A productive relationship only happens with hard work and communication says Bonnie Low Kramen
Imagine this. You are a new driver and one day you go outside to find a brand-new car with the keys hanging on the window with a note that reads “Good luck!” The car is filled with gadgets and shiny buttons but there is no physical manual and no one to tell you what to do.
Here’s the problem. You want to drive the car NOW. You keep bumping into buttons and symbols that you don’t understand which ends up being frustrating on an almost daily basis. The annoying and energy-consuming learning curve continues for several weeks and months.
Unless an executive brings their EA with him/her to the new company, this is how it feels for a new executive to be given a new Executive Assistant.
Assistants around the world report that they feel underutilized, poorly managed, and disrespected. Why? Because there is no training for the executives about how to use assistants.
Assistants believe that what is strongly needed (at minimum) is a 2-3 hour training class about what an Executive Assistant does and how to best utilize her/him. This training would be an integral piece of the onboarding process and occur during the first days of employment either in person or virtually. Training would include a conversation and documentation about what is and is not appropriate to ask of the assistant. In coordination and cooperation with the HR team, this training would/could be delivered by a high level Executive Assistant because who knows this information better than they do?
The advantages of doing this training for newly hired executives are:
- Instant Comfort Level. Executives get to hit the ground running by having the answers to frequently asked questions right from the beginning.
- Expert Knowledge. No one knows the way the company really works better than the Executive Assistants.
- Freedom to do your job. Assistants complain that executives do their own correspondence, scheduling, and other administrative tasks. Just because they know how to do those tasks, it is most likely not the best use of their time and the training will outline a better approach. With the knowledge of what the assistant’s skill set is and what he/she is uniquely qualified to do, the executive is now free to do the job he/she was hired to do.
- Save time and angst. This training sets up the executive and the assistant for success by clarifying processes and expectations. The training also allows for red flags and potential problems and peccadillos to be revealed and handled immediately.
As the workplace gets more and more complicated, the need for training is becoming more urgent. The role of Executive Assistants is evolving and many are taking on the role of a strategic business partner to their executives. Discussions and training are called for because every company is different regarding how they handle onboarding and the assignment of staff.
A seamless and highly productive relationship between an executive and the assistant is a process that does not happen without hard work and open communication. It takes time and training and working through the bumps along the way. However, the effort that is taken for training during the first week will have long-term positive pay-offs for the executive, the assistant, and the company.