The Case for Executive Assistants

Why would you pay managers big salaries and then ask them to make their own hotel reservations?

Since it’s Administrative Professionals Day, a story in this month’s Harvard Business Review caught my eye: The Case for Executive Assistants. (Now looking at the Administrative Professionals’ website, I see it has grown from being mere a day to become an entire week.)

Technologies like e-mail, voice mail, mobile devices, and online calendars have allowed managers at all levels to operate with a greater degree of self-sufficiency. At the same time, companies have faced enormous pressure to cut costs, reduce head count, and flatten organizational structures. As a result, the numbers of assistants at lower corporate levels have dwindled in most corporations. That’s unfortunate, because effective assistants can make enormous contributions to productivity at all levels of the organization.

The author does some simple math to justify the cost of administrative assistants.

Consider a senior executive whose total compensation package is $1 million annually, who works with an assistant who earns $80,000. For the organization to break even, the assistant must make the executive 8% more productive than he or she would be working solo—for instance, the assistant needs to save the executive roughly five hours in a 60-hour workweek.

Of course, lots of the burden for getting that productivity boost lies with the executive/manager. You need to delegate wisely.

It’s a great, short article and timely. Unlike most content from the Harvard Business review, this article is available for free. (At least for today.)