How can assistants add value in the workplace?

Firstly, happy New Year! Last year was a mixed bag wasn’t it?! I hope you all had a lovely break and are looking forward to the year ahead. As usual, we have a packed schedule for 2017, starting with the Assist Conference in February.

Today I am writing about one of the key themes for this year’s conference – using your tool kits to add value within your organisation. I used to struggle with this during my career as an assistant. Sure, I worked on projects that contributed to the success of the organisation but I had many skills that were not used because nobody knew I had them and I didn’t proactively promote them. It took a while, and a thoroughly excellent boss, for me to gain the confidence to promote my skills, to go into meetings and say ‘actually, I can do that’. The first time I was given a project outside of my usual role was nerve racking, but I did a good job (I saved my organisation a lot of money) and from there I had more confidence in my toolkit, my colleagues did and my Executive did. Which meant I got a lot more interesting work and was able to add value in different areas. The moral of the story is that assistants have a huge amount of skills and can add value in a number of areas within the workplace, we just need to have the confidence to promote ourselves.

During the conference, we will have a session on confidence in the workplace, but let’s look at areas assistants can add value. This article from Eat Your Career, suggests 6 ways to add value and I think it is a great place to start for assistants. The 6 areas are:

1.    Save money
2.    Make money
3.    Improve efficiency of a process or procedure
4.    Improve quality of a product or service
5.    Fix an existing problem
6.    Prevent a future problem

Saving money and making money.

Assistant’s work with suppliers on a regular basis and can easily research and suggest new suppliers which might save the organisation money. Every year it is well worth reviewing all of the suppliers that you use and renegotiating your contracts. You will inevitably save your organisation a little money and potentially you could save them a lot.

Making money for your organisation is a little trickier. Well.. Actually, maybe not. You save your Executive a lot of time. Time that they spend building relationships with existing clients and making new clients. So effectively, you do make your organisation money. A LOT OF MONEY. Not many of your colleagues can say that!

If, however, you would like to make money for your organisation in a more traditional way think about networking. There are lots of opportunities for assistants to network either through industry events or through specific assistant events. While attending these events it is always worthwhile thinking about how your organisation can benefit other’s. What can you sell at these events. This is how your Executive thinks while attending networking events and you should act the same.

Improving efficiency of a process or procedure.

Again, this is an area that Assistants can ace. We are heavily involved in the day to day process and procedures within our organisations. If there is an area that you think can be improved then it is well worth speaking to your Executive about making some changes. Sometimes, it is worthwhile just making the change – if you can – and tell your Executive after. That my friend, is proactivity!

Improving the quality of a product or service.

To improve the quality of a product or service firstly you need, you have a good understanding of what your organisation does. Business acumen is so very vital for assistants, but many of us probably do not know all of the ins and outs of our organisation. What are the top products, who are the clients, what services does your business offer them? Once you have a greater understanding of what your business does you will have the knowledge to participate in conversations about the business and make suggestions. You have regular contact with your Executive and you have access to reports and documents so you are in a good position to add value in this area.

Fixing an existing problem, preventing a future one.

Assistants are natural problem solvers, most of us will have this skill in our toolkit. We are really well placed in the organisation to see problems and prevent future ones from occurring. Just think, how often we are called upon to sort out the problem with the photocopier? Our colleagues come to us with all manner of issues, so why not take the time to solve these issues so that they don’t happen again. This really can add value to the organisation and aid productivity.

Assistants add value everyday.

Often without really knowing it. We are hugely valuable to our organisations. We have so many skills that can be put to good use. During the Assistant Conference, we will explore these skills in greater detail and help you unlock your potential. Places for the conference are still available so do check out the website for more information… Here are a few more details below.

Assist Conference 2017

During the conference, we will be discussing all of the important tools that assistants need to succeed in the role – now and in the next 5 years. Taking place on the 24th February in London for only £300+VAT. If you would like to book your place on the conference, check out the programme or the speakers, please do make your way over to the website.

How can assistants add value in the workplace?

Just how much time is lost to disorganisation?

Did you know, on average office workers will spend 13 minutes and 13 seconds each day searching for missing paperwork and stationery? That’s despite one in five decluttering their desks on a weekly basis.  The little things we do in the office each day really do add up, according to a new study from Avery UK.

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The productivity killers

At our recent regional events we discussed some of the issues that are facing assistants today. Lots of challenges came up, but one that struck me as typical across all industries was the actual amount of work that the assistants had to do. Assistants are taking on more and more tasks and are involved in all sorts of projects. This is great (as long as we are appreciated for it and well… That is a whole other blog post!), but it can also be overwhelming. How do we keep on top of all of the work that we have piled up around us? How do we ensure we are, and here comes the dreaded word, productive. Today, I’m going to write about the productivity killers. Those annoying things we do that stop us being productive. Here are my top five.

1. Interruptions

This has got to be the number one productivity killer for assistants. I once counted the number of times I was interrupted throughout my day. I think I lost count by lunchtime. It was ridiculous and often completely unnecessary. To ensure you get through everything you need to do in a day you have to minimise interruptions. This means you have to be tough when people come up to your desk to speak to you. Some assistants are quite happy to just tell colleagues that they are busy and can’t stop to chat, answer a question, make a cup of tea, get them a pen out of the stationery cupboard etc. Etc. But, other assistants may need to employ a few tactics to make it really obvious they are not to be disturbed. I always found headphones helpful. When I had my headphones on it meant I was trying to concentrate on something and quite often the less bolshy colleagues would tip toes away. If I had something really urgent I would often book myself in a meeting room for an hour or go out to a cafe. Obviously, I’d let my Executive know so that they could find me if they need anything.

2. Powering through your day

I’m so guilty of this one. I try to power through work, but often find myself staring at the computer and wondering why I can no longer feel my backside. Regular breaks are so necessary and you will find you are much more productive after a short break. Also, taking a quick break away from your desk means you can catch up with other colleagues and find out what is happening in other parts of the business which will help your career development. Win win!

3. Keeping everything stored in your head

I know most assistants love lists. I love love love lists and use them in every aspect of my life. From experience, I know I am much more productive when I have a list of tasks to work through. Lists basically keep me sane as well as productive. I don’t know if you are getting the message, but, I highly recommend you keep a to do list. If you don’t, start today, right now. Trust me, your life will change overnight and your productivity will skyrocket.

4. Saying yes to everything

So this might be the reason you have so much work in the first place. There really are only so many hours in a day and assistants can not, and should not, say yes to everything asked of them. You have to know what is actually expected of you and push back on work that you should not be doing. Don’t get me wrong, I know for assistants this is a balancing act. You want to be helpful to everyone, but don’t want people taking advantage. My rule was that I would be mega helpful when I wasn’t busy. If I didn’t have much on then I would have the time to do the small tasks that colleagues would ask me to do. When I was busy, which was most of the time, I would say that I didn’t have the capacity to do that task.

5. Prioritising your work load

We have such variety in our role that it is almost impossible that we enjoy every task given to us (urgh expenses!) Putting off hard or boring tasks can be a real drain on your productivity. Make sure you plan some time in your week to get these tasks done and off your to do list. Unfortunately, they don’t magically disappear so the quicker they get done the quicker you can work on much more interesting tasks.

Core soft skills: Diplomacy

Next up in our series of blog posts on core soft skills I am going to look at diplomacy and tact for assistants. Assistants have to possess a number of soft or interpersonal skills. Some are essential, some are nice-to-haves and others can be handy but not always necessary. Diplomacy (or at the very least tact) is an absolute must have. 

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How to create an assistant handbook

On March 26th I joined some of the PA community’s most motivated and inspiring representatives at the annual Assist conference, speaking in a case study slot on “Future proofing your career”. One of the best ways to add value, progress, and drive change is by creating a handbook for assistants at your company. Having led the development of a handbook for two global organisations, my session focussed on the process from start to finish:

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How to deal with conflicting priorities

Although the role of an assistant can be incredibly varied, there are certain aspects that all of us will face at some point in our career. We all have similar experiences in the workplace… Yes, I do know where the photocopier is… No, I can’t fix the paper jam… And then there are the competencies that we all need to get the job done. Today we will be looking at how we deal with conflicting priorities.

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