Skills required for Admin Assistant
INTRODUCTION Of all the resources we have at our disposal, time is the one which is often the one that we say we do not have enough of. “I haven’t got time to do that”, “it will take too long to achieve that task” and “there are not enough hours in the day to do everything I have to do” are common phrases we hear from people regardless of their position in an organisation. The perceived lack of time is not the sole view of senior managers as it is for junior staff.
One thing that is constant is time. It never changes although it appears to slow down or speed up depending on whether we are enjoying something or not. Another common reaction to the lack of time is it is others who are responsible for us not having enough or adversely affecting how we manage our own time. “The lack of planning on your part does not mean the task becomes a priority for me” Everyone has responsibility for managing not only their time but the time others require to get a task done. Setting deadlines that places others in an impossible position is not good time management – its abdication or simply put ‘passing the buck’. Everyone has a responsibility to maintain standards and meet targets or personal work objectives.
Good organisational skills, problem solving & decision making skills are fundamentally essential to time management. It is in these areas the problems often lay but we often simply blame poor time management on an individual’s inability to get the job done quickly enough. Speed is not always an option but working efficiently as well as effectively is what it is really about.
The following areas need attention to be successful:
Setting priorities is about deciding what must be done not what should be done as well as what will have the greatest impact – whether this is positive or negative. Knowing your primary job tasks and how they affect others in the chain is essential. We need to know more than just what we do. Everyone is in a chain of supply – be this information or physical activities – and each person in that chain plays a part in the achievement of outputs. If someone at the start of the process takes too long the loss of time is multiplied by the time it gets to the last person.
This is essential but often overlooked because we believe if we dive straight into a task we will finish it quicker. In fact poor planning usually results in tasks being done again or corrected because they are completed incorrectly. This is where we lose much of our time by rushing and not preparing properly. We must challenge the process and be sure it will deliver what is required. Just working more quickly is not the answer.
PRO-ACTIVE versus RE-ACTIVE
Some tasks can’t be planned if they are emergent in their nature. An example of this is the work Call Centres do. They do not know what the task is until the phone rings. What they can do is have good working practices and processes in place to deal with most types of calls. We all have some ‘down time’ in which we can identify what can be done in readiness for the next peak in work flow. Maybe this is speaking to others in the chain to agree an approach or change to a process.
Not everyone has a tidy approach to working. Often people with messy desks for instance know exactly what they are doing whilst those who have neat and tidy desks are regarded as more organised. Being organised is about how an individual meets deadlines and targets and how they make decisions about what is important or urgent. One thing that is useful is to break down large tasks into ‘chunks’ each with a realistic target. Sometimes when we do this we will identify specific areas of a process that will provide the biggest challenge. Then we can be pro-active in reducing this.
WORKING WITH OTHERS
We all work with others, or at least our work is affected by or affects others. To be good time managers is about working with other people and building relationships that complement each others needs. Before we request action from another person by a certain deadline we must ask ourselves whether it is reasonable and we have presented our output correctly. It is not their responsibility to correct our mistakes.
Interruptions are inevitable but can be managed with assertive behaviour, even from our close colleagues and friends. Good interpersonal skills will help and most often people will understand if approached firmly and politely. We must learn to say ‘no’ and/or not take on the responsibility of someone else’s decision making. The boss that places too many tasks on an individual must be the one to decide what must be done and in what order. Every job has a penalty if not completed. You may only have authority for certain levels of work.
This is not the sole domain of managers passing tasks downwards, although the most common form of delegation. We can all delegate whether sideways to a colleague or upwards to a boss if we need help in getting a lot of priority work completed on time. When under pressure the question we must ask ourselves is ‘who can help?’. Good time managers use others when to occasion arises. It may simply be to check out some information, make a phone call, deliver some work, share a task or provide advice & guidance. It does not necessarily mean we pass a complete task to another person although this is an option. We must remember that if the task is ours we can only pass on the authority to do it but retain the responsibility. Otherwise this would be abdication.
TOP 15 TIME MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS IN ORGANISATIONS
1. Telephone interruptions. 2. People dropping by. 3. Poor information exchange between departments. 4. Problems with computers and other technical equipment. 5. Change of priorities caused by others. 6. Lack of organisation planning. 7. Poor listening of others. 8. Inappropriate organisational structure. 9. Moving goal posts. 10. Putting things right. 11. Indecision. 12. Badly chaired and organised meetings. 13. Distractions in the work place. 14. Over bureaucratic procedures. 15. Unnecessary checking of others work
SMART OBJECTIVES & EVIDENCE OF PERFORMANCE
The acronym S M A R T is used to show the different elements to setting an objective that is fair, measurable and achievable. Identifying evidence of performance should be done throughout a reporting year and not left to memory. This way it can be matched against specific work activities and used in the discussion about performance at any time.
S Specific Describes what is required to be done M Measurable Determines standard A Achievable Within capability R Relevant Does it apply to job role T Timely When must it be complete
ANALYSIS OF WORK
Everyone’s work falls into four distinct categories regardless of what they do; they are:
Core work involves not only individual but also a shared responsibility for meeting a business objective and carrying it out to an agreed standard. These tasks are important to fulfilling an individual’s primary work objectives.
Reactive work are those that although related to an individual’s role often occur with no, or little, notice and generated from outside the person’s immediate control. They are tasks that others request or instigate and have timescale based on their needs. These tasks also include those of standing in for colleagues or dealing with enquiries and problems.
Improvement work is that which helps to improve the process of work or develops staff. Such tasks can involve the reviewing of work processes, on the job training, coaching, and making specific changes to the way things are done. These tasks can fall outside of the job holders primary duties.
Incidental work is where the job holder’s involvement is regarded as necessary but in fact serves no real benefit to them. Helping others solve their problems, attending meetings for no apparent reason and spending time discussing issues that do not concern them. Work can be sub-divided into types Urgent & Important and both need to be fully considered when organising and prioritising.
This is work that must be completed by a specific time frame whether a time of day or date. It can also be tasks that need to be auctioned at a required speed depending on its place in a chain of events or process of work.
This is based on the seriousness of the consequences or implications on others if it is not done. Maybe a task that enables someone else to achieve theirs or one that has a financial implication. Most people like to do a ‘To Do List’ to either guide them through a busy period or simply to martial their thoughts and get some sense of order before tackling the day’s business. Unfortunately this may only be a linear list in a random order and often we select those tasks we want to do first before those we should do next. A Priority Grid helps to segregate tasks into groups and give a more holistic view of what needs to be done and in what order.
CHALLENGE & SUPPORT
Whether we are in the position of a supervisor /manager or simply a friend we can be involved in giving someone advice and guidance. What we say or do can have a major impact on how they act or react and we can offer hard or soft support depending on what amount of each is required.
To challenge someone’s behaviour or decisions by asking they do things that makes them feel very uncomfortable will only increase their anxiety. On the other hand not to provide sufficient support and caring will isolate them and not address the real issues. This model is a visual representation of how we should balance our actions to suit the individual’s needs.