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
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.