Learning & Development for the EA, PA and Administrative Professional: The Facts, The Dilemmas and The Solutions. Part 2

Part 2: The Solutions, By Lindsay Taylor

You’ve Read the Facts and Dilemmas. Here are The Solutions:

Where the EA, PA and Administrative Professional are concerned there does need to be a change of mindset from organisations.  This is a profession that adds true and real value to an organisation. EAs, PAs and Administrative staff need to be provided with access to high quality training, qualifications and CPD to ensure they are putting into practice the most up to date learning and skills.   

Unfortunately until such time as we are all working for employers who actively encourage and support our learning and development, the overriding solution is for you, the EA and PA, to be proactive and to take ownership of your own CPD.  Here are some suggestions on how best to do this:  

 1. Connect with your peers and join the community

The EA, PA and administrative community is just that – a community. 
A post on social media asking for assistance will result in support from those keen to help and contribute to raising the profile of this profession. 

Join Facebook Groups like our Private Learning Group here, join discussions on LinkedIn, comment on Twitter and Instagram posts.

Become a member of your local PA Networking group so you can build up your contacts and attend learning and development events (either virtually as is the case during Covid or face to face with the added bonus of visiting potential meeting, event and hotel venues). 

A full list of networks and associations across the world can be found here. 4  

2. Join a professional association

Join a professional association (such as The IAM, which is the longest standing professional body for business and admin managers here in the UK) and you’ll gain access to resources and invitations to events to support your CPD. 

Being a member of a professional association will raise your profile and demonstrate your commitment to this profession.  In the case of the IAM, membership status is commensurate with experience and level of study and not issued gratuitously so it reflects your professional standing and demonstrates your commitment to continuing professional development.

3. Set up your own internal networking group

Setting up your own internal EA/PA/Administrators forum/group is a cost effective way of providing learning and development opportunities for your team – as well as sharing best practice and promoting work camaraderie.  Think about “lunch and learn” sessions and inviting along industry experts and speakers to share learning with you and your team. 

4. Find out about the CPD focus of any potential new employer

When you’re interviewing for a new position find out what the organisation’s learning and development provision and strategy is.  Remember an interview is a two-way process.  You are, in effect, interviewing this potential new employer to make sure they are “a good fit” for you.  Is this new future employer going to invest in your development? Share the fact that CPD is of the highest importance to you and you want to work for a firm who are going to support you in your professional development and growth.

5. Be thorough in your training requests

When approaching your employer with your request for training, make sure you’ve got all the facts and information to hand – costs, dates, venues, timings and benefits.  Include testimonials and feedback from previous attendees of the training. Ask the training company if they can put you in touch with previous attendees so you can get their first-hand feedback on the training.   What difference has the training made to their career journey?  What impact has it had in terms of their productivity, motivation, career advancement or other benefit?  

By attending this training how is it going to help your team and Executive?  The team you are supporting need to understand what’s in it for them (as well as what’s in it for you)!

“The training is inspiring.  I’ve come away with some great ideas and techniques that will change the way I work for the better” PA to HNWI, London & learner undertaking qualification with Your Excellency Ltd

6. Consider payment options (particularly if you have to self-fund)

A reason often cited as a barrier to securing CPD is budgetary constraints and many EA/PA clients are left with little option other than to self-fund.  If you have no option but to self-fund, find out whether you can pay for training in instalments or whether the training company will offer you a discount to take this into account.  We have learners who are self-funding their CPD and we’ve agreed that they pay per course they attend – rather than having the outlay of the full qualification cost upfront.   We also have a “Train now, pay later” scheme in operation which you can read more about here.

7. Make sure YOU aren’t the barrier….

Not only are employers the barrier to CPD, the EA, PA and Administrative professionals themselves are creating the stumbling block.  Regularly I hear comments from you to the effect that:   

“I’m too busy to take a full day out of the office…….” 
“I don’t have time to do any training…..”

The 2018 Workplace Learning Trends Report issued by LinkedIn identifies the number one reason for employees “not engaging in workplace learning is because they don’t have the time”.

This is a short range view.  Admittedly, yes, if you’re taking a day out of the office or you’re offline for the day, you are not going to be there to do all the great stuff you normally do (equally this can be the “wake up call” for your team to truly understand all the great stuff that magically gets done when you are there!). 

So, think about the timing for you being out of the office – when can you be out of the office or offline that will cause the least disruption to your team?  Can someone cover for you whilst you’re out of the office? 

Think long-term.  By attending training you will be learning skills that you can implement to ensure you are more effective and efficient in the future. In effect, you will be investing time to save time.   

Use the learning in Stephen R Covey’s book “7 habits of highly effective people” 5 to ensure you are being the most personally effective.  This is something I share in my training sessions when helping administrators be more effective with prioritising workload.

Covey shares a prioritisation matrix drawn from asking “how urgent?” and “how important?” your tasks or “to dos” are.  Tasks can be “plotted” into the relevant quadrant and given a “command”. 

The “heart” of the model and the key to being the most personally effective is to concentrate on tasks that are important but not urgent. These are tasks with the “command” that you schedule them in or start doing them.   Because learning and development and CPD has no finite, pressing deadline it is classed as low urgency.  It is however important.  It fits in the quadrant that is at the centre, the “heart” of those who are the most personally effective.  The command then is to “schedule it in”.  

8. Research, Research, Research

Research the learning and development that is available to you.  And remember that whilst there is lots of valuable free training out there, there are undeniable benefits to accredited training and qualifications that have met stringent quality standards.6

If you can, meet with the trainer who will be delivering the training and check their delivery style meets your learning style.  A good trainer will use a combination of delivery methods.  Also make sure you are going to be supported throughout the course of your study.  We know that when a new learner signs up for training or to undertake a qualification with us, they are sometimes a little anxious about undertaking study again.  For many the prospect of having to write assignments using Harvard Referencing and attaching a Bibliography is daunting – it’s something they’ve never done before or it’s something that they did – but quite some time ago!  This is understandable and we assure learners that we will provide the support they need and our team of Associates are contactable for guidance and advice.

“On a recent module I attended there was just the right mix of team, individual, role play exercises, and breaks. This mix kept our attention and interest at all times.  The course content is up to date and relevant unlike some courses I have attended in the past.  i have definitely applied things I learnt to my day to day role.  I’m really looking forward to the next module!” Office Manager, Private Equity Firm, West Sussex (current learner: SFJ Awards – Level 4 Certificate in Office & Administration Management)

Bibliography and Further Reading

4  http://executivesecretary.com/associations/

5  Covey, S R (2004) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful lessons in personal change. London : Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

6 The 5 Undeniable Benefits of Accredited Training and Qualifications


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