A new course for executive assistants will offer training in handling conversations in which the boss seeks advice on major business decisions.
The Australian course reflects the rapid expansion of the role and influence of executive assistants in the corporate world.
The new qualifications for Executive Assistants (EAs) will be launched by Australia’s industry body Executive Assistant Network (EAN) next month and include guidance for advanced level EAs in management, how to resolve conflicts, and how to respond to requests for business advice.
Jonathan McIlroy, joint managing director of EAN, who developed the course, said advanced EAs operating at the CEO level for several years would be guided in how to assess whether they have the business acumen and strategic awareness to respond to the issue, and then the self-confidence, independence and influencing skills they need to offer advice.
“Once you get to level three there is very little technical skills, it’s mostly around business knowledge, business acumen and more in depth personal and social skills,” Mr McIlroy said.
“The types of things we are covering are managing different policies, measuring the performance of teams that your executive manages, projects they are overseeing, and bringing in data, analysing it, and working out what’s important and what’s not.”
The role of the EA has developed into one that is highly valued by some of the world’s most successful business leaders as more than simply managing a diary and screening phone calls.
“It’s a true partnership in everything,” said Patrizia Iacono who has over 20 years’ experience supporting some of the Australia’s top executives.
“A great Executive Assistant will really understand the business she’s in and the strategy. So our role is more of becoming business partner than the traditional assistant.”
Richard Branson said in an article on LinkedIn last week that having an on-the-ball assistant was a big part of what made it possible for him to keep on top of businesses in dozens of different countries and industries.
“Many people are using technology to make assistants a thing of the past,” he said. “However, for those businesspersons in a position to do so, they may be missing a lot by going it alone. Assistants are a great sounding board for new thoughts and spark lots of fresh ideas.”
A panel of senior executives at the 2011 EAN conference in Sydney said their EA was an integral part of their management team and felt this needed to be more clearly reflected in their title, Mr McIlroy told Business Insider.
However, the career currently lacks objective criteria to measure the performance of EAs.
“What we want to do is start providing a clear career path and guidance for administrative staff so they can understand how they can get from one stage to the next,” he said.
“I think there is an awful lot of them who have vast skills, experience and knowledge, and they are looking for challenges.”
The new qualifications for beginner, intermediate and advanced level EAs include Diplomas in Executive Assistant Administration and Executive Office Management, and an Advanced Diploma in Executive Office Management, taught over 12 months for a fee of $4,500-$5,500, in cities across Australia.
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