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:
Systematically planning the handbook
The first step is to meet with your team and mind map questions arising and obstacles you may face. Who will use the guide? Will HR need to sign off on the finished product? Should we disseminate? Who will update the guide and how often? Address as many concerns as possible, and as a group, agree how to take action.
The second stage is to agree content. A few key sections should emerge;
1. Policy & Procedure, for HR documents, travel and expense policies, health and safety etc.;
2. User Guides, for programs such as “Concur” and “Salesforce”, telephone manuals or step guides on how to book travel;
3. Best practice guides to support your team needs, this can be anything from minute taking to PowerPoint guides, business development support;
4. Miscellaneous/other, helpful documents such as templates, contact lists, marketing guidelines.
Once you have your rough contents list, agree a timeline for completion with specific actions listed and linked to the staff member responsible for completion; using a Gantt chart is the most effective method.
Utilising the skills of the wider team
In delegating the drafting of the handbook, it is a great idea to utilise the different strengths and skills of your team. Focus on achievement – your colleagues are more likely to remain motivated if they enjoy their involvement, feeling confident that they have the ability to deliver (especially if you undertake this project in your spare time!). Does your colleague in New York have a Marketing degree? Maybe the PA in your Manchester office enjoys providing events support and would like to draft a checklist? You might know that your receptionist maintains an excellent error-free contact list and is a stickler for detail. Allow the team to shine naturally whilst working collaboratively.
Outcomes for your team
Consolidating standards and collating information will not only assist new starters, it will help your existing team work in a leaner, more unified manner. Handbooks are an evolving document from which you can drive change; when drafting a guide at my former company, my team was forced to review the current expenses policy, and as a result, the firm now has a new travel booking provider in place! Sharing a completed guide with your bosses/executives will provide them with a solid overview of the service you provide, and can raise the profile of the team within your organisation.
Outcomes for you
A future proofed career! The chance to improve skills outside of your everyday remit such as editing, leadership, creative writing etc. Improved understanding of your business and an increase in knowledge. Raised profile and the development of gravitas – if you weren’t respected as a professional already, you will be now!
This is a guest post from Amy Marsden, EA at Earthport. Amy is a graduate of the University of Manchester with a passion for executive support; over 8 years’ experience, currently supporting Hank Uberoi, CEO of Earthport, an international cross border payments company headquartered in London. Former assistant to Seth Berman, London head of US based digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg, and cross-bench peer Lord Nicholas Stern of Brentford. Amy loves to travel and enjoys following fashion and interior design in her spare time.