For over a century, assistants were expected to work with just one executive, but that is no longer the case. Assistants all over the world are being asked to look after more than one person, and many are looking after teams too. And most are unhappy about it.
The media doesn’t help with misrepresenting how it works, perpetuating the myth that the assistant/manager relationship is exclusive.
Our latest statistics paint a very different picture. Almost half of all assistants are managing four managers or more, and it’s only one in five that has that 1:1 partnership relationship. It all depends on how your business is structured. More often than not, the model that I am seeing adopted is one where those in the C-Suite get that 1:1 support, the next level of management get 1:3-4 and the lower levels have access to a pool of assistants who purely do reactive, administrative tasks.
And of course, it’s cyclical. What tends to happen is that organisations decide that 1:1 support is pure vanity on the part of those supported, so they move to a model where the assistants have multiple managers to support. Then after a few years, they realise that this is making their managers less effective and productivity is affected, so they move back to the 1:1 model.
When an organisation understands how to calculate their administrative professionals’ worth based on the hours they save their manager, it becomes a no-brainer. Does it, for example, make sense for a manager to be doing their own expenses? Strictly speaking, these types of tasks should be delegated to someone being paid a lesser rate per hour. It’s simple economics. Doing the math will help your organisation to understand what assistant: manager ratio you need.