Manager after manager express the same sentiment…”my assistant is too valuable to me to promote”. In some cases management or human resources have determined that the administrative professional “just doesn’t have the skill or education” to promote to another position in the company.
Let’s dispel a few myths first.
Myth #1 – My administrative professional is too valuable to me to lose.
Yes, you are correct. Your administrative professional is very valuable. Some would argue that she is the most valuable person in your organization. Reality – if your administrative assistant is hit by a bus tomorrow, you will have to replace her. Guaranteed. While your assistant is valuable, like you and all other employees, sadly, she is not irreplaceable. It’s just the reality of corporate America.
Myth #2 – My administrative professional doesn’t have a degree or the education to promote to a more technical position in the company
This is a funny one. Especially when speaking of administrative professionals that have been in their industries for 12 or more years. Managers regularly hire graduates fresh out of college with zero industry experience and place them in development programs for three to four years to “learn company culture and policies and to get them acclimated to the industry”, but are hesitant to promote administrative professionals that have the equivalent of a PhD or more in their field, have a proven track record of success, are already experts in company culture and policies and have an excellent grasp of the industry.
Reality – most administrative assistants are pulled into projects that go well beyond their “administrative” duties. In some cases, they take on those projects in addition to their administrative duties. They are placed on those projects because they have proven that they can go above and beyond what their normal job duties require. Why not let them prove that they can take on the job responsibilities of the project full-time and see just how much more they can provide value to your company? If a degree is that important to you, require that they work on their degree while they work on the project. Don’t punish them for not having one.
Myth #3 – My administrative professional does not want to do anything else.
Have you talked with your administrative professional about her career development? Nearly every technical job has a career ladder that is put in place to ensure that employees have goals for career development and opportunities for promotion. While most career ladders definitely have ceilings, if a career ladder for the administrative professional is in place, the ceiling is usually very low. The reality is that in most cases, career ladders for administrative professionals do not evenexist. Companies constantly push their mission of training and promoting their professionals….does that not include the administrative professional? Sadly…often it does not.
Why not sit with your administrative professional to see what her interests are and if she has an interest in other careers in the company. Look for opportunities to match her skills to jobs that require similar skill sets; then actually provide training opportunities and create a plan with milestones to ensure your administrative professional works toward moving into that new job. You may be surprised to find you may have a diamond in the rough!
So WHY Should You Promote Your Administrative Professional?
Reason #1 – Administrative Professionals are Reliable and Accountable
You place your entire day in the hands of your administrative professional without thinking twice about whether or not she will perform the tasks at hand. You know she will. Your schedules, your business contacts, confidential information, your travel, basically your entire daily functions are orchestrated and managed by your admin. The management of these daily tasks proves that your administrative professional is trustworthy and reliable. The same qualities you would expect of a project manager.
Reason #2 – Most Administrative Professionals are Natural Problem Solvers
How often have you given a task to your administrative professional and expected her to just “figure it out”? My guess is quite often. Whether it’s to research and pull together information for a presentation, make sense of scattered data files to build reports, or just to find a way to get you from Houston to South Africa without 17 layovers, administrative professionals are expected to solve problems and think outside of the box on a daily basis. This skill is not exclusive to your project managers, and one you may find even more developed in your administrative professional.
Reason #3 – Many Administrative Professionals are Natural Leaders
Who do you put in charge to ensure all of your team is educated about company policies and information? Who compiles and communicates team safety metrics and ensures that all employees meet them? Who do you go to when you have questions about team morale and to help build team morale whether it’s by organizing team building events or creating other team incentives? Typically it’s your administrative professional. You trust her to “lead” your team…to embody everything you expect of your team. When you are away, she is basically your representative. Why not open up opportunities for those same qualities to shine on projects?
Reason #4 – It Can Make Good Dollars and “Sense”
It is no secret that administrative professionals are typically paid less than technical positions in the company. We are all aware of that. Admins, just deal with it. It is sometimes hard to “quantify” the value of an admin. We won’t try here. But let’s visit a scenario.
As a manager, you need to hire someone for a new project that your team has acquired. You have given your administrative assistant the bulk of the responsibilities of the project because she is very familiar with it, has trust and a good rapport with the team and has expressed an interest in moving into another role. She is doing a fantastic job…but now you are faced with a dilemma. Move her into the role or hire someone new fresh out of college.
Here’s a case for moving your admin.
Your admin makes $43,000 a year…$73,000 with benefits by the end of the year. Her typical hourly charge rate for projects is about $100 per hour. She is spending about 6 hours per day on the project – equaling to about $3000 per week / $12,000 per month for a project that is going to last 6 months – $72,000 total. The remaining hours are spent training her successor and keeping your team afloat.
Your new college hire coming in at the mid-level of the job pay grade from a competitive market will cost between $90,000 to $100,000 a year…$120,000 to $130,000 or more with benefits by the end of the year. Her/his hourly project rate is $300 per hour. She/he spends about 5 hours per day on the project – equaling to about $7500 per week / $30,000 per month for a total of 6 months – $180,000 total. The remaining hours are spent getting acclimated to the company, learning company culture, training, etc.
As a manager, by promoting your administrative professional, your six month project savings at the hourly rates above = $108,000 with at least 120 more hours spent on the project.
Assuming an average new college hire salary of $95,000 per year…$125,000 with benefits vs. the admin salary of $43,000 per year…$73,000 with benefits, as a manager you are looking at an average of $26,000 employee salary savings over a 6 month period.
But…you say…I will still have to give my admin a raise if I promote her to the role and I will have to hire a new admin. Yes…this is true. Sorry, can’t get around that. But here is the reality…at the very most you will have to promote your admin to the lowest salary on the range of the job pay grade. Let’s assume it is $65,000 per year. You STILL save on average about $15,000 employee salary dollars over a six month period, and, while your project no longer saves on the hourly rate, you are getting more value because 120 more hours are devoted to the project creating a faster time of completion. Your new admin comes in at the same salary as your old admin (or less). You get the benefit of having your new admin trained by your old fantastic and dynamic admin, your old admin gets a hefty and well deserved raise and promotion, AND her morale and drive are off the charts! In the end…you still have about $30,000 or more in employee salary savings per year! You WIN!
While this is a hypothetical situation and the scenario information may change here and there, the logic still applies. Promoting your admin just makes good dollars and “sense”.
Reason #5 – The Most Important Reason of All – Employee Morale and It’s Just the Right Thing to Do!
You have an outstanding administrative professional. She goes above and beyond all expectations. She takes on projects outside of her normal responsibilities with ease and excels every time. She is a top performer!
Your admin has expressed an interest in moving to another more challenging role. You don’t want to lose her, so you deny this opportunity. Biggest mistake ever…here’s why.
- You are sending mixed messages. You are telling your admin that she is the best and is capable of more, but only if you allow it? You are likely not denying those same opportunities to other high performers in your organization and therefore are inadvertently telling your admin that she is not as important.
- Because she is a high performer, she has likely reached the top of her pay grade. Only in fairytale land do responsibilities usually decrease from year to year. They almost always increase, and because your admin is a high performer, you are likely going to give her more and more responsibility. Shouldn’t the salary and opportunities also go along with that responsibility?
- Let’s say the responsibilities don’t increase, or you are afraid to give her more responsibilities. High performers need to be challenged, so she is likely to grow bored. Growing bored means performance suffers. That once dynamic world conqueror is now showing signs of decreased performance. Sorry…you have no one to blame but yourself.
- Finally, if you don’t promote her, she will likely leave anyway. Rarely will high performers stay in situations where they are not challenged or rewarded. Best case scenario, she finds a new job in a new department within the company and gives a few uninterested hours per week (because you didn’t promote her in the first place) to train your new assistant …the not-as-dynamic admin you had to hire to replace her. Worst case scenario, she leaves the company and takes her valuable assets to your competitor, no succession planning…no valuable training for your new assistant…bad news for you.
Bottom-line…losing a fantastic assistant is scary, but, if done properly, promoting your admin can provide rewards for ALL parties involved!
Take a chance. Set the stage…promote your admin!