“After years of cutting back, companies can boost productivity by arming more managers with assistants,” writes Melba. J. Duncan in this month’s Harvard Business Review. If you’re looking for a way to increase your productivity, it might be a good time to make the case for hiring yourself an executive assistant.
“Generally speaking, work should be delegated to the lowest-cost employee who can do it well,” says Duncan. So maybe spending your time changing the toner in the printer or booking a plane ticket is actually not serving your company very well. If you think about what your position costs the company per hour, you might realize that you’re a pretty expensive toner changer.
It’s true that technology has made most of us more self-sufficient at handling our own administrative tasks. Younger professionals may never have worked in an environment where assistants handled much of the flotsam and jetsam of business days. But just think of all those time suckers than can eat a hole in your workday. Things like trying to figure out which hotel is sort of in between the location of your two meetings next week, has a decent gym, yet is also not too expensive nor too scuzzy. An assistant could be dealing with that, while you get on with the bigger fish that need frying.
Some managers may feel that using an executive assistant sends a message that they’re too important to bother themselves with the little things. Really, it’s not an issue of importance but economics. Even companies that pride themselves on running lean — especially companies that pride themselves on running lean — can benefit from pushing some of the work load down the ladder to assistants, who presumably are paid less than the people they support.
Once you manage to land yourself an assistant, the next step is to develop the right relationship with him or her. In the best executive-assistant relationships, there’s an understood give-and-take. Your assistant accepts the fact that the job includes some work that’s less than glamorous, and you look for opportunities to give your assistant projects meaty enough to help build their career. The end result can be increased performance for you, your assistant — and the company.