Today's Administrative Professional: Tech-Savvy Manager

The most tech-savvy manager in your office is very likely the administrative professional. If you are an administrative professional, this comes as no surprise. But misperceptions persist in the general public about the profession. Even people who have worked together for years might not understand the real value of their support staff.

Popular culture continues to portray administrative professionals as people who answer calls, greet visitors, file paperwork and little else. While it’s true that they are very good at making sure that the right information and people get to the right places at the right time, this job demands a wide range of technical and managerial skills as well.

For about 20 years, the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) has been tracking, among other things, the job responsibilities and workload of these key office team members. The association’s 2013 Benchmarking Survey reveals the degree to which administrative professionals are expected to complete complex tasks, be tech-savvy, coordinate projects and manage team members.

This year’s benchmarking survey asked administrative professionals to self-identify training needs. The top five choices show just how important technology and management skills have become:

1. Technology applications

2. Computer software applications

3. Website/social media management

4. Project management

5. Supervisory/management/human resources skills

When administrative professionals were asked which tasks have become more prominent in the last two years, general office management was the top result. That was followed by travel planning, meeting planning, project management and software training/troubleshooting. These two sets of results make it very clear that support staff are quickly becoming the go-to people when it comes to being tech-savvy and putting new tools and techniques into practical use in the office.

This should have real implications for the way companies recruit, train and use their administrative professionals. This field can be a legitimate career path for intelligent, high-achieving people entering the workforce. Employers won’t have access to the best and brightest, however, if they treat administrative professionals as less-than-equals in the office. Engagement is very important. A recent OfficeTeam survey reveals that employees are much more likely to leave their employers if they don’t feel engaged at work. Training, support, recognition, compensation, mentorship and advancement opportunities should be allocated to administrative professionals as they are to every other vital team member.

It should also impact how support staff develop their own careers. If you stop thinking of yourself as a lowly cog, and instead act like a critical team member with a stake in your employer’s success, that’s going to change the way you interact with coworkers and supervisors, shift your motivations for going into work every day and prompt you to seek the type of professional development that will make you even better at your job. As an administrative professional, you’ve earned your equal place in the office team.

This is the first part in a series of blog posts about the findings from IAAP's 2013 Benchmarking Survey. Check back soon for additional insights!