Have you wondered about professional development for administrative professionals?

For instance, what sort of professional development should APs pursue? What sort of opportunities should employers make available? If you were to narrow down the many development opportunities out there, what should be a priority?

Administrative professionals play a vital role in the companies they work for and are expected to attain a high level of multifaceted skills. Here’s why professional development matters and the sorts of areas to focus on:

Why administrative professionals need professional development

Administrative professionals tend to take on a number of responsibilities in the workplace, including organizing professional development for other people! It’s fair to say that the AP role has shifted. While in the “old days” APs were often seen in a stereotypical “Mad Men” sort of administrative role, these days, they very much operate on an executive level.

It’s this broad range of high-level skills that makes professional development so vital for APs. You’ll find them engaging in project management, process management, strategic research, reporting and a range of dynamic, managerial functions. In essence, APs form a core part of leadership in their organizations and ongoing professional development helps them to excel.

When administrative professionals get professional development, everyone wins. The company gets the benefit of their enhanced skills and the AP gets the opportunity for enrichment, which most will value highly. Investing in the development of the AP also sends the message that they’re valued by the company, and people tend to stick around where they feel valued!

Some other benefits include:

  1. Bringing new approaches or best practices back to work. Professional development helps APs to stay up-to-date and to find new ideas for things that could make improvements at work.
  2. Developing leadership and communication skills. APs are expected to be on a level with the executives they serve, as well as their clients. Professional development helps to enhance their communication skills and understanding at that level.
  3. Learning new technologies. Work can always be more efficient! As new technologies are developed, APs can learn them and bring that knowledge back to work.
  4. Building strong networks. How many people in your network were at the same course or development opportunity at some point? Professional development, particularly when it involves courses where participants interact, is a great way to build networks. APs are known for their valuable networks, helping them to solve a myriad of situations.

Lastly, going through professional development can help to bolster the confidence of the AP. Most people work much more effectively when they feel confident in their knowledge and abilities.

What professional development should APs get?

Where should you start prioritizing professional development for administrative professionals? First, learn the key skills they need for their job, tied in with any goals for those skills. In fact, goal setting is one of our recommendations for all APs. Goals should be written down and have an action plan built around them - professional development could be part of that plan.

Here are some examples of key skills that may warrant development opportunities:

  • Time management. This is a foundational skill for all APs and most will be time management pros. However, there is often room to learn something new!
  • Process management. What makes for a good process? How do you find opportunities to improve your processes? APs deal with researching and improving processes frequently.
  • Project management. There are many options for project management professional development. Some APs are Six Sigma black belts and charged with major projects for companies.
  • Leadership skills. APs are often in a position where they need to lead, whether it’s with directing employees, running meetings or managing projects. Skills in effective leadership can always be honed and refined!
  • Speeches and presentations. APs often prepare, write and/or present speeches and presentations. It can be very helpful to learn from experts about what makes a speech or presentation engaging and effective.
  • Event planning. APs are often tasked with planning events, both big and small. There are many moving parts to events and professional development helps to bolster the skills of the AP, so they learn tips from professional event planners.

Setting goals for development

Where will goals for administrative professional professional development come from? We recently wrote about goal setting for APs and looking at overall company KPIs and how the AP contributes is a good place to start. What skills are critical for helping the company to achieve its goals?

Second, APs will generally have a good idea of areas they’d like to develop more skills in. If they mention areas where they usually experience stress or hiccups, those could be good for some development.

Third, the company should be doing regular performance reviews, and people in every role should know what their personal KPIs are. The results of a performance review can help to point toward goals for development.

Finally, what is the AP passionate about? There may be some part of their job that they enjoy the most. If they absolutely love project management, then developing those skills to a nationally recognized level can be a worthy goal to pursue.

Create a training plan

The plan for how goals are to be achieved is at least as important as achieving the goal itself. Every administrative professional (and in fact, all job roles) should have a documented training plan that lays out how they will develop their training goals.

Training can consist of a wide range of activities that help to boost the knowledge and skills of an AP. Sometimes people get caught up in thinking that it’s always about attending courses, but that’s just not the case. Keep in mind different forms of training such as:

  • Reading a book
  • Doing a self-paced online course
  • Listening to podcasts, webinars or seminar recordings.
  • Hands-on training
  • Working with a mentor
  • Attending a conference
  • Live e-learning (such as classes on Zoom)
  • Training courses during work time
  • Community college classes outside of work time (especially if the company will pay for them).

Here are steps that can go into creating a training plan:

  1. Identify the training needs of the administrative professional.
  2. Prioritize training needs against business goals (you might also take into account the goals of the AP).
  3. Determine which training resources or methods are needed to achieve each training need. If it’s a big need with different parts to it, break it down into those parts (for example, project management can be about doing a certification and being given increasing responsibilities on projects).
  4. Develop a prioritized training plan that goes into detail. If the AP needs to train on skill X, how are they going to do it and when? Do courses need to be booked or online events signed up for? (Tip: APs are great at researching the details to contribute to their own plans).
  5. Assess the training afterwards. How effective was it? Did the AP learn what they needed? Did they enjoy the experience?

Final thoughts

Administrative professionals are essential employees, expected to operate at a high level of competence. Professional development should always be part of their working life, helping them to advance their skills. 

Companies that invest in professional development tend to win in terms of having engaged, high-performing employees. Investing in them tells them that they are valued and it helps them to see a future with the company. Work with your AP to discover where your business goals and their development aspirations intersect.

Worxbee engages some of the most highly skilled executive assistants in the business. If your company needs the right AP, talk to us here.