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A supporting role

Angela Mortimer, co-founder of recruitment agency Angela Mortimer, advises on how to make office support staff feel like they are an integral part of the business

Y our office support staff are more valuable to you and your business than you could ever imagine. Based on this fact alone they should be treated and recognised accordingly within your own working environment.

You constantly hear people saying that ‘people are their most valuable asset’, well if this is true then why do most people cite lack of development and personal progression as one of the main reasons for leaving an organisation? 76% listed this when asked what they felt made an attractive employer but clearly the reality in the marketplace is very different with individuals becoming disillusioned and moving on at significant cost to the company in question.

Support system

By office support staff we mean, secretaries, receptionists, administrators, PAs (personal assistants) and EAs (executive assistants), whether they happen to work with you in a temporary or permanent capacity.

While some people, usually the more senior individuals within an organisation, see their role as basic and mundane and definitely more of a job than a career, we would disagree wholeheartedly.

The right office support staff act as the backbone of any organisation - they know everyone and every system and almost certainly have a wider appreciation of what makes that company tick than any other single department. They take care of the tiny details that others would consider irrelevant and ultimately make things happen for those around them, usually with consummate ease and professionalism.

Depending on their seniority, they literally hold the lives of their apparently far more important boss’ life in their hands. They know where he or she goes, what they are doing, what must be done in order to make them appear successful and are there to do whatever is asked of them, no matter how it is actually asked.
By definition, they are an integral part of the business. Acting like the steel rods that run the length of a new building that are eventually encased in cement, their position is critical even though they may be rarely seen playing such a key role.

Adding value

It has never been more important to find the right people who will add real value to your organisation in ways that supersede the initial job description. Good people in the workplace these days also want this and are happy to show what they are capable of and how they can make a difference. Some want to do more than will ever be asked of them, which is a truly missed opportunity.

While money will always remain a critical factor of everyday life, we find ourselves in a world that is driven by individuals simply having to deliver more. Most people actually do have more to deliver and if they do not, then they probably won’t stay in a company for that long, so the key is understanding how you give back to these valuable and hard to find assets.

Opportunity, a sense of worth and a feeling of empowerment are key. Good people don’t need to be managed, doing that only goes to control them and suppress their abilities. Yes, they need structure but if you want them to feel part of your business then they must be given the room to excel.

We are proud to say that we have placed people as PAs that have gone on to take board level positions, some of whom are currently working with some of the leading retail organisations in the UK. These companies did not necessarily see potential on day one but gave that potential a platform to put itself forward.

If you make everyone within an organisation responsible for its success and then show them how to achieve it, they will follow. Some will outperform others and there is nothing to say that their collective success must add up to the sum of the company’s, ideally it will significantly over exceed it.

Future leaders

Some individuals are happy to just ‘do their thing’ where as others will relish the freedom and creativity adding more value, delivering more productivity compared to their counterparts and showing themselves as future leaders.

The irony in all of this is that ‘quality is cheaper than cheap is’. If you match the dynamics of an individual and look at their goals, values, ambitions and skills and match those to your own culture, you will have a real opportunity to make people who work in these environments feel integral not only to the company but the success it has and direction it takes.

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