Want to advocate for a higher salary, professional development budget, and more as an admin or executive assistant? Lucy Brazier, OBE (Executive Support Media) talks with Alexa Kirby about how to understand and communicate the value you bring.
Recorded at the Administrative Professionals Conference 2023 and produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals - ASAP. Learn more and submit a listener question at asaporg.com/podcast.
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Leah Warwick: Hi, I'm Leah Warwick, and you're listening to The Admin Edge. We're back with another episode recorded at the Administrative Professionals Conference 2023 in Las Vegas, this time with Alexa Kirby, Operations Associate, talking with guest Lucy Brazier. Lucy is the CEO of Marcham Publishing, and her new book is called "The Modern-Day Assistant: Build Your Influence and Boost Your Potential." Here's Alexa and Lucy. Alexa speaks first.
Alexa Kirby: Let's talk about why negotiating and knowing your worth can be such a struggle for admins. I know so many people in this industry have a really hard time trying to advocate for themselves because a lot of people might not see the role that they have as important and crucial to the company that they're working for. What are your thoughts on that?
Lucy Brazier: My thoughts are that we have a real perception problem here, and we have a problem in part in the assistants' own heads, and that's because of the way the media portrays them and the way that businesses don't understand really what it is that they do.
When I sit in front of executives, and when I sit in front of assistants, and I say, "Raise your hand if you know what it is that the business employs you to do. Tell me what it is that the business employs you to do." They tend to say, "Oh, well…" The executives say, "They're here to do the things I don't want to do, or they're here to fill the gaps." The assistants say, "I help. I support. I do bits and pieces for them to make them more effective."
When you understand that, it's very easy then to start working out what an assistant's worth is in terms of actual dollars and cents. It's so interesting because, coming out of COVID, all of a sudden HR departments all over the world have been tasked with looking at what the return on investment is of each member of staff. For the very first time, that's including the assistant. They're talking to us about: How do we do that? How do we make sure that we can see what the value is that they are adding? We're giving them the math so that they can work that out.
Alexa Kirby: That's amazing.
Lucy Brazier: For every single assistant, what I would say is: You have the power to really turn an average executive into somebody spectacular if you're doing the job properly. Therefore, it's worth coming to things like APC, or training or whatever it happens to be, to make sure that you are honing your skills, because you have the power to change the economy of the bottom line of your business — if they get it right.
Alexa Kirby: What are your tips for admins to not only recognize their worth but demonstrate and communicate their value to their boss or the executive?
Lucy Brazier: Well, I think, Alexa, that really ties into the first question, but if you want to understand the math behind that, it's very simple. Think about how much your executive earns. So if we agree that that's a lot — should we just say it's a lot?
Alexa Kirby: Of course, yes.
Lucy Brazier: Excellent, good. So if you think about how much your executive earns a year and then you think about how much time you give them back, and think about that as a percentage, I think the assistant is doing things every day for the executive that otherwise they'd have to do for themselves. And even the worst of them are probably giving back their executives 30% of their time, and probably the best of them are giving them back 80-90% of their time.
If you times their salary by the amount of time they're given back, suddenly you understand what that contributes to the bottom line.
Alexa Kirby: Very valuable.
Lucy Brazier: Yeah. And that is before, by the way, they use that time that's saved to go and do all sorts of things that generate more money for the business, and that's before they go and do their job. And I know that when I say to assistants, "You're really amazing at sales," they go, "Oh, no, I'm not a salesperson. Don't talk to me about sales." I have never known a group of people who could get so much stuff for free. All that stuff is hugely useful.
Alexa Kirby: Yeah. I think a lot of admins might just think to themselves, "Oh, I'm just an admin, or I'm just an assistant," but if they can really move away from that and really see, "This is how I can add value to all of this," that's the first step.
Lucy Brazier: I think so. I think it's the partnership piece which is so valuable to businesses when they get it right, and I can tell you, just very, very briefly, that we recently did an exercise with a business here in the United States. They had 500 admins. The admins had all been employed by separate executives, so they had no job descriptions that had any kind of relation to each other. There was no training. There was no succession planning, no career progression, and they all had different job titles. There were 60 different job titles across the 500 admins.
We worked out with them that if we restructured and we trained them and we then put them in to bat, we said, "Okay, so let's take the lowest common denominator then, the entry-level executives. If they then save them an hour a day, that equated to $88,600/week that the business would save."
Alexa Kirby: Exactly, I love that.
Lucy Brazier: Really understand the value you bring.
Alexa Kirby: Lucy, I know we've got a couple of listener questions, so I'm going to read us the first one. The first is from executive assistant Jennifer. She writes: "I'm the EA to the CEO and have always been curious about where to go from here. When setting goals, I always find something new to discuss after being in the role for so many years. How do I keep it fresh?"
Lucy Brazier: I think this is a profession that's in an acute state of change. There is so much to learn. And if you're feeling comfortable right now, you're probably in the wrong profession because there is so much to learn. I always worry when assistants say to me, "I don't know what my goals should be this year. I don't know what my objectives should be." I tend to ask them, "Well, what are your executive's goals and KPIs (key performance indicators) this year?"
Once you've got that stuff and you understand that your role is to make them the very best they can possibly be, suddenly the goals you need to set for yourself this year become very clear.
Alexa Kirby: That's awesome. I think that's super helpful, like keeping it fresh. I know we've got another question. I think it's more of a request, as she says, but this is from admin professional Sheila. She writes: "My organization doesn't support education budgets for administrative professionals, but I've been trying to advocate. I'd love pointers."
Lucy Brazier: Oh, my goodness. Well, it all comes to a head, really, doesn't it? It's tying all of it together, because I think if you have the Global Skills Matrix, and you go and talk to them about your assistants, what we tend to do is we say, "What does the business need, first of all?" So we look at it and we say, "Here are the different levels of executive. What support do they need at each level?" Then work out what level you are and where you slot into that. And then, if you want the training, go and work out how much your manager is worth per hour. Ask HR how much that level of management is worth per hour, and then do the math. "This is the amount of time I save them. If I get this training, and I'm saving them an additional hour a day, how quickly does that return on investment come back into the business?"
And when you're talking in terms of bottom line and actual numbers, all of a sudden they go, "Oh, okay, I get it."
Alexa Kirby: That's great. Well, Lucy, thank you so much for joining our podcast today. Where can listeners find you and order your new book?
Lucy Brazier: My book, "The Modern-Day Assistant," is on Amazon and you're very welcome to go and buy a copy there. I would love for you to do that, of course, but the website is executivesupportmedia.com, or if you're interested in the Global Skills Matrix, it's globalskillsmatrix.com. I'm so delighted to have been here. Thank you so much for your time.
Alexa Kirby: Thank you so much, Lucy.
Leah Warwick: Thank you for listening to The Admin Edge, produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals. Original music and audio editing by Warwick Productions, with audio and video production at APC by 5 Tool Productions. If you like this podcast, please leave us a nice review wherever you listen to podcasts, and subscribe. If you want to send a listener question, you can submit via the form on our website at asaporg.com/podcast.