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The changing role of the contemporary PA

Last updated:
Saturday, March 23, 2024
Monday, July 1, 2019
Person working at a desk in a cafe.

Personal Assistants (PAs), Executive Assistants (EAs) and Virtual Assistants (VAs) are at the very heart of organisations, big and small. They play a key role working closely with chief executives, senior management and leadership teams.

Over the years, the responsibilities of a PA have changed almost beyond recognition. It used to be a role with a clearly defined function – providing secretarial support to an executive or director and organising key details of their day. Today, the role of a PA is much broader and more diverse. In this article, we’re taking a look at the changing role of the modern PA.

The traditional role of a PA

In the 1950s and 60s, women in the office were mostly secretaries and they remained secretaries until marriage or retirement. It was Mad Men-style, with typing pools. Thank goodness those days are gone!

Move forward a decade or so and PAs worked one-to-one with their executive, taking dictation and typing correspondence. They’d also manage the diary and look after confidential matters. Many hours would be spent photocopying, faxing, telephoning and writing by hand in an actual diary. It was often an arduous task.

The role of a contemporary PA is varied, diverse and busy

The role of a PA today is constantly evolving and these days, they are required to have a good understanding of business. Between 1996 and 2001, commercial Internet Service Providers changed our workplaces dramatically with the introduction of email and the cloud.

As technology advances, so too do the traditional PA responsibilities and skills.

Today’s PAs are likely to be confident decision makers and often manage other support workers and teams. They may be involved in Human Resourcing (HR) and facilities management. They are often relied on for strong social media skills and other marketing channels. A PA may work closely with several directors or managers as well as their teams.

PAs maintain and screen email inboxes, manage multiple calendars, set up conferences and events and organise the travel arrangements for the team. PAs often manage the petty cash and expenses of the team’s budget.

The challenges of being a PA

The role of a modern PA, EA and VA can be stressful. PAs often acquire numerous executives and managers to support, which brings additional pressures, particularly with managing diaries and email inboxes. They often have to adapt for special projects, deal with unpredictable priorities and take on more strategic roles. They are sometimes working closely with difficult or demanding people, often at senior levels and any problems they are having with their work may impact on their PA.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the role of a PA is managing their own time to incorporate the wide range of tasks demanded of them.

How GiftRound can help PAs

Alongside the lengthy list of responsibilities that a PA’s role involves, they are often the unsung heroes for all the necessary little tasks around the office that can be overlooked when writing the job description.

For example, our recent survey of 81 of the100 PAs we spoke to said that they are responsible for office collections within their organisations adding to their already heavy workload. From the outside, it may seem like a quick and easy task but more often than not, it isn’t quick or easy.

First of all, the PA has to let the team know that a collection is being made, whether it’s for a birthday gift, a leaving present, a wedding present, a gift for a retirement, a new baby gift, etc. The list of possibilities is endless. And then the PA has to make the collection, relying on the team members not only to be at their desks to collect the cash at the time of collection but to actually have cash of the right denominations they wish to donate. A physical cash collection can take several rounds to include all contributors, which is a major drain on a PA’s time. And who has cash these days anyway?

Let GiftRound take the headache away. A GiftRound collection IS both marvellously easy AND time-efficient.

· Create an online collection:write a brief description about who you’re collecting for and why

· Invite contributors:you have the option to copy the link and paste it into your own email or you can upload the invitees email addresses into your Collection area and send via our site

· Manage the collection: you can see who has already contributed, view comments, and adjust the closing date

· Choosea gift voucher from one of our quality gift providers or

· Transfer the collection money to the organiser’s bank account and purchase any gift, or

· Give the collection as a monetary gift directly into the recipient’s bank account

· GiftRound is soon to launch a partner programme offering an exciting range of gifts and experiences through the GiftRound Store.

Take a look at how quick and easy it is to organise your collection or if you’re all ready to go, you can create your own collection today.

Final thought

A traditional PA or secretary used to have a merely reactive role. PAs today are now proactively finding new ways to improve processes. Let your GiftRound Collection be one of those new ways.