What is an Executive Assistant?
Executive Assistants (EAs) are the pinnacle of the support sphere; the senior directors of the assistance world. Like secretaries and personal assistants (PAs), EAs provide top-level administrative support as standard, ranging from clerical tasks, like handling clients’ accounts, to personal ones, such as managing diaries.
However, EAs are also highly-skilled professionals that can provide a much higher level of service, from market research and document drafting to managing projects and devising promotional campaigns. As the name suggests, they are an extension of the executive they work for and can hold the fort in their absence. It’s why they are so highly-sought after by senior directors.
Improved productivity. More time to focus. A better work/life balance. Reduced stress levels. The roll call of EA-induced benefits is numerous and rarely disputed, so the only real question is whether to outsource this assistance or take it in-house.
In this article, we’ve outlined five reasons why outsourcing to an external EA service may suit you better than having a traditional in-house EA, as well as three reasons it may not.
External EAs can better adapt to your business’s needs
EAs work across the business spectrum. Whether you’re at VP level or a multinational CEO, there will be an EA out there that knows your industry and will vastly improve how you work. This is what EAs do best.
However, businesses are not stationary objects. They grow, adapt, change and grow again. And as they evolve, so do your needs. One month, you may require 40 hours assistance, the next it may be 100, but an in-house EA only has one pair of hands.
External EAs are more versatile. Using a scalable EA service, like FYXER, means your assistant’s workload changes as yours does: up in busy periods, down in quieter ones. If you need 100 hours assistance one month, you can either increase your EA’s hours or draft another EA onto the account for additional support, before returning to your usual level the following month.
What’s more, you are not limited to one set of skills. You have the whole skill set of FYXER at your fingertips. If you require a specialist task to be completed, an assistant with those skills can be drafted in to help.
The Counter Argument
Adaptability is not on the top of every executive’s wish list when it comes to an EA. Whilst most companies are looking to grow, some are content with their market position. Some executives have such a narrow focus that versaility is not needed, while others only need their EA to perform simple, administrative duties on a routine basis. In these cases, a steady in-house EA - a ‘part of the furniture’ style administrator - may be the best option.
Consistent cover all-year round
On the subject of cover, EAs ensure that everything runs smoothly in their executive’s absence. But, what happens when your EA is on holiday? Or falls ill? If they are away during a busy period, how can you find a replacement that knows all your preferences at short notice?
External EA services provide seamless transitions in times of absence, so that you are never caught short. Not only will your assistant arrange their holiday around your business to avoid peak times, but another member of the team will be prepped with your preferences and needs before they go away. So, you, the client, are covered all year-round, including over busy periods, such as the Christmas holidays.
Meanwhile, the cover is also long-term. In the past, if your in-house EA moved on after years of great service,it was back to the drawing board. With a service like FYXER, that’s not an issue. If an assistant moves on, another can be brought up to speed with your needs in a moment’s notice, so you don’t have to worry about an EA leaving you in the lurch.
The Counter Argument
However, we are of course talking about remote cover. External EAs are available to undertake in-person tasks, such as waiting in line at the passport office, but if you require someone to meet and greet clients on a regular basis, sign for parcels and make cups of tea, then perhaps you would be better suited to the traditional in-house model.
Top-quality assistance that doesn’t cost the earth
Like all professional positions, the cost of an EA varies widely, ranging from less-experienced part-time support to CEO-level full-time assistance. The latter used to be the preserve of FTSE 100 executives, due to the high salaries (£40-50,000 pa according to job site Glassdoor) and operating costs, but technological advancements and innovation in the sector has consigned that rule to the rubbish heap.
Now, if you use an on-demand service, you only pay for the assistance you need, so you’ll never pay someone to twiddle their thumbs. Secondly, a remote assistant removes the need to pay for desk space or hardware costs. Thirdly, as your EA is a full-time employee of another company, the recruitment costs, National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and salaries are already covered. The client, therefore, receives a FTSE 100-level assistant for a fraction of the price, and that’s before you factor in the soft costs of hiring, training and employee development. No wonder going to a virtual service over in-house has been estimated to save up to 78% of operating costs.
Saving you time, not adding to it
Sometimes you know you need support, but you’re not exactly sure what. You’re working weekends and late nights, missing family celebrations and dreading holidays. A great EA will restore that work/life balance, but finding that great EA is easier said than done.
From placing job adverts to interviewing candidates, drafting up contracts to relaying your priorities, devising training schedules to managing performance and development. You can be spending more time on your EA, than they’re saving.
The solution? Don’t do any of that. Specialist EA services take care of hiring great assistants, training them up and managing them internally, so you don’t have to. After an initial consultation, they’ll identify your needs, match you with your perfect assistant and get you going within a week. Hassle-free, as it should be.
The Counter Argument
On the flip side, you may have had in-house EAs for years and know exactly what you’re looking for. With a detailed job description in your backpocket, alongside a set list of interview questions and training techniques, working with an external service may seem unnecessary.
Meanwhile, some executives prefer to have complete control of the hiring process from placing the job advert to quarterly management reviews. For those executives, an in-house EA is your best bet, as outsourcing only works when you can trust a specialist to do the legwork for you.
You are the client, not the employer
Costs aside, hiring an EA is an employer-employee relationship. From paying their salary to gauging their performance, in-house EAs are part of your company, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
With a service like FYXER, you are the client and your support is tailor-made to your needs. Don’t know if you need full-time or part-time? Your assistant will work to ‘you-time’; ready-to-go whenever you need them. Feeling the heat at work? Your assistant is a trusted confidante outside of the company structure, whose priority is you, not the company. Need to let off some steam about something personal? They’re all ears. Like in-house EAs, external assistants are an extension of their executive, but because they work for you, not the company, you can tell them anything.
Despite moving away from the 60s heyday of personal assistants, the EA role is still of fundamental importance in the business world. There will always be busy executives who will benefit from delegating tasks to a trusted right-hand. Only now, there is a way of having all the benefits, without any of the limitations.