In a world that moves faster every day, with serious advances in technology, and automation infiltrating many industries, we quietly wonder what the future holds for today’s Personal Assistants


What will our jobs look like in the future, and why would executives still need us?

The case for Personal Assistants, in my opinion, is a strong one.

A recent study in the US indicated that the average worker spends approximately 61 per cent of their time doing emails – that equals a staggering 28 working hours per week. Add to this the fact that most managers spend two full days a week in meetings and you are left with a scenario where the executive literally has more work than hours in a week. Working weeks have become longer and smartphones have made it easier than ever before to connect, and therefore much more difficult to shut down.

Time has become the ultimate luxury item in today’s modern world and even more so for high powered executives who often need to balance a family life with their hectic schedules.

Enter the PA, certainly the best productivity and time saving tool an executive can have! A good PA plans ahead, ensures that pre-reads are received, deletes the junk mail, delegates as appropriate, ensures that items are followed up and that you take the shortest, most efficient routes while travelling.

A PA can proactively resolve issues before they arise. No matter how smart your smartphone is, it can’t do that! It can’t call your wife (on its own) to tell her you are running late for dinner or bring you a cup of tea when you are having a tough day.

My point? The good PAs will thrive no matter what!

Highly paid executives need to spend their time on strategic activities to ensure that companies get a return on their investment. The Personal Assistant literally serves as an extra pair of hands that handles the routine, operational activities that are in most cases time consuming and add very little value to the business in the larger scheme of things, and yet still need to be done!

They can also be another set of eyes, keeping the inbox ticking over, flagging high priority mail as it comes in, assisting with the management of workflow and sign-offs, reviewing documents for errors and omissions and just generally keeping an eye on the office.

A Personal Assistant is also a second set of ears, keeping abreast of news internally and externally. PAs are sometimes in the unique position to gain access to information from others that they in turn can share with their boss. The trust relationship between boss and PA is one of the key criteria for successfully working as a unit.

An excellent Personal Assistant is a partner, who acts in your best interest at all times. Someone who promotes your brand within the company and also to your external stakeholders. They are also usually the cog around which a team rotates and are often referred to as ‘Chief of Staff’, as they can have a major impact on the cohesion and morale of your team, and can be a great source of information about the team and their general wellbeing. Who is celebrating a birthday? Who has a sick child? Sending flowers when a team member is in hospital. These are all small things that a good PA knows about and manages on your behalf, creating a sense within the team of a caring executive which positively impacts the team’s engagement.

There are so many small things that PAs do on a daily basis which no one sees or sometimes even appreciates. That is, until your PA is off sick or unexpectedly out of the office!

It is my humble opinion there will be less admin jobs in the future, as company structures are becoming flatter and most companies have had to downsize to reduce headcount costs and increase efficiency. Personal Assistants will start to support multiple managers and will need to be smarter and more organised than ever before.

To stay in the game you will have to develop a better understanding of the business and will need to become a strategic business partner to your executive/s. The days of typing, tea and telephone are far behind us. PAs will need to move away from being good generalists and will need to develop specialist skills that support the executive that they are working with and that complement the industry they work in.

I don’t own a crystal ball, only time will tell if the Personal Assistant role will survive but I, for one, will bet money on it!

Anel Martin is a multi-award winning ex-Personal Assistant who now works as a full-time trainer. She has extensive experience in the profession and is widely considered an industry expert. Anel is also one of the Directors of the Isipho Admin Bursary (www ... (Read More)

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