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Executive assistants can play a pivotal role in reshaping the way teams work

The workforce of the future is upon us and a pivotal time for executive assistants [EAs] to help redefine the way teams work. As more corporations are identifying themselves as technology companies, they are investing in the right tools and resources to motivate their workforce to disrupt the globally diverse tech world.

EAs are at the frontlines to help global teams thrive in the industry by seamlessly evolving with technology that is reshaping our personal and professional lives.

For instance, the workforce is disciplined to create presentations, print hard copies for meetings and firm up logistical needs. In today’s environment, if we applied ‘technology’ thinking behind this process, the possibility of what we always depended on can change. 

Where can the EA play a role in adapting to a new process to navigate through a new way to perform at the speed technology is emerging? The EA is in a position to assess the environment based on the current processes and determine which areas can be improved. As an example almost all teams have a scheduled meeting, some gathering as frequently as others depending on the size and scope of the team. But one thing that remains a common thread is the download of information. With the onset of various collaboration platforms, meeting software and functional standups, EAs can amplify the shift toward transforming the digital workforce thus introducing tools that could offer solutions to visible experience gaps.

There’s a number of productivity tools and resources globally adopted based on capabilities required to go digital, but here’s a short list to learn what could be of benefit to optimize and automate a process to elevate the team’s performance.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of tools but a start to thinking through the patterns in the office that could be revamped for greater impact not only for the employee but for the organization as a whole. For a comparison of products, visit Capterra to discover more resources.

With a lens to the global culture, EAs are not only specialized in overall office management, but can also help make a difference to reshape the way teams work and pave the way for businesses to adapt to the digital workforce that over 100 companies are striving for.

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.

Pause

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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