Paper Pushing 2.0 – The Impact of New Technology on Workflows

In today’s era of company meetings held via Skype, marketing campaigns pushed across Facebook and work files reviewed from mobile devices, it’s hard to imagine the workplace without these new technologies – and back office operations are no exception. Administrative professionals, the backbone of any smoothly running office, increasingly need to be tech-savvy in order to support day-to-day office activities across a myriad of technology platforms.

When OfficeTeam polled senior managers about changes to their administrative professionals’ workflows in the past year, 48 percent responded that new technology had the greatest impact.

If you think about the diverse responsibilities that 21st century administrative professionals are tasked with on any given day, it’s easy to see why digital fluency is essential to success. A standard day’s workload might include managing vendors and suppliers through office communication portals, creating office collateral through software programs, coordinating schedules across devices and operating systems, handling messages and correspondence (with voice mail, email, and regular postal mail), and/or maintaining computer files, directories and databases. Being tech-savvy and up-to-speed on new technologies is key to survival in this job function that thrives on time management.

In talking with administrative professionals currently in the workplace, here are the five trends that we’ve identified that are impacting the workflows of those managing the back office today:

1. Human resource compliance

One of the many responsibilities of the administrative team is managing the official documents of employees before they even finish their first day on the job – including filling out W-2s and I-9s, processing background checks and registering for benefits. At the heart of HR compliance, admins are responsible for ensuring that their companies are following federal and state employment laws by industry, organization type and company size. Additionally, HR compliance means having appropriate HR programs and policies in place, which involves monitoring employment laws related to: benefits; compensation/wages; new hire orientation; payroll, recruitment and hiring; recordkeeping; separation/layoff; labor relations; OSHA; performance management; worker’s compensation; and workplace safety. The website for the International Association of Administrative Professionals is one of many offering resources for those trying to keep up on the latest mandates.

2. Electronic recordkeeping

Administrative professionals are no strangers to "paper pushing," and new advancements in electronic capture have revolutionized the way that companies transact and preserve records of private information. For example, DocuSign has enabled companies to transact business requiring a legal signature entirely electronically, and MyChart has empowered patients to track their own medical charts via a web-based database connecting them with their doctors. These advancements have reduced the amount of time that administrative professionals devote to processing paperwork and have enabled business to be transacted in real-time.

3. Regulating processes across different devices

Gone are the days where the hardest part of organizing a conference call meant setting up separate country codes for international attendees. In today’s increasingly remote workforce, employees often need to manage a document or project across multiple devices, and often these devices don’t share the same operating system – meaning those on the administrative front need to be well-versed in managing software integration.

4. Incorporating apps into workflows

The influx of apps across handheld mobile devices, tablets and laptops has led to increased productivity for today’s professionals. Companies can now create customized apps that enable employees and customers alike to access information and continue the workflow regardless of location, allowing pending transactions to be uninterrupted by the parameters of the traditional work day. Further, administrative professionals can incorporate time management tools – such as personalized calendar updates and multimedia reminders – to keep the teams they’re supporting on track for deadlines.

5. Education and communication regarding new technologies

Along with improved efficiencies in the workplace, new technologies also bring new challenges in communicating the benefits of and providing education on how employees can use these technologies. Admins are not only tasked with implementing new technologies – to keep up with client/customer demands as well as legal mandates – but are also frequently charged with supporting the rollout (and related questions). Employee activities often rely on a consistent workflow of integrated software applications, uninterrupted Internet communications, as well as document prep, storage and retrieval, and communicating the changes in these workflows often fall on the shoulders of administrative professionals. Becoming an expert on new technologies and managing their incorporation into the workplace are new responsibilities for most support staff, and reinforces the value of their work as we mark Administrative Professionals Week.

With more than 5.6 million administrative support workers and supervisors employed today (as estimated by the U.S. Department of Labor) executives are taking note of these impactful trends and how they can better arm their administrative teams to do the best job they can.

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