At Tiger, our experience in service-led recruitment of senior business support staff is something we pride ourselves in. After almost two decades establishing ourselves as one of the best PA recruitment agencies in London, we felt it was a natural next step to launch our retained executive search division, Tiger Platinum Executive Search, in 2019.
Establishing and encouraging a culture of learning is one of most important elements of any business. Providing opportunities for employees to develop their knowledge and skills can increase morale, motivation, engagement and productivity, encourages a growth mindset and result in stronger business outcomes.
However, it’s important to consider every employee in your policies, including your support staff. A 2017 study by the Executive and Personal Assistants Association found that 63.18% of PAs and EAs last completed formal training more than four years ago1, showing a lack of resources for these types of positions.
The same survey found that over 70% had undertaken some EA/PA specific training at some point in their career and 92.53% engage in activities outside the classroom like reading, networking and engaging with online resources, including webinars. This data shows that there is a demand for training initiatives, but currently, support professionals are having to be self-sufficient, investing their own time in ensuring they understand the latest developments in the industry.
Therefore, in this current candidate-led market, it’s worth considering investing in formal training opportunities for your business support staff – it may go a long way in improving your PA recruitment efforts.
Here are five ways you can do just that:
1. Make it formal
It’s all well and good to talk the talk, but strong learning cultures also requiring walking the walk. Instead of casually discussing training opportunities with employees, make it as formal as holiday pay or other benefits by including it in employment contracts and establishing reporting structures. Line managers should also be aware of the opportunities for training and encourage this.
It’s also worth linking learning and performance, including it in performance reviews and demonstrating that professional development is part of daily operations, not a one off.
2. Allow time out of the office for external training
There are plenty of businesses out there that run workshops, courses and lectures on skills that PAs, EAs and other administrative staff would find helpful – Tiger included! However, often these are in work time – over lunch or breakfast – or start too close to the office close time. Therefore, consider establishing a training time allowance, with a nominated set of hours allocated to each employee per quarter or year. It means they’ll be able to attend these opportunities without feeling guilty and bring what they’ve learnt back into your business.
3. Establish a mentor programme
Business management is such an essential part of both an administrator’s role and those that they are supporting. Therefore, consider implementing a mentor program, where support staff can ask questions, observe their principal and chat through situations. Depending on the size of your organisation, this mentorship could also be with more senior members of the support team – for example, an office assistant could learn from an office manager.
4. Look for ways to up-tech
Artificial intelligence isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no point pretending it’s going away. Instead, embrace the opportunities that the technology can offer and encourage your support staff to explore avenues in which they can make their job more productive. For example – is there an app that your PA could use to streamline travel itineraries? There are plenty of online resources that can help your administrative staff train in these applications – LinkedIn Learning and Lynda are just two.
5. Host internal training sessions
If you’ve got a meeting room in your office, you’re halfway to hosting a training session for your staff. There are plenty of thought leaders and experts out there who are willing to share their knowledge, so it’s just a case of uniting the two! Senior members of your organisation might even have knowledge that the support function will find of use and interest. Organise sessions in lunchtimes or straight after work to encourage attendance and if the budget allows, consider providing lunch or drinks.