office* show announces the results of National PA Survey 2015

UK’s PAs head to London’s Olympia today to celebrate National PA Day 2015

Diversified Communications UK, event organiser of office* – the UK’s leading annual two day exhibition and conference for PAs, EAs, VAs, secretaries, office managers and executive support professionals, has released a summary of the results of this year’s National PA Survey.

The latest findings of the survey (which is now in its fifth year) are being unveiled today to mark National PA Day 2015.  Survey highlights will also be distributed at office*, which opens today at 9am at Olympia Central, London.

Whilst there never could or will be such a thing as an average PA, these results do provide something of a snapshot.  The majority of survey respondents, for example, have been working in their current job for an average of 6 years, are highly motivated, and, very evidently, enjoy the responsibility and variety of the important work that they do. 

The questions in the 2015 survey echo those asked in the first ever National PA Survey in 2011, to enable direct comparisons (if any) between the results.  Notably, despite the years between them, the majority of responses are very similar – registering only slight percentage changes throughout.  With one clear exception – according the 2015 survey the number of bosses/managers being supported by a sole PA is on the rise. 

Although the majority of surveyed PAs still support one manager, the number that do so has dropped by almost a third (from 49% to 36%).  In 2011, a quarter of PAs supported over 3 managers.  That figure has hit 40% for 2015.  This shift – of escalating workloads and greater responsibilities – also reaffirms the results of other previous National PA Surveys (2012-2014) that have explored how the PA role has changed (and is still) evolving over time. 

One thing that certainly hasn’t altered are attitudes to loyalty, illustrating the uniqueness of the PA role in the work place (however many managers they support).  When asked who they felt most loyal to, the majority of PAs – 62% (compared to 56% in 2011) – responded with ‘My Boss’, followed by ‘The Company’ at 22% and ‘My Colleagues’ at 16%.  The results offer a succinct reminder of how important a strong, close working relationship is to ensuring the professional success of both individuals – the PA and their respective boss(es). 

A ‘great boss’ also tops the list of the things that most motivate them about their work.  Whilst 61% of respondents also stated that they felt ‘valued’ by their boss (29% said extremely, 32% very). 

Of course, if they could change a few things about the PA role it would be to highlight the important contributions and commitment that they collectively make to UK businesses every day.  When asked to name what most frustrates them about their work, lack of career opportunities, pay, and lack of recognition are still the three biggest concerns.    

“It is vital that all organisations recognise what a significant asset their PA is to their overall business success, one that certainly shouldn’t ever get taken for granted,” says Carsten Holm, managing director of Diversified Communications UK, organiser of office*.  “It’s quite extraordinary how much good PAs really do and National PA Day on 13 October 2015 is the perfect way to celebrate their achievements and to encourage greater support and recognition of the individuals working within one of the biggest and most important professions in the UK.”

Thousands of PAs are set to gather in London at office* today to celebrate National PA Day.  The two day event features 175 exhibitors, big name Keynotes, expert training and essential networking opportunities.

To register for an entry ticket, please visit www.officeshow.co.uk.  Entry to the Keynote Theatre and office* Expert Theatre is included with all tickets (spaces permitting).

office* opening times are 9am to 5pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, 13-14 October (last entry one hour before close). 

Summary of the 5th annual National PA Survey

A sample of the results can be found below.  The full report will be available to download from www.nationalpaday.co.uk later this month.

How many managers do you report to?

 

2011

2015

One

49%

36%

Two

26%

24%

Three

11%

15%

Four

6%

10%

More

8%

15%

What are the three things that most motivate you to go to work?

 

2011

2015

Great boss

46%

52%

Variety of role

45%

48%

Good working environment

41%

40%

My colleagues

40%

41%

Feeling recognised and respected

36%

36%

Good pay

34%

30%

Responsibility

22%

49%

Convenient

14%

16%

Great career opportunity

9%

8%

Good perks

7%

8%

What are the three things that most frustrate you about your job?

 

2011

2015

Lack of career opportunities

47%

45%

Pay

35%

38%

Lack of recognition

32%

38%

Lack of perks

30%

23%

Isolation from rest of company

25%

24%

My boss

19%

19%

Lack of variety

16%

14%

My colleagues

15%

17%

Good working environment

14%

13%

Lack of responsibility

8%

9%

Who do you feel most loyal to?

 

2011

2015

My boss

56%

62%

The company

24%

22%

My colleagues

20%

16%

In terms of recognition, how valued do you feel by your work colleagues?

 

2011

2015

Extremely

15%

16%

Very

38%

35%

Quite

35%

35%

Not Very

11%

14%

In terms of recognition, how valued do you feel by your boss?

 

2011

2015

Extremely

26%

29%

Very

37%

32%

Quite

26%

26%

Not Very

12%

13%

What is the best thing that you have been asked to do in the last 12 months?
The incredible variety of responses to this question just goes to show what a satisfying career being a PA or EA can be – and sometimes not short of a few glamorous perks. 

  • Coach and mentor people – great satisfaction in helping others to achieve their goals
  • Organised a teambuilding event for the whole department, which was a huge success
  • Co-ordinate a schedule of around 70 national training events – headache but very satisfying when completed
  • Organise a large leadership team meeting and use some of the skills that I had picked up at last year's office*.  My boss was very impressed with the new technology suggestion and we have used it ever since
  • Attend a conference in Dubai to ensure it runs smoothly at key times and sunbathe the rest of the time
  • Organise a royal visit
  • To join my boss at high profile external meeting at The Ivy
  • Organise an international conference to promote research in lifelong learning
  • Create a training day for secretaries to help with their development, confidence, time management, and feel valued
  • I consider all aspects of my role to be important and integral to my success and that of my executive.  Tasks can range from the mundane (dropping a car off for a service) to the inspired (mentoring others or drafting/translating documents or organising off-sites).   To select a ‘best’ thing is to detract from the overall objective, which is to be the best at what you do.
  • Make fortune cookies for a team event.  At the time I thought the idea was ridiculous, however this turned out to be one of the best things I had been asked to do, simply to see the reaction to those that received the fortune cookies with their own individual message of thanks applicable to them only.

 

That’s NOT in my job description!
For a little light relief, the survey also asked what the most ridiculous thing respondents had been asked to do in the last twelve months.  Thankfully, whilst most PAs have a fantastic relationship with their bosses and feel valued and respected, there was always going to be a few exceptional ‘exceptions’. 

  • Consider having individual fridges in our building to stop colleagues pinching other people’s milk and lunch
  • Find a lost pen in London! – which was found and returned safely
  • Fly spinach to Spain
  • One of my principles went on his honeymoon late last year.  He called me from abroad and asked if I could go to his home to fetch his new wife's contraception and courier it to him!
  • Find a particular type of chicken for my boss, he was asked to pick one up for a dinner he was hosting with his partner. It didn't exist
  • Take a 40 minute train journey to buy his lunch from M&S
  • Pick my boss' wife and children up from the airport on a Saturday
  • Wash chocolate stains from my boss's trousers then hold them under the hand drier in the toilets (whilst the boss is sat in a cubicle) until they are dry enough for her to put back on
  • Recruit and train 5 team secretaries who left at the same time
  • We work in a zoo (yes, we work with animals AND children) so every day brings its crazy challenges.  And we always say we 'redefine normal' here...but I have been required to tickle a rhino, dance with a costume dinosaur and take selfies with a neon zebra.  Oh and filming a zoo choir video with a field full of painted rhino sculptures – that was a highlight  
  • A sense of humour is so important in this job.  Some things I have done in the past have been amusing rather than ridiculous – remember, the primary purpose of a PA/EA/Assistant is to ‘assist’ – to make life easier.  This should never mean doing things you find ridiculous...

 

The future of the PA role – how do you see the PA role developing over the next five years?
This, the final question of the 2015 survey didn’t appear in the 2011 version.  The views in the sample below reflect the majority of opinion – which for many is a positive outlook for the future of the PA role.

  • I think the PA role in general is growing hugely into a well-respected, valued key member of the executive team in thriving organisations.  Long gone are the days of the lowly-respected secretary.  PAs are dynamic, vibrant, collaborative, engaging and can really bring organisations together and move forward.  I see the role continuing on this trajectory in the future and I think it will continue to grow from strength to strength.  We are our own best ambassadors but we are also supported hugely by some fantastic and inspiring Chief Executives
  • I think it will become even more diverse – we need to combine the traditional PA duties with a myriad of other tasks already and our 'jack of all trades' skills will be called upon more
  • I think the PA role will evolve into a more proactive role.  Days of sitting all day at a desk typing are long gone!  Being the face of the organisation where people feel that they can come to you with anything and it be solved or advice given with pleasure is the ultimate PA role within any large organisation.  We tend to be able to proactively multi-task and forward think, with years of experience, to enable our bosses to trust and empower us to just get on with things.  Ultimately we are here to make their lives easier, capture everything and juggle all the balls, enabling them to succeed, which will always be the case for a PA role
  • Fewer PAs in top roles but more responsibility for the ones there
  • PAs are good at multitasking but I feel that gives bosses the impression PAs can deal with anything and they always get overloaded with jobs that aren't in their job description. I would like to hope that PAs will get more recognition for their role and this should be reflected in the salary.  It's very hard to find good salaries for PA outside of London
  • A lot of big companies do not value the work that PAs do and there will be less and less of us in the future
  • I see it becoming a more digital-based role and for more PA services to be delivered 'virtually' so the PA role would not necessarily be office-based
  • The soft skills of the PA role are becoming increasingly important as executives use technology to do a lot of the traditional admin stuff themselves.  A good PA will have excellent technical knowledge, but an excellent PA has diplomatic skills, communication skills and strategic thinking skills as well.   This will be even more important in the next five years and will add value to the role, the executive and the company
  • PA roles are extremely difficult to define!  There is such disparity among the community already, the role of a PA reflects the business/person they are working for.  I have the luxury of being a lot more involved in my bosses’ tasks, mainly from a planning perspective – I suspect others have a lot less, and some a lot more!  I would like to see the PA role become more of a strategic role rather than a glorified administrator
  • The PA role is becoming less recognised as a single role.  Most companies now expect a PA to also do all the accounts and payroll and also take on additional duties previously carried out by other staff
  • Due to budget cuts most people are forced to support themselves unless they are senior execs in the firm.  The PA will be taking on more business management responsibilities supporting their boss in running the business and managing the team
  • It is going to become more fast moving.  More use of the technology that is out there.  In the long run there may be a time that there is no need for a PA
  • Becoming more versatile such as: organising of events, travel, visas – becoming involved and preparing marketing literature, doing HRM tasks, IT expert, photocopier and VC engineer – she/he will be an all-rounder thrown into one small package (the company get a price of 5 individuals (marketing, IT, HRM, facilities, office manager) into one person – the PA)
  • More responsibility through rationalisation of resources, downsizing of various support teams so greater flexibility and breadth of experience will be needed from PAs
  • Who knows!  I always think a really good PA role can be what you make of it so the possibilities are endless so long as you have the support of a great boss

 

For further information, please visit www.nationalpaday.co.uk.