By Stephanie Naznitsky, Executive Director, Robert Half

When business was disrupted nearly overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our entire administrative team at Robert Half sprang into action. Their quick thinking, problem-solving and collaborative mindset helped our practice groups quickly pivot to an all-remote environment where teams could continue supporting clients and candidates who still needed to hire and be hired.

Remarkable transformations like these were happening in workplaces across the country. Because administrative roles and skill sets have been changing for some time, these professionals were perfectly positioned to manage challenges brought on by the pandemic — from troubleshooting new technologies and training employees to use them, to arranging for workspace disinfection and protective equipment for essential workers, to onboarding new employees virtually.

From behind the scenes to center stage

Administrative workers have always been indispensable in well-run organizations. But in the new post-pandemic workplace, they are stepping into the spotlight as key operations specialists.

The advanced skills administrative professionals are mastering are finding traction in four areas:

  • Technology. As new business tech is introduced, administrative staff tend to be the initial users, and then they teach it to their coworkers. Think about the last time your organization launched new software or digital tools it expected all employees to learn. After formal training, whom did everyone approach with questions? Administrative professionals are also trying their hands at digital media and marketing technologies like social media, graphic design and database management.
  • Human resources. As HR becomes a more strategic function to the business, administrative roles are evolving to fill the process gaps, whether that means learning HR information systems or managing tasks like open enrollment and payroll.
  • Customer service. Just as customer expectations are rising externally, organizations are looking to administrative professionals to create meaningful experiences for the people and teams they work with internally. Today, the skills portfolio for support staff is heavy on emotional intelligence, empathy and communication — interpersonal, written and verbal.
  • Project management. Today’s administrative workers also thrive in environments where they can lead as adaptable problem-solvers able to use their own initiative to find new or better ways to operate the business. They are likely to work across many departments in cross-team collaboration, including with senior executives and project leaders. Talented support professionals keep everyone and everything on track and in the loop through effective communication and collaboration.

Bright forecast ahead

Stress-tested and awarded greater responsibility, today’s administrative professionals will continue taking on highly visible and collaborative roles.

This is great news for companies as they discover promising talent in their own support ranks who can flex to the new workplace.

But if you’re looking to supplement your team with more rising stars, seek candidates with the advanced technical, customer service and project management skills today’s administrative workers are mastering.

More than half (56%) of senior managers polled for Robert Half’s 2023 Salary Guide plan to hire more administrative and customer support workers in the coming year. And with the role’s added responsibilities, employers are increasing pay to compete for top talent: 38% of managers say they would be willing to offer a higher salary to compete for top administrative talent. More than 40% said their company is increasing starting salaries to attract and hire skilled candidates.

If you are an administrative professional yourself, know that it’s a great time to be in the field. If you are seeking a new opportunity with advancement, tell your success stories. Present yourself as a highly adaptive worker and a lifelong learner. And highlight your skills for the post-pandemic workplace by emphasizing your technical knowledge, project management experience, teamwork orientation, interface with top leadership and multilevel communications skills.