Articulate the benefits of your efforts so that your leaders can easily recognize added value says Sandy Geroux
Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult for administrative professionals to be recognized for the value they offer to their companies?
How hard could it be to recognize that leaders would not be half as effective as they are without the support of a competent and dedicated administrative professional? Why is it so difficult to recognize the impact of the daily “smoothing over of ruffled feathers” that keeps the team functioning and productive? And where is the problem in realizing that no one would be where they needed to be – on time, with as little stress as possible and as comfortably as they can be while traveling and attending meetings – without their assistants making all the necessary arrangements and juggling a myriad of critical details all at once?
We may as well ask why a figure skater makes it look so easy to expertly perform on the slippery surface of an ice skating rink. Just as the behind-the-scenes efforts of the figure skater (and their associated costs in blood, sweat and tears, not to mention money) remain hidden from public view, the behind-the-scenes efforts and costs of the truly exceptional assistant who creates a seamless experience for the leader (s)he supports also remain hidden. In other words, they make it look too easy! But that explains only one piece of the puzzle.
I recently read an article by the owner of a company that helps businesses assess their value in preparation for a sale or merger. He was talking about the impact of tangible versus intangible assets on a business’s valuation. Lo and behold, contained in that article was another big piece of the puzzle, which became crystal clear to me as I pondered the administrative professional’s contribution in light of a business’s valuation.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell:
Most business valuation systems were created in the 1950s and were designed to measure tangible assets, such as real estate, machinery and equipment, because most of the business wealth at that time was created by capitalizing on those assets. The more land, factories, equipment and other tangible assets a business owned, and the more it continued to upgrade and improve those assets, the more that business could produce – and therefore, the more profit it could create.
However, in our current Information Age, wealth is no longer created by leveraging tangible assets alone, but by a company’s ability to utilize, analyze, disseminate and act upon its knowledge and knowledge-based assets, which include its people, its intellectual property and its culture. When a business’s value is currently calculated, a multiplier is applied based on their intangible assets… and the multiplier for these assets actually creates a greater impact on business value than its tangible assets do!
This one fact explains why it’s so hard for administrative professionals to receive the recognition they so rightly deserve. It is because nothing in most current accounting systems is designed to measure the effect of their efforts!
That is also why it is up to every administrative professional to help highlight and identify not just the work and the tasks that they do (which cannot be measured), but the top- and bottom-line impacts of their work that can be measured.
Some suggestions on how to identify and highlight your impact and value are:
1. Show how many person-hours are saved by your redesign of a confusing or faulty process; multiply those hours by the average salaries of all the people who participate in that process.
Case in point:
I am currently working with a large company that is focusing on engaging and rewarding administrative professionals at a higher level. Upon recognizing a flaw that made a reporting process inefficient, one of their assistants decided to re-design the process. By doing so, she saved herself nearly 14 hours of work every month, or almost 167 hours per year. If you calculate the impact of this savings using an average salary of $36,000 (or just over $17/hour), the impact on the company’s bottom line is a savings of nearly $2,900 per year for just that one report, for just that one assistant!
Once she identified and documented the new process, she was able to leverage it by sharing it with her fellow administrative professionals in 9 other locations, increasing the impact to almost $29,000 per year – for one tiny little change in one reporting process. But wait, there’s more! (see point #2 below)
2. Identify how many extra people do NOT have to be hired as a result of helping the existing staff to be more productive and efficient.
Case in point:
Continuing with the case study above, this change in the reporting process allowed this assistant to handle more certified jobs, eliminating the need to add extra staff to help with new certified jobs that came in. The impact of this (again using an average salary of $36,000) is an annual savings of $38,900 (combining the productivity savings in her own position plus the salary of just one new person) in her location alone.
Multiplying this by all 10 assistants performing this role, helping eliminate the need to add more staff in each location, results in a savings of $389,000 per year for this one change! Even if only half of the assistants are at the point where they would need to add staff to help with new certified jobs, that is still a savings of over $194,000 per year.
… all because one proactive assistant decided to re-design one process, and then share it with her colleagues.
3. Identify how many dollars are saved by your efforts to cut costs or stretch the budget.
Case in point:
In another client company, the administrative staff scattered throughout many locations in one city made a startling discovery when they all gathered together for their first company-wide administrative professionals conference. They found that they were all using different vendors to purchase office supplies! (I know, surprising, but sometimes these things are missed until people across departments and locations are allowed to collaborate and brainstorm together.)
Once they realized this fact, they requested bids from all their vendors, selected the one that gave them the best deal and saved their company $500,000 in the first year alone! This savings blossomed to over $1M in the next few years.
Other suggestions could include how much time your executive saves by not having to make his/her own travel arrangements. Track how much time you spend making their initial arrangements. Then add in how much time you spend tracking their travel and handling problems as they arise during the trip. Multiply that by the executive’s salary and I guarantee you will find that the impact and results are staggering! If your company has its own travel department, this exercise will help them continue to prove their value by identifying how many hours it saves both you and your executive by not having to deal with travel and all its related issues.
What are some other time-saving, cost-cutting, or productivity-enhancing measures you can take for your company and your colleagues? How can you find ways to not only identify the intangible benefits of those efforts, but also articulate them in tangible ways that your leaders can easily recognize as adding value?
There are so many different ways to accomplish this, but they are not always obvious. However, they are well worth the effort to identify and correct them, not only because of how these efforts can help your company thrive, but how they can help you achieve your career and professional development goals, as well.
The more we can continue to find new ways to help leaders see the actual business value we offer, the more we will be viewed as leaders in our own right, and the more all administrative positions will be viewed as a profit center, rather than a cost center. Profit centers require and deserve investments to ensure that they remain profitable. This translates to more budget allocations for training, resources, rewards and other benefits typically denied a mere “cost center,” making it easier for everyone involved in the profit-making professions to receive the perks and benefits they so richly deserve.
It will also, in turn, help raise the credibility and overall impression of the administrative professional in everyone’s eyes, giving everyone who chooses to pursue a career in this incredible field the opportunity to stand, be recognized and be rewarded as the true professionals they are.