There are more than 3.6 million clerical and administrative assistants in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 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 21) and during Administrative Professionals Week (April 18 to 24) may be especially valued this year, as many administrative professionals and support staff have been working remotely since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic shut down offices and other worksites over a year ago.
SHRM's 2021 Administrative Professionals Survey was conducted April 5-14 with responses from 680 administrative professionals.
A Year of Working Remotely
Analyzing millions of online job ads in the first half of 2020 "showed that the largest increase in the share of jobs that allow working from home are clerical and administrative jobs," SHRM Online reported last July.
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."
[Administrative Professionals Are Valued—and Rewarded—for Their Services]
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."
Despite working remotely, "there are still ways to celebrate the administrative professionals you regularly work with," the firm advised. Employers and managers, for instance, 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."
- 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.
- New opportunities. Show the administrative team members that the company is invested in their future by offering new professional challenges and opportunities. If they are interested, ask them to oversee a project or encourage them to consider joining a mentorship program.
- Professional development. Offer reimbursement for professional organization memberships or online courses. "Administrative professionals are eager to learn and expand their skills, and they need to stay abreast of the latest technologies and best practices in their field," Robert Half observed.
Recognition with a lighter side was suggested by the events organization TeamBuilding, which posted 21 virtual Administrative Professionals Day ideas for 2021. 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 Resources:
Administrative Professionals' Day (Apr 21), SHRM Express Requests
Salary Survey Data for 6 Administrative Positions, Salary.com/SHRM Compensation Data Center, April 2021