suite, but don’t have the problem-solving skills, experience and training to know how to research solutions or use initiative to resolve a crisis. In the same way as an accountant or solicitor has to take examinations to prove their knowledge of skills through training, an office professional is similarly qualified – having undergone a comprehensive training course to back-up the same software skills as a self-taught university graduate with no office experience. Today’s office professional can support the business by contributing to the overall running of the office. The experience of tried and tested methods, procedures and operational practice means the office professional is able to contribute to the organisational structure, not merely service it. A good organiser can ensure the effective back-up of existing systems, or implement new ones if needed. An office manager can ensure that other staff can get on with their work, uninterrupted by crises created by running short of supplies or not keeping track of deliveries or lack of accessibility to complete record keeping. A true reflection of an effectively-run office is where the administration is transparent and you may wonder what the admin staff actually do – but take that support away and you will soon notice the difference when you run out of paper, materials or a delivery doesn’t show up on time! Of course, most business-owners are entirely capable of doing their own administration – many did so for years while building up their business and were able to keep a handle on all the differing strands of their organisation; however it can be argued that the time taken to enter information into a database with 2 fingers on the keyboard would be better spent on growing the business, employing an office professional to build the database in less time due to their quicker keyboard skills. This applies across the board – to filing invoices and entering expenses. These basic tasks can be undertaken by you as the proprietor, but wouldn’t the time be better spent getting out and marketing, promoting the business to prospective customers? Ask yourself, how valuable is YOUR time – spending it on administration will save you the cost of employing an additional resource, but at what cost to the business? A good secretary, PA or office professional (call them what you will) can be the lynchpin of the organisation – having all the information at their fingertips. They know who the suppliers are, the best person to speak to and their terms, when they were last paid and probably the range of their product. Of course you may know this too – but you can offload the need to keep track of this information by using an office professional. They often know a lot of other things too – who is doing the long hours in the organisation, who spends most of the day surfing the internet and how much you have spent this year on stationery – a mine of useful information to whom most of the staff turn when in need of details…
The office professional is a trained, qualified, experienced support system whose value will be exceptional if you give them the opportunity to use their skills and initiative. The art of delegation comes hard to many self-starters who like to keep tight control on their business, but in the same way as you would expect an assistant manager to use their initiative, a good return will be given on the investment in admin staff who are professionals. You wouldn’t employ someone unqualified to look after your accounts would you? Then give a free reign to an office professional and you will be surprised at what they can offer…. I have 30 years experience, working in the corporate world for a high street bank, for a local authority in the public sector and for a sole-trader Antique Dealer – and others inbetween. This experience can be brought in to help your business – a re-vamp of your organisational systems can bring efficiencies you may not have envisaged – and cost a lot less than a management consultant! My experience can be utilised to improve your organisation – I offer a free consultation with prospective clients where we discuss your existing administration systems and look at ways to make an improvement – or perhaps you just need support on an ad-hoc basis? My range of services are available to you either on a hourly rate or by project. Contact me to discuss your needs.
Here is a sample of the services I can offer, by no means exhaustive. If the support you need is not listed here, please get in touch to discuss your requirements – it is impossible to list every service I provide. My hourly rates are between £15 - £22 dependent upon the work undertaken and are by negotiation with the client. The use of initiative involves finding out if something is new – the first time I was asked to help an employer publish a book I didn’t know how to do it – but I had the resources to find out and the book was duly published – we learn as we go along!
The previous slide listed some of the services I offer – view my website for a more comprehensive list. My services are offered on an ad-hoc basis, as and when required with no minimum contract or alternatively on retainer. For a slightly lower hourly fee, clients can book my time on a regular basis for those who have need of ongoing support. This can be half a day a week, one day a fortnight or whatever suits you. My time is booked in advance and is therefore guaranteed – however payment is required in advance on retainer. This means you ‘retain’ the guarantee of my services on whatever regularity you require. Give me a call to discuss your particular requirements. Secretary Outsource strives to provide a complete administration services to its clients with a guarantee of data security and confidentiality, and has built its reputation on recommendations. If you are pleased with the support given to you, please tell your colleagues. Thank you for your time today. Any questions?
Secretary Outsource Presentation
<ul><ul><li>Rachel Brown FIQPS </li></ul></ul>much more than a secretarial service……
<ul><ul><li>The traditional secretary </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How the role has changed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The effects of technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Today’s office </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The office professional </li></ul></ul>
<ul><ul><li>Why Outsource? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Temp Agencies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Permanent Staff </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Casual Labour </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is a VA? </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Admin Assistant v the Office Professional </li></ul><ul><li>What does today’s office professional do? </li></ul><ul><li>Office Management </li></ul><ul><li>How valuable is YOUR time? </li></ul><ul><li>The lynchpin of the organisation </li></ul>
<ul><li>Use an office professional </li></ul><ul><li>30 years experience </li></ul><ul><li>The value of training and qualifications </li></ul><ul><li>What can I bring to the organisation? </li></ul><ul><li>Consultancy </li></ul>