The Industry Snapshot: Your role

Thanks again to everyone that completed the Practically Perfect PA Industry Snapshot 2016. We really did gain a great insight into how you feel about the role, your training requirements, your opinion on Practically Perfect PA and where you think the industry is heading in the next five years. I will take everything you have said on board and all of your comments really will help shape all of our activities for 2017 and beyond.

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The Industry Snapshot: The influence of Personal Assistants

Nobody needs to tell you how influential you are in the office – it kinda goes without saying over here at Practically Perfect PA. However, following our recent Industry Snapshot survey, we have a lot of interesting data that shows us the areas in which you have the most influence. Your influence falls roughly into five areas… Here is a little more detail:

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The Industry Snapshot: The Office of the Future

Thanks again to everyone who completed the Practically Perfect PA Industry Snapshot survey. We had some really interesting feedback and I want to share some of that with you today. We asked you a few questions regarding the environment you currently find yourself working in and what your offices might look like in the future. Here are some of your thoughts…

Has the design of your office changed in the last five years?

  • We are working towards a paperless office within the next two years
  • Yes, we now have an open plan office with hot desks and more people working from home
  • We have had a total office renovation with modern furniture – office desks for standing or sitting. Updates on all of our hardware & software, including touch screen telephones with face-view and better communication system. We also have live chat with our IT support desk
  • Yes with health being a focus so think office gym equipment, stand up desks etc.
  • Our office is much more eco-friendly
  • Agile working is the way forward for our office
  • The meeting rooms in our offices are much more flexible with movable walls, digital whiteboards etc.
  • We’ve reduced the amount of storage space to encourage staff to go digital
  • We have more informal meeting spaces
  • I now work from home
  • We have consolidated people into less space to save money on office rent
  • We now have a zero tolerance policy for paper left on desks over night
  • We moved buildings and all of the assistants were assigned desks next to each other

Do you work in the same location as your Executive?

I asked this question to see whether assistants were working more remotely from their Executives but the answer was a resounding no, with 87% of you still working in the same location. I would imagine that most assistants still sit outside their Executive’s office or pretty close by and I can’t imagine this changing any time soon!

Are you able to work remotely (from home or out of the office)?

64% of you answered yes to this question which is slightly higher than previous years. It looks like organisations finally understand that assistants can work very productively while out of the office!

On average, how often does your Executive travel for business?

I asked this as the number of people travelling on business continues to rise and many Executive’s now spend more time on the road than they do in the office. Your answers certainly seem to reflect this trend with 70% of you saying your Executive travels at least once per month. This will certainly change how assistants work with their Executive’s particularly around the use of technology.

Some of your favourite technology

Here is some of the technology you use on a regular basis…

  • Google docs
  • SharePoint
  • Scannable
  • Bloomberg & Reuters
  • Jabber
  • DocuSign
  • Huddle, Doodle, Prezi, Sway
  • Zoom
  • Telepresence rooms
  • WebEx
  • Evernote
  • Blackboard
  • Travo
  • Echo Smartpen
  • Slido
  • Box.com
  • Google Hangout
  • Skype

In a typical month, which types of apps do you use on your smartphone for work?

I was surprised at the mixture of responses for this question with many of you happily listing your favourite apps while others said they did not or were not allowed to use their smartphones for work purposes. Many organisations, for security reasons, do not allow staff to use their own devices for work including access to emails etc. I wonder what effect this has on work life balance for assistants within these types of organisations? It would certainly stop you checking emails at ungodly hours, which can only be a good thing!

For those of you who do use your smartphones, here are some of your preferred apps:

  • Whatsapp
  • National Rail, TFL, Hotels.com
  • Banking apps, maps, stocks, Uber, restaurant apps
  • Travel Apps: Tripit / flight apps / Hotel apps / City guides etc.
  • Concur for expenses
  • Trello
  • The Calculator – all the time!
  • Skyscanner
  • Outlook mail & calendar, Yammer, OneNote, OneDrive, Google, MSN Weather, Office Lens, Skype for Business
  • MobileDay, Waze, Amazon, Concur, Uber, WhatsApp, Skype and Amex
  • American Airlines, FlightStats, Open Table, Google Maps, Weather Channel, CNN, Apple Notes, FaceTime, InstaCart, Uber, Curb, Amazon, WhatsApp (International Texting when my Executive is travelling abroad), Facebook, Twitter, Marriott, Goodreads, Transit Tracker
  • Citymapper
  • The Trainline
  • XE

We have also put together a handy infographic with all of the information, please feel free to share this with your colleagues and network!

The Industry Snapshot: The Office of the Future

The Industry Snapshot 2016

A huge thank you to everyone that took the time to complete this years Industry Snapshot and Practically Perfect PA survey. We had just over 500 responses, which is a huge increase from last year’s results. We are working our way through all of the information you gave us, but I thought today I would share a little bit more about you guys – the Practically Perfect PA readers! Here is a quick breakdown of our reader demographics and some of your thoughts on the industry.

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Inside Ness – the Network for Essex Support Staff

As someone born and bred in Essex I am so pleased that we have a network connecting PAs in the area. Here are all the details from the founders, Karen and Julia… 

Firstly, can I have a little background about you…

What is your career background? 

We are both experienced PA’s who also give our time as volunteers in our communities (Karen as Youth Leader for a local community Youth group in Essex and Jules as Relief Manager at Hamelin Trust retail).   We both live in Essex and whilst we both work for large corporate businesses, Julia works in Essex and Karen works in the City of London

Aside from the network, what have been your career highlights to date? Both founders are award winnings PAs with awards that include Hays PA of the Year, Senior Admin of the Year, Executive PA-Best Organised Event, We are the City Rising Star award as well as reaching the final places for another UK award.

What piece of advice would you give assistants coming into the profession today?

Seek out a mentor and join a professional organisation and relevant networks.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self at the beginning of your career?

Don’t take it personally and don’t give up.

What piece of technology or app can you not live without?

A mobile phone

 Inside Ness - the Network for Essex Support Staff

About the network…

What made you decide to set up the network?

Essex has been lacking a network, the odd one or two have popped up over the past few years, but they for various reasons fallen by the wayside.  NESS was created with an intervention from Victoria Darragh on Facebook who suggested that we get together and create a new network.  We are both passionate about the role and had similar goals for the network, so after some excited messages back and forth to each other NESS was born.

What are the objectives of the network?

The objective of the network is for the admin support staff in Essex to connect with each other regardless of what level they are at within their respective careers, with the aim for each person to develop and grow and share their knowledge and experiences. In our experience, when you reach out to others and ask for advice or support, you will be surprised at how much assistance you can get from others in the network or in similar roles.

What was the initial reaction and what does the network look like today?

The initial reaction was great – we received a lot of support from the PA industry and members of professional organisations who spurred us on.  The sponsor of our launch was Fennes of Braintree and our host Karis Parker was incredible – nothing was too much trouble.

Inside Ness - the Network for Essex Support Staff

How did you promote the network?

We used all social media platforms to advertise the event and the network itself.  We had the support of industry speakers and professional publications who were keen to make this a success for the Essex region.  We are both members of PA/EA specific organisations and networked with our peers to advertise the launch, and will continue to network at events and training seminars to gain members, speakers and contributors to the success of the group.

Do you have advisor’s / board members / mentors that have helped with the network?

Being the new kids on the block, we haven’t a board at the moment – although other networks have been extremely supportive of us and have offered some great advice.  It’s still early days for NESS and we are still learning – but we have some great long-term plans for the network.

How do you engage with your members?

We use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and email to engage with our members.  As the network grows and becomes more established, we will review what other channels we could use and what our members would like to hear about from us.

What challenges do you think assistants within your network face and how do you think the network helps?

That the chosen career path is not a profession!  Networking encourages you to engage with your peers, encourages training and improves your confidence and helps you to grow and develop both personally and professionally.

Have you personally met any challenges with running the network?

We have been fortunate that we have had amazing support from the industry.

What has been the highlight for the network so far?

Having the CEO of EPAA (Victoria Darragh) speak at our launch

Network details…

Name: NESS

Location: Essex

LinkedIn Group: NESS – The Essex PA Network

Twitter: @SSEN2016

Facebook: NESS – Network for Essex Support Staff

Email: ness032016@gmail.com

The next NESS event will be on the 8th December at Boreham House. For more details, check out the NESS Facebook page or the Eventbrite page.

Inside the Guernsey PA Network

Firstly, can I have a little background about you…

What is your career background?

I started my working life as a Chef. When I left Catering College it was obvious to me that I wanted something with more regular hours.

The hotel where I was working part time to obtain my catering qualification asked me to stay on. When I told them what I was looking for, they asked me to become the receptionist. After a few years of becoming their Head Receptionist and not learning anything new I was ready for a new challenge. I came across a role for a Doctor’s PA and this gave me my first taste of a PA role. I stayed there for four years.

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Practically Perfect PA Survey 2016 Reminder

Thank you to everyone who has completed the Practically Perfect PA survey. So far we have received just over 350 replies and some great feedback, but we would love to hear from more of you so please do take ten minutes out of your day to complete the questionnaire.

I’d appreciate your honest feedback, I really would! I’ll share a summary of the results in November, with a mixture of blogs and infographics!

Please complete the Industry Snapshot 2016 survey

To encourage you to complete the survey, we are also giving away £50 worth of iTunes Vouchers (or the equivalent in your currency) for one of you to win! All you have to do is complete the survey and enter your details so that we can contact the winner! More details can be found in the survey.

This year Sidekicks have sponsored the survey, which means, with their support, we can look at the results from a recruitment and career development perspective too. Here is a little more information on what Sidekicks do.

A word from our sponsor…

Founded in 2015 by an Assistant frustrated by the poor standard of secretarial recruitment in the UK, Sidekicks proudly source and supply the finest support talent in London.

We specialise in the provision of the best Personal Assistants in the market; our Assistants are educated, intelligent people with real commercial nous and often quite extraordinary skillets – just like you.
In addition to our recruitment expertise, all our consultants have previously worked within support roles, so we understand the unique demands of the job you do. Our mission is to promote the role of the Assistant as a profession and to bring a much higher level of quality and genuine understanding to the support recruitment market.

If we can assist you in any way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You’ll find us at www.sidekicks.london.

Sidekicks-logo-animation-1

The Industry Snapshot 2016

It’s that time of year again! Practically Perfect PA is nearly 5 years old (and yet I haven’t aged a day!) and every year I ask you lovely lot to give me feedback on the industry, the blog and other activities we have been working on – from our events to our new launched eBook. Your feedback is always welcome, but this year it will be particularly helpful as I am working on lots of new projects for the rest of 2016 and into 2017. The survey covers a lot of ground. I want to know how you guys feel about the industry, what is happening to you and your current role, how you feel about the current training on offer and any other resources we can offer. In other words, your thoughts are really important!

The results of the survey will be shared with you all in November. I will also use them to create some infographics that I will share with the wider business community so that they can understand how important assistants are to the office. The answers you give will shape the blog content for next year and the programmes at our events. So without further ado… Here is the link to the Industry Snapshot Survey:

Please complete our survey 

To encourage you to complete the survey we are also giving away £50 worth of iTunes Vouchers (or the equivalent in your currency) for one of you to win! All you have to do is complete the survey and enter your details so that we can contact the winner! More details can be found on the survey.

This year Sidekicks have sponsored the survey, which means, with their support, we can look at the results from a recruitment and career development perspective too. Here is a little more information on what Sidekicks do.

A word from our sponsor…

Founded in 2015 by an Assistant frustrated by the poor standard of secretarial recruitment in the UK, Sidekicks proudly source and supply the finest support talent in London.

We specialise in the provision of the best Personal Assistants in the market; our Assistants are educated, intelligent people with real commercial nous and often quite extraordinary skillets – just like you.
In addition to our recruitment expertise, all our consultants have previously worked within support roles, so we understand the unique demands of the job you do. Our mission is to promote the role of the Assistant as a profession and to bring a much higher level of quality and genuine understanding to the support recruitment market.

If we can assist you in any way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You’ll find us at www.sidekicks.london.

Sidekicks-logo-animation-1

So the Big Questions happened…

I’m just back from a week in the UK where we held the first of our regional events in Edinburgh and Leeds. The PA Big Questions took place at The George in Edinburgh and Horizon in Leeds. I was really pleased that we had 50 assistants at the events, all there to discuss the issues that face assistants and the industry as a whole. As this was the first event of its kind I wasn’t too sure how the events were going to pan out, but I was really pleased to see so many assistants sharing their experiences, giving each other advice and having a good old chit chat about the job. I wouldn’t say it was quite a group therapy session, but a lot of the attendees said that it was a cathartic experience!

So what did we do during the big questions?

Prior to the event, I asked all of the attendees to select five questions from our list of ten (you can see the full list here). During the event we took each question and discussed the reasons why these issues are still so prevalent in the industry and what changes we can make to ensure they are resolved. We had the fantastic support of the Green Hat People who provided iPads and a lot of useful technology that helped the attendees collaborate and share their thoughts.

So the Big Questions happened...

The results

In both Leeds and Edinburgh the attendees picked the follow question as the most important to the role:

How do we get our organisation to value the work that we do? 

Here are a few of the points raised around this issue…

  • The differentiation between PA roles within the same organisations.
  • The PA role is seen as old fashioned. It is still considered secretarial rather than the full service offered by modern PAs.
  • There is a lack of dedication from some PAs who do not see the role as a career
  • Objectives are not aligned across organisations so prevents a consistent approach to the role.
  • There is a general lack of understanding of the role.
  • Assistants should take more initiative and be more proactive with projects and working on tasks that show off their skills.

It was interesting that attendees in Leeds and Edinburgh went on to pick different issues. I meet Assistants from all over the world and generally we share the same frustrations with the role, but there are also little differences that I think affect different areas and industries. Here are a few more issues that we covered and an overview of the conversations our delegates had.

How do we ensure career development is central to the role? 

  • We do not have a clear career path
  • There are no specific PA skills development
  • No ongoing training required for the role, e.g. Our IT skills. We are just expected to be an expert.
  • We are often isolated in roles so the responsibility is on the individual to be continually motivated
  • PA networks can be the only face to face resource to find out about new technology, processes, procedures, best practice
  • We should use our annual reviews to keep the subject on the table
  • We should sell the benefits of developing assistants (in monetary terms)

What impact will technology have on the role? 

  • Increased remote working
  • Bosses have a lower dependency on their assistants
  • People will expect things faster
  • Expectation we will know all the changes overnight as if we are THE expert
  • Bosses more tech savvy, perhaps more so than us
  • Fuels higher expectations
  • Can be overloaded, expecting instant response/action
  • 24 hour demands

So what happens now?

Well, first of all I want to say a big thank you to the assistants who came along to the two events. Your contributions were incredibly helpful. The next step is to collate all of the information and take it with me to the Assist Conference in February. We will hold workshops on each issue and we will come up with really practical solutions that assistants can use when faced with these frustrating aspects of the role.  By next year I hope to have a guidebook that gives solid solutions to the issues we face as PAs today.

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