Assistants Adding Value

Adam Fidler delivered another excellent session for us yesterday on being more strategic in our problem-solving and decision-making. We asked him recently for his view on how assistants can add value within the context of the wider organisation. As always, Adam’s response offered insight…

“There’s much talk at the moment – as there always is – about the true value, and worth, of a good Personal Assistant or Executive Assistant.  With organisations downsizing, looking at cost efficiencies and head-count, there is often a strong argument for reducing or eradicating office and admin support altogether, including the PA role. 

Just before Christmas, we saw a provocative article in the Financial Times about a CEO who was proud not have to have a PA: his view being that he can run his business – and his worklife – just as successfully without one.  Of course, these sorts of articles are there to set the cat amongst the pigeons and much debate followed and I disagreed strongly, but I can see where that CEO was coming from.   

Let’s put the PA/EA, admin support thing in context.  According to labour market statistics, in the UK 10% of our whole labour force comprises administrative staff.  Yes, that’s right: 1 in every 10 people employed is doing ‘admin’.  So despite technology and automation, there are more people working in administrative-related roles than ever before.  Yet, change is upon us and I would agree with that CEO who doesn’t have a PA, that if his only experience of ‘admin’ support was based on someone purely carrying out transactional duties, then I’m sure he might be able to survive without one.  However, the students that come to me at my Academy in Manchester, or train with me in their place of work, aren’t purely learning to be good ‘administrators’, they’re learning the hallmarks of being a good manager, and someone who contributes more widely through offering ‘thinking’ support as well as more traditional ‘doing’ support. 

Our Level 4 EA Diploma is unrivalled as it’s one of the few programmes available in the UK (and abroad?!) that is, in reality, a management course for PAs and EAs.  Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying that PAs shouldn’t be doing diaries or booking travel – but those that combine these tasks with more value-adding managerial competencies, such as project management, critical thinking and strategic awareness – are the ones that add wider organisational value and set themselves up for the future.  Unfortunately, that CEO who said his previous PAs were more trouble than they were worth, presumably had only ever experienced a ‘traditional PA’.  Such a shame, because many PAs and EAs do far more than just diaries and travel… or do they?!”

Does your view support Adam’s or the CEO’s? Or are you somewhere in between? We’d love to know.

Adam Fidler Academy provides high quality learning and education to Executive and Personal Assistants and is an IAM-approved training provider.    You can find out more at  

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