The Good, Better, Best of Professional Development for Admins

Jen Lawrence
Jen Lawrence

Business Process Consultant focusing on streamlining workflows, optimizing tools, and aligning teams for operational efficiency and effectiveness.

A few years ago, I interviewed to be the executive assistant to the CEO of a biomedical company. The day had gone pretty much as you would imagine – being shuffled between conference rooms and offices meeting various team members, answering carefully planned questions, and hearing all about how great the company was to work for. When the time came for me to finally meet the CEO, I was more than ready to discuss the role truly in-depth. He did a sufficient job of detailing the requirements, answering my questions about him, and continuing to sell me on the corporate culture.

He proudly highlighted the ongoing programs they had for employees – one being themed Friday lunches (“I dressed up as a superhero last week!”) and the on-site training seminars. This piqued my interest as he outlined how cross-training helped boost employee morale and retention. Awesome – sounded great! So I asked the natural next question.

“How do you invest in your administrative staff?”

His response was, “Why would I do that? They’re just admins.”

I wish I was joking or being dramatic, but those words actually came out of his mouth. And right there and then, I politely, but firmly ended the interview.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I walked out of an interview with the CEO of a major biomedical company because he didn’t believe in investing in admins.

What was I thinking? Was I crazy? Honestly, I felt insane and questioned my response. Until a few days later, when I got the offer call. Despite being offered a six-figure salary, I politely declined.

Why? Why would anyone in their right mind do that?

Because being respected and valued at work is more important than a high salary.

Yes, a high salary may provide me with the opportunity to have a cushier life. But if I’m not feeling fulfilled or valued at work, I’m likely not going to enjoy working there or stick around very long.

So you may be thinking, “Does offering training really counterbalance a less than stellar salary?”

Yes, yes, thousand times yes. While you should most certainly pay admins a competitive salary, if you find yourself wanting to do more to attract top talent or retain an amazing admin who has reached their salary cap in a company, then training and certification are the next best thing. Admins are the backbone of business operations and are fundamental to the stability of productivity and company culture. It’s within a company’s best interest to keep good admins on staff. The best way to do this is to show them they are valued.

As the manager or HR business partner, I implore you to proactively offer these benefits. Yes, administrative candidates and employees should be advocating for themselves. However, overwhelmingly, companies still undersupport their administrative teams with professional development opportunities. It’s time that changes and you’re in control. You have the money. You have the approval power. You can be the changemaker.

So, how do you do it? What’s out there? What do admins really care about?

The options below range from free (yes, free!) to a few thousand dollars (still far less than most development and training for other professionals). Take a look and start putting together a package for your admin professional. They have earned it!

Good: Professional Organization Membership and Continuing Education

Professional organization membership offers a range of benefits, including webinars, resources, and community. Below are a few administrative professional organizations to consider.

Want more options? Or located outside the US? Check out this list hosted by Executive Secretary Magazine.

In our modern world, continuing education can be completed nearly anywhere at any time. Webinars, books, magazines, courses. The opportunities are endless. Here are a few options that I personally have found educational.

The key to successful continuing education for your administrative professionals is allowing them to complete learning on the clock. Does that make you nervous? Really? One hour a week will make all the difference. Allow them to schedule time to work on themselves, and admins will repay you with renewed vigor and new ideas for their role.

Better: Certification

Certification?! Oh, yes. There are a number of certification programs out there for administrative professionals, and they are amazing!

Why would admins need to get certified? Well, frankly, we do a wide range of tasks covering all business functions and it’s hard to validate the work we have done. Certification allows an admin to say, “Yes, I can do this and I can do it well according to an industry standard.”

Also, funding your admin’s certification sends a strong message that you respect them as a professional and value their contributions.

You can read my post about administrative professional certification programs here.

Richard Branson Quote Training.png

Best: Conferences

Administrative conferences are by far the best way to invest in your administrative staff. I know it’s frightening for some executives to be without their assistant or admin for 2-3 days, but those few days will make all the difference for your admin. A conference will inspire and motivate your admin in ways they could never experience during a webinar or reading a book.

Administrative conferences are unlike any other professional conference I have ever attended. The agendas are filled with back-to-back learning sessions, overflowing with material designed to help admins think outside the box, be exposed to new techniques and philosophies, and drive innovation within their roles and their companies. Essentially, a conference can be a crash course in how to be a stellar assistant and can be game-changing!

Additionally, admins are able to network with others from around the globe, which creates a support system for future needs and requests. I was once able to pull in a motivational speaker because I had met his assistant at a conference – at a heavily discounted rate too! You never know who your admin is going to meet.

And finally, many conferences offer Continuing Education Unit credit toward certifications. Win-win for your certified admin!

Here are some of the best conferences around:

I hope this has inspired you to offer more to your administrative staff. If you have any questions regarding anything listed above or would like to further brainstorm ideas for your team, feel free to reach out to me!

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