An OfficeTeam and IAAP survey reveals some surprising truths about PA success

Administrative professionals are valued for their ability to wear many hats. Often their jobs require high-level responsibilities, ranging from planning large-scale events and representing senior managers to creating presentations and analyzing financial data. But what skills and attributes are must-haves for today’s support staff?

To better understand the traits in greatest demand, OfficeTeam and the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) surveyed 610 senior managers and 2,290 administrative professionals as part of the Office of the Future project.

Following is an overview of the top administrative skills and attributes, based on their responses:

1 Time management

Although responding supervisors ranked time management (39 percent) as a top priority for their support staff, only 14 percent of workers identified this skill as most important. When you regularly juggle multiple time-sensitive projects for senior executives, it’s no wonder your manager would want you to meet deadlines and get everything done in an efficient manner. It’s possible that administrative professionals gave this ability a fourth-place ranking because it’s already an integral part of their jobs and they didn’t see a need to call it out. But do keep an eye on time management — your supervisor is paying attention to your multi-tasking abilities and promptness in addressing myriad demands.

2 Flexibility

With all the items on your daily to-do list, it’s of little surprise that most administrative professionals surveyed (61 percent) noted adaptability as the most important attribute for the job. In your role, you have to work well with a variety of personality types and be open to the many — and sometimes odd — assignments that crop up. In a previous survey for Office of the Future, examples of unusual requests support staff have taken on included “Get a snake out of the women’s bathroom” and “Help land a helicopter on top of the building.” While these are pretty extreme examples, successful administrative workers don’t bat an eye when occasional requests fall outside of their job description.

 3 Organizational skills

Three out of 10 surveyed (30 percent) in both groups, valued the ability of administrative professionals to stay organized. It isn’t easy to balance competing priorities, deadlines and last-minute changes with your daily responsibilities. Your boss appreciates how you can reschedule her three international flight reservations, finish her PowerPoint presentation by the end of the day, while greeting clients, answering phone lines and drafting flawless letters. A key attribute of an organized administrative professional is the ability to shift gears quickly, complete a new task and go back to what you were doing before — all without getting flustered.

4 Positive attitude

In another eye-opening contrast between managers and administrative professionals, just 19 percent of workers rated a positive attitude as the No 1 attribute, while 35 percent of managers did. Let’s dig a little deeper into that finding. Executives value Assistants who are easy to work with and have a can-do mentality. While you may not have a customer service job title, you should have the mindset of someone who does. In your daily routine, your position calls on you to treat people well, respond in difficult interactions with grace and solve a range of sticky situations. No matter what challenges the workday throws your way, the successful administrative professional takes care of them with poise and positivity.

5 Communication

In your day-to-day assignments, you’re called upon to speak on your boss’s behalf, and you’re writing emails and reports for him or her. It’s no surprise that 19 percent of managers and 14 percent of administrative professionals identified verbal and written communication as the top administrative skill. Do you speak clearly and confidently? Is your tone friendly? As for written correspondence, make sure your grammar and spelling are impeccable. In addition to using spell-check and other tools on your computer, take the time to reread and proof your work for clarity, typos, appropriate voice and context.

It takes unique administrative skills and tremendous adaptability to succeed as an administrative professional. Once you’ve nailed these traits, there’s no stopping you!

Robert Hosking is executive director of the administrative and customer support practice at Robert Half, where he leads operations for nearly 300 practice locations worldwide. With close to 30 years of experience in the staffing industry, he has extensive ... (Read More)

3 comments on “5 Administrative Skills and Attributes Every Office Professional Should Have

  1. Tlss on

    This article is really interesting and well-written. I really appreciate you writing such useful information. I don’t know enough about the abilities I need to have because I’m a new administrator in this setting. I appreciate that you have outlined the key administrative competencies; I will undoubtedly work to make them better.


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