Celebrating the ‘right hands’ of today’s exceptional industry leaders

Rebecca Nevatt, EA to our founder and CEO Kathleen Saxton, writes about the importance and impact of Executive Assistants in driving tangible business performance…

Last night at the Lighthouse we hosted ‘Christmas At Home’, a thank you night for the wonderful executive assistants who help us – and obviously those industry leaders we’re privileged to have as clients – to do our jobs so effectively.

Christmas at Home

Kathleen Saxton interviews the inspiring Kate Thornton at our recent event

The role of the Executive Assistant in the advertising and media world has changed incredibly since the Mad Men days of the 1960s. You only have to look at the coffee-making, file-carrying, seductive secretaries stereotypically portrayed in the TV programme’s agency, Sterling Cooper, to see this change.

So what’s changing the clichés?  Major trends such as self-service and automation has reduced many of the menial tasks traditionally the preserve of ‘the secretary’ while a not-before-time push for gender equality has transformed how Executive Assistants are viewed in an organisation. In an interview with Victoria Rabin, founder of the Executive Assistants Organisation, Victoria stated that executive assistants were the “most powerful people in the office,” and the “backbone of an organisation”.

From a very personal perspective, I know only too well the responsibilities and rewards that come from my role as an EA to Kathleen, the founder and CEO of The Lighthouse Company. The 24/7 diary scheduling, seamless project management, being a de facto go to person when Kathleen’s unavailable, may sometimes be a challenge – but this is more than compensated with by the intuitive relationship that we have developed, the fascinating insight into the life of a busy entrepreneur and generally knowing exactly what’s going on in the business.

While we – and our clients – deeply value EAs, it is only recently that a study by The Harvard Business Review has demonstrated the value and impact of our contribution on company performance. They use the example of a senior executive with a total package of $1 million, who works with an EA who earns $80,000. The Harvard Business Review projects that in order for the company to generate turnover, the EA must make said senior executive 8% more productive than they would be working solo, saving the executive at least 5 hours in a 60-hour workweek. HBR recognises, quite accurately, that in reality a good EA save industry leaders much more time than that.

Given this contribution, it might seem strange that the US Bureau of Labour Statistics predicts that by 2024 the number of EAs will have fallen by over 44,000, or by 6%. The same technological advances that have freed us from the ‘secretarial shackles’ will no doubt continue to be responsible for further efficiencies in the workplace – and arguably a decline in headcount.

Therefore, it’s down to us as EAs to promote the positive impact that we have within our respective organisations. We all know personally the indispensable contribution we make to our own leaders’ workload and performance – celebrating and recognising this ourselves will only help to publicly demonstrate the value that our discipline adds to overall business performance.