Every January I seem to find myself in a bit of a confused state. I’m excited about the year ahead and yet seem to ask anyone who will listen ‘how fast did last year go?’ It is a good time to reflect on achievements from the previous year but also a great time to set objectives for the year ahead. The last few years I have written a blog about what assistants can expect from the year and here you will find the tradition has continued into 2015. I genuinely think 2014 was a turning point in our industry and I think 2015 will see a consolidation of our efforts to take our profession forward. I am very optimistic about 2015, here are a few reasons why…
Employment opportunities and salary
According to Forbes, employers are going to have problems with employee retention this year as more people change jobs. Technology now allows individuals easier access to new opportunities and recruitment agencies are much more adapt at targeting the right candidates through social media and networking websites. With retention of staff becoming an issue organisations will look to improve their benefit packages and overall work culture. This is great news for assistants looking to change roles in 2015 – with plenty of opportunities out there and assistants can be more selective about the type of environment they want to work in.
Assistant networking and events
Last year saw a variety of networking events and conferences for assistants. It seems there is a huge appetite for training however we still have issues with our organisation’s paying for us to attend events. The situation has improved over the last few years and we have seen record numbers attend events in 2014 but it will continue to be a struggle in 2015. The good news is that more assistants are taking training into their own hands and setting up internal and external networking groups for their peers. I have also seen assistants starting up their own blogs in 2014 and I think this will continue in 2015. It is an exciting step in the right direction. The more we network and share our thoughts on the industry the more recognition we will receive, which will help our career choice become more valued in the workplace.
I recently wrote a blog about the technology trends assistants can expect to see in 2015 so I won’t go into too much detail here. But it is worth noting that technology will continue to benefit our industry enormously in 2015 and we should embrace apps, social media and office based technology as much as possible. This stuff really does make our jobs easier!
A few years ago there were a number of articles which suggested assistants will see an increase in their workload as the economy shrinks and redundancies are made within the middle-management tier of businesses. I suggested that assistants should take advantage of this and ask for more interesting and challenging tasks. Two years later and I think this is partly true. Yes we tend to be more involved in other aspects of the business – events, marketing and social media to name a few. But we have also seen assistants stay within the traditional role but supporting an extra departments or more Executives. We have also seen assistants take on work that was given to more junior roles such as reception work or administrative tasks. From a number of surveys carried out this year, including the Practically Perfect PA Industry Snapshot we can see that assistants are still spending most of their time managing their Executive’s diary. This is the main aspect of the role and not something that will change in 2015 – even if technology helps with diary management. In 2015 it still seems the case that if assistants want to diversify their role they must be proactive and ask for the additional responsibilities.
There are advancements in the travel industry every year. I think the biggest change for assistants is the increased use of the mobile phone when travelling. Executives have been able to use their phone to book and board an aircraft but now they can use their phones to pay for hotels, restaurants and cabs. They can even open their hotel room door with their phone. The other trend I think will be helpful for assistants is the introduction of bigger overhead compartments, which means more luggage space and less time spent checking in at the airport. Lastly the increased use of AirBnB as a viable option for accommodation will make travel a lot cheaper for businesses.
With the economy improving over the last few years (particularly in London) we should start to see our Executives entertaining clients on a more regular basis. I suspect the type of entertainment will become more lavish over the next year with a return to the levels seen prior to the recession. This will mean that assistants will be asked to organise more client entertainment, book trendy restaurants, 5 star hotels and arrange unusual experiences for overseas guests. Assistants will have to ensure they are on top of the scene in their city so that they can make suggestions for client entertainment.
According to the National PA Survey 78% of assistants still feel that the profession is undervalued as a career choice. This is a ridiculously high percentage and something that we must address in 2015. I plan to look at this issue in more detail this year, starting with the Assist Conference in February. Why do we feel so undervalued, how can we receive more recognition and how do assistants working in the industry change their behaviour so that they are valued within their organisations.
The changing face of the assistant
The assistant role is changing. More and more highly ambitious and well educated women are entering the profession and being asked to keep their incredibly successful Executives on task. The demands on our Executive’s time are more than they have ever been and we have to be confident and real gatekeepers. It’s not an easy job so as we move into more of a middle management type role (albeit without the salary) we really do have to gain the skills required to keep up with the demands of the role.