According to a recent study seeking the opinion of both administrative personnel and mangers alike, conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Randstad Canada, the answer is clear. Eighty eight per cent of those working in an administrative support role feel that admin professionals are more vital to an organization's success today than in the past, with 85 per cent of managers feeling the same. In fact, 86 per cent of administrative support professionals feel that their role will become even more vital in the future, with 82 per cent of business decision makers in agreement.
However, if the position of administrative assistant summons up a stereotypical image of only secretarial duties, think again. Nearly nine in ten (86 per cent) of those working in administrative roles surveyed reported identifiable changes over the course of their careers, with nearly half agreeing that their responsibilities had expanded, and more is expected of them in their day-to-day activities.
"The managers participating in the survey agreed with the fact that administrative support role has broadened, today including many non-traditional administrative functions as expected parts of the day-to-day job," said Tom Turpin, President, Randstad Canada. "It is encouraging to see that both those in the role and those overseeing them share similar perspectives – a clear sign that the expanded scope and responsibilities taken on by these critical workers is being recognized."
So how has the role of administrative support expanded? The study indicated that fifty seven per cent overall (including 62 per cent of women) report they are today asked to participate in customer service support, and 46 per cent say they are responsible for financial tasks such as purchasing, invoicing and accounting. One third (33 per cent) said they are also responsible for IT activities, with 39 per cent of males in an administrative role citing IT responsibilities. Sales and marketing activities are also being performed by 20 per cent of administrative support workers, and more frequently by those under the age of 35 (27 per cent).
Secretarial duties are still expected of 45 per cent of administrative support professionals, with nearly twice as many females (57 per cent) performing these tasks as males (30 per cent). Forty one per cent perform office and executive management tasks, such as scheduling and reception duties.
"Technology has freed up administrative personnel to perform more independent tasks, rather than directly supporting and being reliant on the work of others," said Tom Turpin. "However, with traditional secretarial duties still expected in many cases, this creates a balancing act between the immediate demands of others and these new duties."
Turpin adds that this has implications for job descriptions and candidates seeking these positions, with characteristics such as adaptability and multi-tasking being key attributes.
Greatly Contrasting Views on Compensation
While administrative support workers and managers agree that demands on these professionals are increasing, they do differ greatly when it comes to the question of compensation. Seventy two per cent of managers believe that administrative support professionals are better compensated today than in the past, and that compensation is adequate for the tasks at hand. However, only 57 per cent of administrative support professionals stated that compensation is better today than in the past, and more than half (53 per cent) believe that compensation is for professionals is not at the appropriate level for the numbers and type of tasks expected today.
"Given that managers acknowledge the increased demands on administrative personnel, it is surprising to see that their opinions regarding compensation are so different, and signals that business decision makers may need to review policies to attract and retain valued employees in these increasingly critical roles," added Tom Turpin.
Both administrative professionals and business decision makers indicate that the typical range of compensation for administrative support staff is between $30,000 and $50,000 annually (56 per cent), a range unlikely to change dramatically over the next year as managers indicate that the majority of organizational budgets for administrative support have remained static this year (55 per cent). Just over one quarter (26 per cent) have increased budgets this year, and one in five (19 per cent) have reduced budgets assigned to administrative support staff.
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These are the results of a poll conducted between September 19th to 24th, 2013 by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Randstad. A total sample of 500 employed Canadians (n=250 working in an administrative role and n=250 working in a business decision-making position) was surveyed online. The poll is considered accurate to +/- 7.1 percentage points had all Canadian working in an administrative or business-decision making position been surveyed.