As the CEO of SnackNation, my team and I work tirelessly to provide healthy snacks for thousands of offices across the U.S., helping them fuel their employees to stay healthy, happy and productive. As such, we often work with administrative professionals. That’s because, more often than not, it’s the company’s admin, executive assistant or office manager who is in charge of managing the office vibe, maintaining the company’s culture and ordering office essentials (like healthy snacks).
In a very real way, our job is to make their lives easier. And it’s for good reason: the admin’s role is skyrocketing in importance as your company’s environment and culture are now make-or-break recruiting and retention tools.
So, in honor of these “unsung heroes of the business world,” my team and I put together the following list of the top challenges that today’s admins face, as well as solutions to help you overcome them.
They Can Feel Underappreciated
I recently received an email from one of these office rockstars that reminded me how demanding their job can be:
“I just wanted to say thank you! More often than not, office management can feel lonely and thankless. We’re generally running around [being] too busy taking care of others and seldom get the payoff for our hard work, in my experience. So thank you. Thank you for making me feel special, rewarding our account for spreading the word, and allowing me the opportunity to reap some rewards of my own.”
Besides the gratitude I felt for this person taking the time to share this valuable feedback, I remember feeling bummed by this one honest, vulnerable admission: “More often than not, office management can feel lonely and thankless.”
The irony is that the admin’s role is growing in importance. Administrative professionals shouldn’t feel alienated and undervalued. Instead, they should be celebrated, and their place as a trusted partner in the success of the business should be front and center.
The Solution: Create a Culture of Recognition
Recognizing your admin’s achievements will go a long way to keep them feeling engaged, happy and productive. One way to ensure that your admin gets the recognition he or she deserves is to create a broader culture of recognition.
At SnackNation, we end each week with our “Crush-It Call,” a company-wide meeting during which each team member nominates someone who “crushed it” during the week, either by delivering amazing results or by embodying one of our core values.
They’re Charged With Recurring or Repetitive Tasks
The admin’s week is often filled with routine or repetitive tasks like guest registration, invoicing, and booking travel. These banal tasks can eat up precious time, and take away from your admin’s ability to take on bigger, more valuable projects.
The Solution: Automate
As I mentioned earlier, we created SnackNation in response to a problem that we knew many admins faced: the repetitive task of ordering snacks week after week.
There are a plethora of tools to help streamline or completely automate repetitive tasks, and thus free up valuable time to focus on more important things. For instance, Envoy is a great tool that makes guest registration a breeze, while sites like Hipmunk take the hassle out of booking travel.
Empower your admins to focus on things that matter by encouraging automation and outsourcing whenever possible.
Their Role Is Ever-Expanding
The admin role can sometimes be a catchall for projects that aren’t easily assignable to other departments. Over time, these tasks add up, and soon your admin might feel like he has 10 jobs instead of one.
The Solution: Elevate the Role
One solution is to acknowledge the expanded role by creating a brand new title and job description. More accurate job titles, like vibe manager, chief of staff, or “Head of Office Happiness, HR Management and Purchases,” can go a long way toward setting the right expectations and reflecting the reality of this role.
Of course, a new name isn’t enough. You must also provide additional training and focus on developing the individual as the role expands.
They Can Feel Like the Entire Company Is Their Boss
Just as the scope of the admin role can balloon without warning, so too can the amount of people they support.
Although it probably isn’t true, some employees have a sense that the office admin is the lowest person on the totem pole, and thus delegate their busy work to her without fear of reprisal. But when your admin feels like she is answering to 50 bosses, distress and burnout are the inevitable results.
The Solution: Set Boundaries, and Respect Them
The only way to prevent this is to nip it in the bud before it creates undue stress on your company’s admin. Set clear expectations within the org regarding your admin’s primary responsibilities, and to whom he or she reports.
They Have to Deal With Demanding Personalities
Many admins work directly with C-level executives every day. And let’s face it, us CEO types can be demanding. Admins face the daunting task of taking directions from people who tend to be direct and know exactly what they want (and when they want it done).
It takes a thick skin to succeed in this role sometimes, but that doesn’t mean execs are off the hook.
The Solution: Exercise Your Empathy
Now and again, take a step back and recognize how challenging this role can be, and how much skill it takes to successfully navigate all those type-A personalities all the time. It can be a lot of pressure.
Again, communicating this understanding is key. Reward your admin for a job well done, and recognize him or her for their achievements.
Incorporate these tips into daily practices, and your admins will be well positioned to add value and be a true partner to the organization for years to come.
A version of this post appeared here.