Administrative assistance

Administrative professionals must
learn key business skills — and not
just for the obvious reasons of professional growth and career development.
An administrative professional who is proficient in time management, accountability,
problem-solving and decision-making can
truly drive an organization and make it
more productive, according to Anne Hach,
executive director of training and development at Corporate College.

“In today’s business environment, an
administrative professional works with
much more autonomy than years ago,”
says Hach, adding that administrative
professionals are more involved in
negotiating, decision-making, project
management and composing original
documents.

“It is important that the administrative
professionals’ skill level and training be
commensurate with duties they are
being asked to perform.”

Smart Business spoke with Hach
about the changing roles of today’s
administrative professionals and why it
is critical that these professionals learn
key business and management skills.

What types of business skills are important
for administrative professionals?

There are four main foundational skills
that are important:

 

  • Effective verbal communication skills.
    This includes professional telephone
    skills, knowledge of how to participate
    in meetings and effective face-to-face
    verbal skills. A good administrative professional will also have an intuitive
    sense of the best method of communication for any given circumstance and be
    able to advise or independently use this
    knowledge.

     

     

  • Proactive listening. Communication is
    not a one-way street. I consider proactive listening to be closely linked with
    probing or investigative skills, which
    includes rephrasing a statement until
    you make sure you understand what the
    person is saying. Proactive listening also
    includes filtering communication out at
    times and prioritizing. Administrative
    professionals are often bombarded with requests coming from various channels:
    a customer who wants something done
    one way, peers who advise it done another and the boss with yet another opinion.
    The challenge for the professional is to
    prioritize the information and act
    accordingly — with the customer often
    becoming the top priority.

     

     

  • Written skills. Writing is perhaps the
    biggest challenge for not only administrative professionals, but also mid- to
    senior-level management. Administrative
    professionals are often composing most
    of the e-mails, letters and other documents for management. Therefore, it is
    imperative that they understand not only
    the commonly accepted uses of English
    grammar, but also the business jargon of
    their particular industry and how to write
    in an appropriate business ‘tone.’

     

     

  • Time management skills. Administrative professionals must manage their
    own day and prioritize their own work. If
    they do not know how to do this effectively, other people in the organization
    will feel the fallout of this lack of organization and time management skills.

     

Are there other attributes necessary for
administrative professionals to succeed?

Yes — confidence. Some administrative
professionals may be very skilled at time
management and communication but lack
the confidence in their own professionalism. Therefore, they do not speak up at
meetings or do not take the initiative.
Because the administrative professional is
often the first person the client or customer meets in an organization, it is
important that he or she exudes business
professionalism and understands business etiquette. The definition of this
depends on the tone and business culture
of a particular office or industry.

Why are the skills of an administrative professional important to the executives or managers of a company?

From the executive’s point of view, a
highly trained administrative professional, who is also well versed in business etiquette and has a highly professional
demeanor, is an asset to that executive
and the company. Frequently, the administrative professional is in the role of gate-keeper to the executive. If he or she can
effectively utilize written and verbal communication skills and gain confidence,
the role could evolve to be more of a conjoiner and problem-solver. That kind of
professional makes the executive many
times more effective and productive at
his or her own job.

Can these skills be learned?

Yes, however, for some people these
skills are second nature. But for those that
these are not, communication skills, time
management and even confidence can be
developed and practiced.

ANNE HACH is the executive director of training and development at Corporate College (www.corporatecollege.com) based in
Cleveland, which offers employers custom-designed training programs to enhance future work force development, job growth and job
retention in Northeast Ohio. Reach her at (216) 987-2962 or [email protected].

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