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Meet Max! my virtual executive assistant

A rising star, all things administrative performer, with the capability to understand verbal requests, research a complex travel plan, distinguish calendar patterns and solve logistical challenges. Meet Max, my virtual executive assistant!

Max, let’s look at what we need to prioritize for this week. We have a town hall that needs to be coordinated with A/V support, breakout rooms and catering. Max can you find a large conference room that will hold 100 employees for the full day and five break-out rooms between 2:00 – 5:00 pm for the brainstorming sessions? And I’ll take care of the A/V and catering. Got it Max? Yes, BP [business partner].

Okay, moving on to next week, we have BB [big boss] who needs to get to London by the start of the business day on Wednesday, then Paris by 5:00 pm on Friday for the roundtable dinner at 7:00 pm. Max, can you coordinate the flights and hotels and I will get started on the meetings in Paris? Yes, BP.

Max is a virtual executive assistant of the future envisioned for the executive’s office and the workplace. While there will be limitations of what AI can support, why not start to foresee areas that technology can be optimized and start to think of AI capabilities to maximize the depth of its benefits.

Recognizing and adopting AI can enhance an EAs ability to focus on the big picture strategic plan for their executive that AI can’t do. And focussing on the future to effectively evaluate the changes that can be made to evolve technology is not only a win win for EAs but the organization as well.

Reports and findings reveal that AI can increase productivity and efficiency–automating many of the task EAs perform on a daily basis. This begs the question, how? AI will minimize time wasted on finding documents, researching topics, booking lunch reservations and more. Thus enabling the EA to have the time to devote to the proficiency of the office in areas that human capabilities are required.

Bracing for the changes to come and visualizing Max, will prepare EAs for the redesign of the role. The added benefit of this realization and learning more about AI, can help in being part of the redesign and creating the new EA job profile.

The office support position evolved from secretary to executive assistant over decades and will continue to be an integral part of business operations with renewed standards of excellence. Start today and map out the areas that can be automated vs the aspects of the job that require humans to perform. By taking charge of the change and being part of innovation will help to identify how to leverage the power of AI to broaden and enhance what an all-star EA can do.

Bridging the Gap

When Sunday night arrived, the brain started to shift from laundry, meal plan and fitness schedule to Joe, Mary and Bob–the town hall for Joe, international journey for Mary and Bob’s board presentation. It is clear there’s no shut off or power button for the brain so the Monday morning tasks that await are already stirring through the to do list.

Morning breaks in after sleepless hours because after a quick email glance Sunday night, the eyes flexed wide-open to the TripIt notification–“flight canceled”. Trying to diffuse the brain from processing the new found information is like trying to relax on a turbulent flight.

A tall black coffee and morning podcast channeled to the “I can do this” pep talk, gets Sally through the front door and off the elevator to her desk–ultimately diving into the day that awaits. Sally doesn’t have time to manage the start of Joe’s town hall and rebook Mary’s travel plan at the same time so she calls in the troops–the vast group of enabled peers to come to her aid. While Jill gets Joe saddled up with his town hall presentation and A/V in-check, Sally can focus on getting Mary to her conference in London.


The never ending acts of kindness that the executive assistant [EA] performs on any given day are countless and often times referred to across the organization as magic. The top notch EA comes with an arsenal of skills to tap into depending on the call to action–the commitment to learning and acquiring new skills is far from magic. It is determination and hard work!

The EA role has evolved over the years along with the business as technology leaps us forward into the future of work. According to research, EAs are assigned not only to two but three to four executives. This prompts the question of the importance of quality vs. quantity? The seasoned EA is more than capable to support multiple executives but limits the ability to dive deeper into the bigger world of the executive–undervaluing the true worth.

For instance, managing multiple calendars is limited to focussing on attendees and logistics. Time does not allow for the opportunity to peel back the request to determine the validity or an alternate course of action. When you look at the number of hours executives are spending in meetings with a back-to-back calendar, this begs the question, can this change? Yes!

Most meetings are scheduled without a purpose–giving little to the prep for the discussion to meet the end result of the intent. But how do we change? Tap into the EAs ability and recognize that the completion of calls to action are the result of skillset–not a sprinkle of fairy dust that makes it all happen. The EA can help to improve the daily schedule by allocating time to the right meetings and length of time spent in each.

When organizations understand the role an EA can play in making a difference in an executive’s overall schedule and building a partnership, then the emphasis shifts from quantity to quality. Thus, bridging the gap in acknowledging the EAs ability to take decisive action is hard work, not magic.

Learn how AI and the #futureofwork will shift the role of an EA

With the onset of automation and AI, there’s no dodging the fact that the routine tasks in the office [and elsewhere] will shift the way we work. Technology is even experimenting with grocery shopping–for example, Ocado is an experiment with robots for grocery picking and packing and Amazon is revolutionizing the warehouse process using AI.

If the supply chain can be automated, then why not the office too? Well the #futureofwork will demonstrate how machines will carry out tasks that humans did for centuries resulting in a number of jobs to change and productivity for some jobs to increase. For Executive Assistants [EAs] to be early adopters and start learning how to embrace the #futureofwork, it is imperative to learn how to incorporate the latest technology into their current role to add higher value to the support tasks. Don’t let the fear of the unknown hinder the ability to rise above but rather figure out how AI can manage travel bookings so you can focus on solving gaps that could never be attended to before. Here’s a couple of articles to add to your resource bank that will help equip for the evolving support role:

Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages [Source: McKinsey]

Chatbots for Work [Source: Capacity]

Get started today and rewrite the EA role for the future!


Open office concept: shine the light

Here we are rounding the corner to 2020 where the future of work predictions would change the way we do business. Technology has evolved but the office environment remains to struggle with phasing out the typical office with walls and cubicles.

There are numerous studies and reports that claim that the open office environment doesn’t work. What these claims do not dive into is the fact that the failed designs may not have been about the concept but lack of information to help leaders champion the new way to work. I worked in both environments and prefer to be in an open office because it breaks down the walls and puts everyone on the floor to work together. With any change, leaders need to stand behind the concept and bring fresh ideas rather than be chained up in the old way of thinking when leaders were in offices with closed doors–employees wanted the change to have the ability to access their leader without separation between their workspace and a door. Now the walls are coming down, letting the light shine in across the floors of office space–keep the flame focussed on fine-tuning the design to create a workspace where employees want to be.

Furthermore, there will always be complaints and if they do not offer a solution then the situation may not be about the open office but rather the employee behaviors being resistant to change. As we progress into new concepts and the way of working, employees need to take hold of ideas not only in business operations but in how they get their work done. And leaders need to challenge themselves to think outside the box and their office door to model a new behavior to develop collaboration with their teams.

Breaking down the walls in the open environment not only brings a fresh sense of working next to one another but diminishes the typical hierarchy that sometimes stands in the way of employees approaching leaders who are behind closed doors. Pause and take a moment to revamp the culture, promote a new way to work, offer ideas that will solve for distractions, and learn about how to do things differently where everything is transparent in an open environment–be the one to champion the concept to keep the flame burning not the one to blow it out!

“We used to think about how to make spaces efficient, then it became about how to make them more effective. Now it’s: How do you create spaces where people want to be?” ~ Janet Pogue McLaurin, workplace leader of Gensler, a New York City-based architecture and design firm [Source: SHRM | Fine-Tuning the Open Office ]

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The Importance of Enterprise-wide Collaboration

The years ahead present optimal opportunities in the digital landscape as technology evolves and spans across the enterprise.

In order to adapt and move ahead of the new norm, it is vital to say abreast of the latest technology and trends taking shape in business operations. Thus with the increased demand in IoT, cloud computing and app development, the internal learning platforms must be designed to allow employees to have access to the critical training modules in these areas especially if the skills are directly related to the scope of their job.

Additionally, the future office brings expectations to adapt quickly to change, work smarter and increase productivity through digital engagement and collaboration. Fortunately with the advent of the digital era, there are optimal mediums to enhance and develop knowledge in all of the prominent skills required for the 2020 workforce. Check-out WalkMe — a guidance and engagement Platform that drives users to action as they use software or websites.

For those who fall behind in embracing enterprise collaboration will miss the pivotal step into the future of business. Recent case studies and reports reveal how important it is to not only evolve with technology but also shift into a leadership culture that will thrive in today’s digital environment. The Workforce 2020 reports the importance for leaders to build a collaborative infrastructure facilitated by pervasive communications.

“One core attribute of leadership in the future will be to bring smart people together to think in more fluid, dynamic ways, and to solve problems that have never been solved before. Leaders will need to architect creative cultures that can constantly produce new ideas and new skills.” —Annmarie Neal, VP of Talent Management and Development, Cisco

Going beyond the traditional office, the digital transformation age brings increased global connectivity, integration, and interdependence in the economic, social, technological, cultural, and political spheres — organizations need to reshape their business model and strategy to conform to the #newwaytowork. By incorporating the latest technology and publishing the right tools and resources for employees, there’s greater potential to build the digital collabortion culture. This coupled with leadership adoption and transparency on the impact of the change will close the gap on disengaged workforce — redefining enterprise digital collaboration will inspire and empower the workforce to do their best work!

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