It has been ten years since there was an in depth piece of research on the Assistant role in the United Kingdom.

Of course part of the reason for this was the recession – who wants to invest to get doom and gloom results? But the drought is over and we have been lucky enough to work with both Avery and Hays Secretarial and PA Recruitment on two really useful pieces of research in the last few months.

The results have just been released and the questions that they raise have far-reaching implications not just for the UK market, but right across the profession.

The full reports on both will be available shortly, but I am fascinated by what the results taken in tandem show.

Hays’ research looked at career development & key skills, management & leadership. As well as asking Assistants their opinions, they also surveyed their Executives and the results were startling. 87% of employers surveyed believe they could not do their job as effectively without their Assistant and 62% of the bosses see their Assistant’s contribution as equivalent to their management team or higher (in fact 1 in 10 bosses rate them as equivalent to a Director in the business).

And whilst over 70% trust their Assistant’s judgement in making business decisions on their behalf – 45% most of the time, and 18% all of the time, there is a huge perception gap as these figures are much lower from the Assistant’s point of view – just 25% feel they are trusted most of the time and only 6% feel they influence business decisions all the time.

Not only that but a massive 70% do not have any form of Career Development Plan – a fact that I find horrifying. We will be following up on this in more detail in the September issue but it would seem to me that as long as employers overlook the importance of career planning for PAs they risk increasing levels of underperformance and ultimately lose some of their most talented, valued and capable employers.

In contrast, the Avery research looked at numerous factors of working life including Assistants’ personality traits, stress levels, responsibilities as well as their IQ, qualifications and emotional intelligence levels, comparing each aspect to the rest of the working population. The results were striking.

All of the study’s findings point towards a very special set of skills that are evident in Assistants and help them succeed in the role. The survey showed that Assistants have a far stronger ability to handle stress and remain positive about work than their colleagues. This, coupled with high EQ and an achievement-striving nature is a powerful combination for the corporate world. In many ways it is the ideal skillset for business.

This survey proves that Assistants are dedicated, loyal, diligent and savvy – in many cases, much more so than other members of staff who receive significantly more recognition, training and remuneration. It raises questions that must be addressed by the businesses that are happy to utilise the Assistants’ unique traits evident in the results of this survey, but don’t choose to invest in personal development or provide appropriate career progression with the associated pay increases for their administrative staff.

Both surveys stand alone with fascinating results that used properly will have a genuine impact on the profession. We urge you to share them far and wide with not only your fellow Assistants but with your Executives too.


Please email my Assistant, Matthew Want at if you would like copies of either report. Please note that the Hays Research will not be released publically until mid-September.

Lucy Brazier, OBE is one of the world’s leading authorities on the administrative profession. Author of ‘The Modern-Day Assistant: Build Your Influence and Boost Your Potential’, she is the CEO of Marcham Publishing, a global force synonymous with world- ... (Read More)

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