Category: From the Chair

Appreciation? Not Just Once A Year

Helen Monument, Interim Chair, WA-Alliance, writes:

Around the world, Administrative Professionals are celebrating. Depending on your country or region, for one day, a week or the whole month. Admins are in the spotlight. And not before time. So let me start by wishing everyone a Happy Administrative Professionals day/week/month celebration, however you will be doing it.

Trainer and author Rhonda Scharf shares her top-10 tips for celebrating this special time here. There are some very original and inventive ideas, in case your boss needs some inspiration.

You may have received flowers or a gift from your manager already. I live in The Netherlands, and in pre-COVID times on Secretary Day, 15th April, I would see (mostly) men in suits lining up at the florist, or walking to the office with their arms full of flowers. I could tell who was an Administrative Professional as (mostly) women struggled onto the train for the home commute with bouquets and packages. Anyone seeing this would automatically think ‘Ah, it’s Secretary Day”. But what do they really know of the value of the role of the Administrative Professional?

Everyone needs to feel that they are appreciated, in all walks of life. How often do we say ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ to someone? It’s very easy to take people for granted and Administrative Professionals seem to get the thin end of the wedge when it comes to being recognized and rewarded for their achievements. We shouldn’t be relying on just one day/week/month a year to receive appreciation for what we do.

How do you get recognition and reward for the amazing work that you are delivering day after day? In a 2020 article “Realise your Worth” in Executive Support Magazine, Sandy Geroux says that not everyone can express appreciation. “They may recognize and appreciate your talents but just can’t bring themselves to say anything. Appreciation doesn’t come naturally to some people, so they don’t express it. This does not mean that neither your talent nor their appreciation exists. All it means is that you will need to look inside and possess enough self-esteem to know it is there; it also means that if we look to others for praise, we may be in for a rude awakening and a very disappointing experience.” She goes on to say that even though someone can’t express appreciation, they have no problem with expressing disapproval. If things go wrong, we hear about it immediately, but what about when things go right? There’s usually silence, because Administrative Professionals are not in the habit of blowing their own trumpet when it comes to achievements and successes.

This is where performance management comes into its own. You should be having a regular (at least monthly) one-to-one meeting with your line manager to discuss your performance. You’ve set your goals together, so by tracking the status on a regular basis, you’re keeping each other informed of your progress. This is your opportunity to ask “How am I doing?” and your manager’s opportunity to give you appreciation and recognition for your successes, as well as giving you feedback on things that may not have gone so well. Then at the end of the year, at performance appraisal time, there are no surprises. If you have performed over and above expectations, then you should be rewarded and recognized for it. This could be reflected in a bonus or a salary increase. Of course, there is room every day for a ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ from anyone in the organization.

I’m sure that everyone loves receiving flowers and gifts, and they truly are an expression of appreciation and thanks. But professional recognition and reward for the work that we deliver, as well as for the value we add to our our organizations every day, should be the driving force behind the appreciation that we receive, which will stay with us long after the roses have faded.

What’s In A Name?

Helen Monument, Interim Chair WA-Alliance, writes:

On 17th and 18th March this year, I attended ExecSecLIVE Global, the online event run by Executive Secretary Magazine. When it was over, I went for a much-needed walk. I was very happy that the sun was shining, as it really reflected my mood after being behind my screen for two and a half days.  What an amazing event it was with so many inspiring speakers, so many enthusiastic participants, so many old and new friends to network with.

I was particularly pleased with the buzz that started around my interview with Lucy Brazier on the WA-Alliance Skills Set Matrix. The chat was on fire with comments, questions and great words of encouragement. This tells me that we are absolutely right to announce this tool to the world right now.

Spring has arrived here in Europe, it was wonderful to be outside in the fresh air and I started to notice that things were growing. Green shoots on the trees and bushes and even daisies popping up on the grass. There were spring flowers everywhere. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses each have their own conditions in which they thrive. They need the sun and the rain and the earth at different times of the year and in different degrees. They all have different names, but we see them all as flowers.

The name we give ourselves is very important to us, it gives us our identity. The WA-Summit surveys found that there are more than 160 job titles for what administrative professionals do. In the interview with Lucy Brazier, I spoke of Administrative Professionals, which is quite a mouthful, especially as I had to say it several times, so I shortened it to ‘Admins’.

There was a heartfelt plea in the chat window during the interview “Please don’t call me an Admin, I’m an Executive Assistant.” I can fully understand that remark, especially if you’ve worked diligently towards a certain position in the office hierarchy over many years and, of course, you’re proud of what you’ve achieved.

But whatever job title our organisation chooses to give us, it’s the content of our work and the skills that we need to excel in our role that are most important, as well as receiving recognition for what we do, and how we do it.

The Skills Set Matrix does not refer to specific job titles. It defines five levels of competence and the most common tasks that you can expect to do at each particular level as well as the all-important skills that are required.

The WA-Summit report on International Position Titles from which the Skills Set Matrix was born is based on research from our survey of over 3000 Administrative Professionals that showed:

Position titles are a crucial element as to how the business world operates. Yet, the careers of many administrative professionals, roughly 1/5th of the world’s employed population, are defined by job titles and descriptions that are inaccurate, ambiguous and varied within organisations and across the globe.

The information contained in the Matrix is intended to assist you as an administrative professional in understanding where you fit and how you can progress. It is also to assist your Executive, your HR Department, Recruiters and Educators to better understand the roles administrative professionals fulfil, the structure and range of tasks within those roles, and show a clear career pathway for those who wish to progress. It is certainly not intended to change position titles within your organisation or your country. Neither is it a ‘one size fits all’, which would of course be an impossible task. The report concludes that:

The most common title for administrative professionals is “Administrative Assistant” with “Executive Assistant,” “Receptionist” and “Office Manager/Administrator” as runners up. The title of “Secretary” appears to be in declining usage considering occupational data of the past.

This conclusion is affirmed by the decision of Executive Secretary Magazine to rebrand on its 10th anniversary and take on a new name: Executive Support Magazine. Congratulations to Lucy Brazier and her team for taking this step forward.

When we at the WA-Alliance talk about our community, we refer to Administrative Professionals, sometimes shortened to Admins for simplicity. It’s a purely overarching term that we use globally, so please don’t let that distract you from our main message, which is that we are all in this profession together, that we need to raise our voices as one to show Executives and HR Managers the value that we bring to their organisations.


It’s good to do good

Helen Monument, Interim Chair WA-Alliance, writes:

You know that feeling you get when you’ve been able to do something totally selflessly for someone else? Isn’t it great?

According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, simply by performing one random act of kindness a day, your stress, anxiety and depression will be reduced as your body is flooded with the same hormones that make you become calmer, healthier and happier.

So if just one selfless act makes us feel that good, just imagine how you will feel when you freely give your time, your skills and your attention to an organisation as a volunteer.

There are great benefits to volunteering:

  • Your personal or professional aims align with those of your chosen organization or cause.
  • You meet like-minded people.
  • You learn new skills in a safe environment.
  • You build your confidence & self esteem.
  • You give something back.
  • You enhance your career.
  • You become part of a community.

The essence of life is to serve others and do good.

Aristotle

The World Administrators Alliance and the WA-Summit totally depend on volunteers and we could not do it without them. Yes, we will be inviting paid membership to Associations, Networks and administrative professionals, but we don’t have anyone on the payroll, and all the work that is done by the Interim Council, the Communications Team, Task Forces and Delegates is given freely and willingly.

The great thing about volunteering to support the WA-Alliance is that you have the opportunity to make a difference. Delegates at the WA-Summit have worked incredibly hard since the WA-Summit started almost twenty years ago to produce and manage surveys, analyse data and produce reports, documents, papers and guidelines that are made available on our website. All for the benefit of the Administrative Profession about which they are all so passionate, so we applaud them and their commitments.

There are also some aspects of volunteering that might make you think twice before putting up your hand:

  • The project or task turns into something bigger than you thought.
  • You may end up burning the candle at both ends.
  • Co-volunteers may fall by the wayside, leaving more work for you.
  • Things may take much longer to achieve.

Volunteering is all about the commitment that you are prepared to make. Often, we put up our hand in the heat of the moment, without giving enough thought to the time and effort that’s required. Then when we get back into the daily routine, life takes over and our focus shifts.

Taking up a role in a voluntary organisation is like having a hobby. You enjoy doing it, so you make a conscious decision to commit your time to it. You understand that the more time you invest in it, the greater the benefits will be.

If you decide that the pro’s far outweigh the con’s, then put up your hand and get involved by becoming a delegate at the WA-Summit. We’d love to have you with us.

Click here for all the details.

The Future World

Helen Monument – Interim Chair WA-Alliance writes,

According to a study by McKinsey, in the pandemic, women are 1.8 times more likely than men to lose their jobs. As the majority of Administrative Professionals are women, this is having a huge impact on many of us. So what will the future world look like for our profession?

One prediction by the World Economic Forum in their Future of Jobs Report lists Administrative and Executive Secretaries at the number two spot of the top ten jobs that will be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines by 2025.

The media also is full of stories about how we have already adapted and changed our ways of working. All the experts agree that work will definitely never be the same again. Research by Slack’s Future Forum of over 4000 knowledge workers found that only 12% want to return to full time office work and 72% prefer a hybrid remote-office model. According to John Trougakos, Associate Professor, Organizational Behaviour and HR Management at the University of Toronto “The key is to focus on keeping workers productive and healthy by giving them the freedom to work in ways that suit their needs while also meeting corporate objectives. Proactive and progressive companies will take this opportunity to embrace this new normal and turn it into a competitive advantage while simultaneously improving the lives of their workers.”

There is a huge role for the World Administrators Alliance to play in building a strong community to support our member Associations and Networks and help them to collaborate with other so that they can prepare their own members for the post-Covid future, whatever it may look like.

The Skills Set Matrix

First published in Executive Secretary Magazine, this article by WA-Alliance Interim Chair Helen Monument, introduces the Skills Set Matrix, a game changer for the Administrative Profession.

Helen Monument introduces the Skills Set Matrix from the World Administrators Alliance and explains the next steps

In a career spanning three decades, I have had many different position titles in many different companies: from Receptionist, Secretary, Management Assistant, Team Assistant, PA, EA, Business Support Manager, Admin Team leader to Office Manager.

All of these roles were different and as I progressed from role to role, the tasks and requirements changed as I learned new skills and took on more responsibility, but the red thread going through them all was that of administrative support, in one way or another.

One of the challenges I always had, however, is that the ‘outside world’, including colleagues, executives and HR managers, did not know or fully understand exactly what my roles entailed, what skills were required to do those roles, or the value that what I was doing was bringing to the organization, over and above the ‘admin’ side of my daily work.

Position Descriptions

Yes, I had a position description each time I started a new role, but most of them were just a list of the day-to-day tasks like diary management, travel booking, expense reports etc.  With some roles I had, I often discovered after a month or two that there were not enough hours in the day for me to achieve what was piled onto my desk or flooded into my inbox. Often a new responsibility was added, such as Website Manager, Office Emergency Team Leader, SharePoint manager, Information Compliance Manager and Data Privacy Focal Point. It wasn’t until halfway through my career that I felt confident enough to speak up and propose my own position description, based on the requirements of my role, competencies and the qualifications and level of expertise that were needed and that I had gained.

Misunderstood and Undervalued

When talking to other administrative professionals, I constantly hear their frustration of working in an industry that is seriously misunderstood. Often their role is perceived as ‘just an admin’. Colleagues with professionally recognized position titles are given growth and development opportunities that aren’t open to administrators because their company or executives don’t recognize their role as being a “Profession”.

This is partly due to there being no globally recognized qualifications for our role. Although some employers may require candidates to have minimum qualification at a specific level, and some may prefer degrees, there are no formal academic qualifications required as standard.

Many position descriptions or position advertisements for administrative professionals are written by HR specialists or recruiters who fail to fully grasp the complexities of the role and the numerous ways in which administrative professionals support their executives.

Because of this lack of understanding, the role of the administrative professional is grossly undervalued, adding to the inability of organizations to fully utilize the enormous potential that is available to them.

The value that administrative professionals bring to the workplace can be so much greater with the right approaches to the correct training and education, with the right frameworks and ways of working, and with a better understanding of how they can assist their manager and their organization.

A Unifying Framework

Position titles for administrative roles vary according to the employer. In some organizations, the titles ‘personal assistant’ and ‘executive assistant’ are interchangeable. In others, an executive assistant is more senior than a personal assistant and will take on more responsibility, such as some corporate governance or team organization work. In some organizations, a personal assistant role is an entry-level role; in others, it requires a great deal of experience and is paid accordingly. It’s no wonder the outside world is confused, when even within the profession there is no alignment of the position titles.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for our profession to have a unifying framework that makes it possible to identify levels of work for a given position or role profile?

Well, you can stop wondering, because the Skills Set Matrix is coming.

The Skills Set Matrix is Coming

Created out of the 10th World Administrators Summit discussions, chaired by Eth Lloyd, the Skills Set Matrix is based on data collected from a 2017 global survey of over 3000 administrative professionals who answered detailed questions on position titles, tasks and perceptions of the role. This led to the International Position Titles Report, held on the WA-Summit website, and was accepted by the Delegates at the 10th WA-Summit.

The 10th WA-Summit delegates discussed a new topic on International Position Descriptions and agreed that the skills sets required go hand in hand with the very many position titles being used for administrative professionals world wide, and so the Skills Set Matrix was born.

It describes five levels of competency, from entry level to the top echelon of administrative support. It shows the common tasks and skills required and it compares the key differences between the five levels. It also has space to show the common professional and academic credentials required and where they fit into each level. It contains links to Role Profiles for each of the five levels.

Administrative professionals, HR departments, executives and training institutes will be able to use this framework to determine career pathways, performance expectations and salary expectations for a role that currently is defined by over 160 position titles – yes, you read that right, 160!

Whether you are just starting out in your career as an administrative professional or are looking to take the next step on your career ladder, this Matrix is for you.

The Skills Set Matrix Task Force is led by Vicki Faint (New Zealand) and is made up of a broad representation of WA-Summit delegates and industry representatives: Nita Rebello (India) Reporter; Cathy Harris (South Africa); Wendy Rapana (New Zealand); Florence Katono (Uganda); Andrew Jardine (United Kingdom) and Veronica Cochran (United States of America) Advisor.

One of the strengths of recent work undertaken by the World Administrators Summit is its ability to collect data from administrative professionals and industry experts through surveys from across the globe. One of the challenges for the task force was to determine which of the hundreds of different tasks and skills reported on in the survey fit into which level. This is always going to be disputable, as there is so much variety in the 160 position titles reported in the survey and this needed to be distilled into the most common position titles used globally.

The Skills Set Matrix is being finalized as we speak and will be shared with the WA-Summit delegates for consultation before being published in 2021.

A Living Document

Of course, it can never be a ‘one size fits all’, simply because of the huge differences between education, business practices, culture, and economics in all countries across the globe. It is also not set in stone, but is to be treated as a living document, that can be amended as societies and the business world change.

The Skills Set Matrix is a gamechanger for an industry that is currently seen by many as ‘just a job’ and not the valuable profession that it is.  It is the first global guideline that has been produced with direct and quantifiable input from the people who are at the sharp end of the profession, the administrative professionals themselves. Administrative professionals across the globe are crying out for recognition for their role as an integral part of the business. Not only recognition, but a clear career path and salary to match.


What is the World Administrators Summit?

The World Administrators Summit is the most prestigious international gathering of leaders for the administrative profession globally. It started in 1992 in the US and is now held every two years. Due to COVID 19, the 11th WA-Summit Discussion Groups will be held in 2021 and will be virtual. 2022 is scheduled to return to the USA in Nashville, Tennessee for the 30th anniversary.

The WA-Summit brings together the best and brightest minds in the administrative profession today. The delegates from each country discuss topics of importance to all administrative professionals and develop credible outcomes that are shared around the world. The outcomes from each summit also contribute to our World Action Plan entitled Administra.

What is the World Adminstrators Alliance?

The newly formed World Administrators Alliance is the governing body endorsed by the 2020 11th WA-Summit Business Meeting of Delegates from 27 Countries. As a non-profit trade association, it represents administrative associations, networks, and professionals from across the globe. Its purpose is to guide, influence, develop and elevate the administrative profession, to create a global community that works together for the benefit of all.


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One Profession, One Voice

by Helen Monument – Interim Chair WA-Alliance

Networks have become my lifeline for the past few months. Not being able to get out and meet up with my tribe was a challenge at the beginning of lock-down, but I quickly came to appreciate the value of connecting on line to like-minded people. It’s how I have been catching up with my professional contacts, getting training, meeting new people and keeping up to date with what’s going on in the Administrative profession. I have joined new networks and formed new connections and relationships with some amazing people I otherwise wouldn’t have come across in a face-to-face world.

One thing I noticed is that the same people often pop up in different networks, which I love, as it gives me the chance to get to know them better, and to have very diverse conversations with them.

Today’s Administrative Professionals realise the value of an open professional attitude. They appreciate that when we help someone else, we are helping ourselves.  Knowledge and information have become the currency of an effective network and are there to be freely shared.

The important aspect of all these networks and connections is that they are not in competition with each other.  In our virtual world, we are much more ready and able to blur the lines between our networks in order to expand them. Sadly, that’s not always the case in the face-to-face environment.

In my long career, I have come across high level administrative professionals who clung to the thought that ‘knowledge is power’ and if they kept their expertise and skills to themselves, they would somehow become the ‘Queen Bee’ of the office.  They were afraid that if they shared their knowledge with colleagues and peers, then someone else could threaten their position.

Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.

Dalai Lama

Sharing your knowledge and skills with others will benefit your organization or business. Increasing the competencies of your fellow administrative professionals shows that you are collaborative, unselfish and fully engaged to give your executives the support they badly need.

The Queen Bees out there can become role models for less experienced peers, leading the way and showing by example what excellence means. By teaching others and sharing knowledge, we also learn.

The same applies to our Administrative community across the globe. Some countries have several associations or networks and some have none at all. The important thing to remember is that we are all in this together. We find the tribe that suits us best, for whatever reason we decide. We’re attracted to the network or association that speaks to us personally and we make a commitment as a member, but that does not mean shutting ourselves off from other peer groups in our country. Associations should never be in competition with each other and the WA-Alliance is in the business of bringing people together. I am sure that most associations mission and vision statements include the words ‘professional’ ‘development’ and ‘learning’.  So let’s be part of that rising tide that lifts all our boats. Reach out to other associations and networks in your country and work together on the common themes that bind us together. The World Administrators Alliance aims to create a global community of administrative professionals, associations and networks to come together to guide, influence, positively develop and elevate the profession. Let’s do this together.

Introducing WA-Alliance Interim Chair – Helen Monument

Written by: Helen Monument, Interim Chair WA-Alliance

I first met Eth Lloyd in 2003 at the World Administrators Summit in London so was already in awe of the work she has been doing tirelessly for many years.

We’ve met a few times since then, of course, and I didn’t hesitate when asked to be one of the Facilitators at the 10th WA-Summit in Frankfurt in 2018. I was very impressed on how much progress has been made in the intervening years and saw first hand how tirelessly Eth has been working, in front of and behind the scenes to bring the delegates, the Advisory Council and the working groups together to ‘speak as one voice’. The WA-Summit has never been better placed to achieve its goals ‘to guide, influence and positively develop the profession’.

So you can imagine how excited and honoured I was to be asked by Eth to take up the reigns, as she goes into long anticipated retirement in September 2020, in the role of Interim Chair to guide the next steps for WA-Summit, namely the formation of the World Administrators Alliance.

My career has spanned over 30 years, starting as an inexperienced Secretary, I was able to then grow and develop myself as I took on other roles in international companies as Management Assistant, Personal Assistant, Office Manager and Business Support team leader. I am a passionate advocate of our profession and have now transitioned to being my own boss of Monumental Assistance; sharing my experiences and expertise by training, coaching, writing and speaking at conferences for Assistants at all levels. I am also a former Executive Chairman of IMA (formally EUMA), so I understand what it takes to work across cultures with teams of volunteers for the benefit of our profession and for their personal development. What’s important for me in taking on this role is to give something back to our amazing profession that has given me so many wonderful opportunities.

Eth and I have already started working together. I’ve taken over the leadership of the WA-Summit Communications Team – more news about that to come. There is much to learn and I currently have more questions than answers. However, Eth has promised she will be just a Skype call away. Thanks to the support of the Advisory Council, the Future of the WA-Summit Task Force and all the delegates, I’m looking forward to working with you all and doing amazing things together.

The purpose of the WA-Summit of guiding, influencing and positively developing the profession is very close to my heart and I have great hopes for the future of our profession and I’m confident that the World Administrators Alliance is going to play a major part in shaping that future.