From EA to Chief of Staff

Executive Assistants are finding themselves stepping up to take on much more than secretarial and administrative support - how is the role of the assistant changing?

Changes in technology and our way of life due to corona virus are changing the kinds of demands made of Personal and Executive Assistants. When people think of an Executive Assistant, many stereotypes prevail: the ‘secretary’, the ‘admin’ and a role with no potential for growth. Where secretaries used to take dictations from their principals and manage their big chunky paper diaries and and ring restaurants to book a table, most of these things are now done with the click of a buttom or the tap of a screen. Technology is helping people manage their own diaries more easily all the time. With corona virus, meetings in person are being replaced by Zoom calls. EAs are having to think outside of the assistant box more and more, showing initiative to come up with creative solutions in a world that is changing rapidly.

Here at Kosmos, our candidates have incredible 'can do' attitudes: nothing is beneath them, no job is too small or unusual, and they go that extra mile to get things done. Most of our candidates are finding themselves becoming key assets to their teams, because they are able to perform tasks outside of the typical assistant duties whilst also keeping your diary and travel ticking smoothly. As diaries, travel and expenses become less frequent key tasks, it is in an environment like this that many of our top EAs can really show their true value.

It seems that the time of the traditional EA is over. Here are some examples of companies changing the role titles and job descriptions of what used to be PA/EA roles, showing that companies' attitudes towards - and needs from - EAs are changing:

  • Google: At  Google  (Alphabet) and  Google Ventures  (GV), ‘Executive Assistants’ are now called ‘Executive Business Partners’ and ‘Administrative Assistants’ and ‘Executive Assistants’ are now called ‘Administrative Business Partners’. The former role responsibilities have also been recalibrated to better support the evolution of the business needs. Google changed the role to avoid negative biases around terms like ‘secretary’ or ‘admin.’ They also believed the scope of work these individuals were doing had more depth and nuance than might typically be associated with those titles.
  • Pinterest: Pinterest  uses both ‘Administrative Business Partner’ and ‘Executive Assistant Business Partner’ to indicate different levels of responsibility in support roles.
  • Stripe: Stripe’s Executive Assistants now have the title, ‘Executive Operations’ and more junior roles have the title ‘ Administrative Business Partner’.
  • Microsoft: Microsoft uses ‘Executive Business Administrator’ as well as ‘Executive Assistant’.
  • Gusto: Gusto uses both ‘Executive Business Partner’ and ‘Executive Operations’.

So what is the natural progression?

Executive Assistants are capable of managing teams, liaising with stakeholders and thinking strategically - ideal qualities for a Chief of Staff.

It no longer makes sense from a business point of view to hire an experienced and educated EA to do repetitive administrative tasks - many of these things now have apps and tech to do them for you. Instead, companies need someone to "manage those processes, anticipate outcomes and
help them execute the business strategy
". 

The natural progression here would be from Executive Assistant to Chief of Staff.  Like an EA, a Chief of Staff works closely with the CEO and undertake assignments which were highly confidential, delicate and require skill and discretion. The Chief of Staff 's role is to "bring people together and keep the team connected. They usually lead the company strategy development and interact with key stakeholders internal and external. Interact with other functions to ensure alignment with the CEO objectives. They would also manage the CEO staff meetings, prepare and facilitate senior management meetings, agendas, actions and follow up. Project and event management and sometimes they work on extensive diary management and access control in partnership with the Executive Assistant." 

Many of our candidates at Kosmos Recruitment are already performing these kinds of roles under their Executive Assistant title. As you can see, there actually is "a huge overlap of responsibilities and role. One of the main differences is the high regard for the Chief of Staff is held while the Executive Assistant is trying to shake of the secretarial image, and gain respect." It's important therefore, to consider adapting the role of current EAs to allow for growth and development, allowing your staff to achieve more and get more job satisfaction at the end of the day. It will help attract top talent to the role and also increase a gender balance in your team. Typically, men do not tend to apply for EA roles due to the old fashioned image of the role. Moving forward from the traditional realm of assistants allows a company to place talent in jobs that reflect a more evolved role.

Added on 10 July 2020