How would you make your workplace a better one? asks Bonnie Low Kramen

To celebrate Administrative Professionals’ Week this year, I was inspired by our amazing global community. These women and men continue to impress me with their depth of knowledge, their resourcefulness, their creativity, their intelligence, and their IDEAS that make so much sense.

I decided to pose a question over social media and wow, did the answers pour in from all over the world. I made it a contest and the winner received a full scholarship to the Be the Ultimate Assistant (BTUA) workshop of her/his choice in 2018.

The question: If you were CEO for one day, what change would you make to make your workplace a better one?

What follows are just some of their responses.

“If I were CEO for a day, I would have the EA staff switch places with the leadership team.  I would want leadership to see what it was like through our eyes and ears.  I would want them to understand how something as simple as communicating more efficiently would benefit each other in our duties.  To see the daily things we field for them, so they do not have to think about them. Our job is to make the exec’s life easier, so perhaps one day in our shoes, would lead to a more mutually beneficial team in the future.” Natashua Murphy, Atlanta, GA

“One of the biggest challenges in our workplace are compassion fatigue and mental burnout. I would love to be able to provide training to all our front-line staff on compassion fatigue and providing trauma informed care to all the individuals we serve. This would help demonstrate to the staff how much their work is valued by the organization, while at the same time providing with an improved ability to continue to serve those who are in need of our mental health, addictions and developmental services.” Minerva Rudman, Guelph, Ontario

“If I were CEO for a day, we would have a “Leave Your Titles at The Door” retreat!  We spend SO much time at the office (WAY too much sometimes) that we don’t take time to know our co-workers outside of the work environment.  We would play games to get to know each other – “ice breakers” – even though we have known each other for many years! What did you want to be when you were younger?  What’s on your bucket list?  Who is your hero? If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?”. Patty Bardeen, Rochester, NY

“I would empower the senior EA to hold a strategic advisory spot at the Board table. She or he has the vibe, the connections and knowledge to advise on exactly how your company looks from the inside out! Rosemarie Martinez, NYC

“I would place more emphasis and focus on leadership development trainings and opportunities for non-managers and Executive Assistants. Additionally, I would ask my employees what it means to be a leader. Leaders (with or without the managerial title) drive the company. Over time these non-managers and assistants become leaders in some way. Therefore, if organizations put emphasis on training and development now, then they are setting themselves up for a room full of people who a. have the technical knowledge to get things AND b. who have the resources, tools, and skillset to lead their team and company to success.” Alina Aguirre, Irvine, CA

“What would I look to change? Potential for the most influential change would be Culture. If the strategy of a business from the top down is fluid, equal but equally resilient and open to change, those further down the hierarchy tend to be more responsive to it. To quote Marie Herman; “people do not dislike change, they dislike transition” this is great distinction and one that could resonate with many. Through gender equality, awareness, transparent (where possible) business strategy alongside employees that are working towards vision of the company they are working for, the mindset change can be considerable.” Charlotte Read, London

“I would install height adjustable desks and ergonomic chairs for the employees to provide them with the best workspace that will positively impact their health and productivity. Studies show that sitting is new smoking when it comes to adverse health effects. I would offer complimentary healthy snacks for the employees, a tax-deductible expense, that will help everyone that is working early, late, or through lunch as most of us are. It gives the message that I see your efforts and I am grateful.” Snezana Savic, Chicago, IL

“Change how administrative professional’s salaries are determined. Well over 80% of administrative duties being performed by women who already receive a lower hourly rate then our male counterparts. Our salaries should be based on experience, working knowledge and transferable skills – not gender or education. Nor should they be determined by third party consultants who use the lowest market rate as a bench mark for corporations to undermine the salaries of their administrative support staff. Let us prove with tangible dollars in their hands that we have value and aren’t easily replaced.” Kara Wilson, Toronto, Canada

“I would get up from my big comfy chair, out from behind my big executive desk, and walk the floors of where the day-to-day associates are busy making the company successful! There would be nothing more humble than being the CEO and introducing myself to associates and engaging in conversation about them; personally and professionally! I would be the CEO who cares about everyone! The morale and productivity in the office would soar like a rocket.” Angela Anspach, Indianapolis, IN

“I’d allow our employees time to read, research, focus and think by declaring one day a week a “no meetings” day, company-wide. Our execs (our CEO among them) spend all the traditional working hours in meetings, with no time to process what they’re hearing, reflect on what is working, and focus on improvement. There is no time to do the “work” that they discuss all day, so folks work longer hours & have less time to refuel mind, body & soul. The ROI on one meeting-free day/week would be tremendous to business growth, personal growth and overall morale.” Jes Sloan, Boston, MA

Aren’t these ideas great? My hope is that you will share one or more of them with your leaders and colleagues to effect positive change which these ideas will in fact, do. Together, we really can change the world.

The winning submission was a tough decision, but I chose Sonya Ponds of Washington, DC who works at Voice of America. I chose Sonya’s idea because it addresses several of the burning issues that I see in the global workplace – respect versus disrespect, the perception of the assistant, and leadership, to name just three. Plus, I love her photo.

Here is what she wrote:

“A seasoned CEO has an understanding that she/he is the champion of the mission and vision of the company and its personnel. So, if I were privileged enough to be CEO for the day, I would implement divisional Be the SME (Subject Matter Expert) Days. A proactive workplace is an entity where management champions their employees and nurtures possibility. Why: Challenged employees articulate and demonstrate how being their best selves is impactful for their career progression and the company’s bottom line. Frankly, everyone has the ability to be the go-to team player…but, what is missing often is just the opportunity!”

So true!  Sonya and I agree that assistants are SMEs on many subjects, not only one. We need to make it our business in the workplace to find out the areas of expertise of our colleagues and fully utilize them. After all, everyone was hired for a reason and in most cases, many reasons. And… you are already on the payroll!

Here’s one final idea which is from me. If I were CEO for one day, I would make certain to do something to acknowledge and celebrate Administrative Professionals’ Week. I heard from at least a dozen assistants who said that their company had zero plans to recognize the administrative staff during APW. If this was the case in your office, I think 2018 should be the last year that occurs. There are dozens of no-cost and low costs ideas, so this is a non-negotiable.

I suggest that it is not too early to plan now for 2019. Go to your leaders, your HR team, and your colleagues to brainstorm your top 10 ideas about what you can do next year. Put these ideas (with approximate budget numbers) in writing, sign your name(s) and present them as a “Which one?” question rather than “Can we?” Or…you can always do a belated celebration this summer! Picnic, anyone?

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Sonya is excited to join Vickie Sokol Evans and me for BTUA Atlanta and we can’t wait to brainstorm more ideas with her and with all our students.

Keep sharing your excellent ideas and you may be surprised how many become a reality.

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Bonnie Low-Kramen is the founder of Ultimate Assistant Training and is one of the most respected thought leaders on workplace issues. She is a TEDx speaker, bestselling author of Be the Ultimate Assistant and Staff Matters, and her work has been featured ... (Read More)

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