There are more than 3.3 million clerical and administrative professionals in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). During the last full week of April, employers have an opportunity to recognize and reward these hardworking employees for their efforts.
Recognition on Administrative Professionals Day (April 27) and during Administrative Professionals Week (April 24 to 30) may be especially valued this year, as many administrative professionals and support staff are returning to worksites after working remotely for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Others are now working from home permanently or on a hybrid basis. These changing work patterns have required resourcefulness and flexibility on the part of assistants and their managers.
While remote and hybrid work for administrative assistants once seemed counterintuitive, during the pandemic organizations discovered that it could work quite well. According to Brie Weiler Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs, a Boulder, Colo.-based resources and jobs site for flexible and remote jobs, "there are some specific skills that make remote workers successful, and many of those skills align with skills that office support workers also need. This includes being very detail-oriented and organized, having strong proactive communication skills, being self-disciplined, being great at time and task management and planning, having adaptability, being adept at problem-solving, and having high emotional intelligence."
Saying 'Thank You'
The International Association of Administrative Professionals (formerly the National Secretaries Association) created National Secretaries Day and National Secretaries Week in 1952. Since then, using the end of April to thank administrative professionals "has gone through several makeovers to reflect changing administrative titles and responsibilities in the modern workforce," according to a blog post by staffing firm Robert Half.
"While its moniker has changed, the purpose … remains the same: to celebrate and shed light on administrative professionals' devoted, valued work," Robert Half noted. "With remote and hybrid teams becoming part of the new normal, recognizing the efforts of your support staff is more important than it's ever been."
Robert Half suggested that employers and managers can recognize administrative professionals for their hard work by offering them:
A kind word.
Let administrative staff know how their work has helped the department. Celebrate achievements and recognize staff publicly by acknowledging their contributions. "A nice touch is a verbal commendation followed by a thank-you card or e-card," Robert Half pointed out. "Administrative professionals can keep these accolades, reminding them of how much they are appreciated."
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has a sample Letter of Appreciation members can use or personalize to recognize administrative staff.
Rest and relaxation.
Give administrative staff some flexibility to log off early for Administrative Professionals' Day or, if extra time off isn't feasible, consider a gift card so they can treat themselves to something they enjoy.
Organizations can also hold an Administrative Day Luncheon, as does the Chamber of Commerce for Florence, S.C., which posted that their annual event "has been a favorite with area businesses and office managers to honor administrative professionals by treating them to a fun extended lunch event and an entertaining program in recognition of their contributions throughout the year."
Another way to recognize and reward these professionals is by providing new opportunities for professional development.
Events for Virtual Staff
Recognition ideas for administrative staff who are working virtually are suggested by the events organization TeamBuilding, which posted 21 virtual Administrative Professionals Day ideas for 2022. Among the suggested activities:
Hold a remote lunch.
"In traditional offices, the team often takes the assistant out for a meal as a thank-you gesture," TeamBuilding noted. "The group can still gather to enjoy each other's company and express appreciation" by scheduling a time to take a lunch break together and sending a calendar invite with a meeting link. Employers can either reimburse food up to a certain amount or send the team credits to delivery services like DoorDash or Uber Eats. The group then gathers on virtual meeting software such as Zoom, Webex or Skype and eats together.
Create a video tribute.
Ask team members to record a short 15- to 30-second video clip praising the work of administrative and support professionals. When all submissions are in, compile the clips into a video montage. Play the tribute during a virtual meeting so that the whole team can watch together.
Related SHRM Articles:
Benchmarking Compensation for Administrative Professionals, SHRM Online, April 2022
Administrative Professionals' Day (Apr 27), SHRM Express Requests