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.
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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