Would you pay one of your senior executives to do photocopying? Would you pay your CEO to book her travel? Would you pay a front-line manager to make sandwiches for her team? Of course not.
Why not? Because that's not their job. You pay them to be senior executives, CEOs, and front-line managers and their job is to make decisions, lead the team and do tasks that are compensated at a much higher rate than photocopying, booking travel or making lunch -- right?
Then why are you paying your admin to do tasks that are too low for their pay grade?
In a survey I conducted in April 2015, more than 50 per cent of administrative professionals said they felt that their company was not utilizing their skills effectively. Admins in almost 25 per cent of organizations said they felt disrespected or treated as a lower-class employee.
If you are paying a respectable salary to your admin (and I hope you are), then why are you not using all the skills they bring to the table? Why are you giving them entry-level tasks if you aren't paying them an entry-level salary?
I read a story about an admin who was asked to order a pizza lunch for everyone. When she came back with the order, her manager was upset that she had spent too much money on the pizza and sent her back to reorder it. She spent another 45 minutes to save $20 on the order.
If you are paying your admin $20 an hour then yes, ordering pizza is potentially a good use of her time (although I would argue that). However, if you have a senior admin on your team, you should be paying much more than $20 an hour, and low-level tasks do not make good use of their time -- ergo, you are paying them too much.
Instead of reducing your admin's salary (which is not the point of this article), why not ensure that you are making the best use of all of your admins' skills and capabilities? Make them an active part of your team. Include them in your strategy discussions, your budgeting meetings and your planning retreats. Otherwise, you are undervaluing employees who have the potential to make an enormous impact on your company, and people who have far more insight than you realize. They are the eyes and ears of the company -- yet you are not utilizing their wealth of information or their capabilities.
When I work with organizations to help them improve their efficiency and effectiveness, one of the key places for improvement within organizations is the way they use their admin team. Quite frankly, most organizations are sorely under-using the knowledge and capabilities of their admins. They are paying them to be order takers instead of thinkers and that is a bad use of company money. It's also incredibly demotivating to your admin team.
I asked a group of admins, "What skills do you have that you feel are being underutilized by your company?" and here are their responses:
- I personally don't feel my bosses take advantage of my analysis of a situation when presenting options for a decision. I go to great lengths to look at all aspects so I can present the best solution possible, but I feel they tend to discount that analysis.
- My electronic capabilities with videoconferencing, etc.
- My ability to read people. When it came to hiring a new admin, I was on the hiring team. I picked a candidate who had the skills needed, but the boss liked another candidate. For over six months I had to do her job and mine before they realized she just couldn't do the job.
- Brainstorming and networking. It feels like any idea that I suggest wouldn't make a difference.
- Planning and project management. Most of the management team feels like admins are generally good at multitasking, but don't see them as offering a suggestion which might make the executive team more efficient.
- My insights on situations are frequently discounted and yet would have been very helpful. It is frustrating and demotivating.
- I wish they would realize that we can solve most issues in ways they do not know, or would not likely know.
Instead of reducing your admins' salaries, start using your administrative professionals to their full potential, and that means taking advantage of all of their capabilities. Sit down with them and ask them where they feel they can contribute more to the organization.
And be sure to ask them what tasks they are doing that aren't worthy of their pay grade. You will be surprised at what you hear -- but once you off-load the lower paying tasks to an entry-level employee, you can maximize the talent you have. You'll motivate your admin to give more, have greater job satisfaction, and ultimately stay with your company a lot longer.
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