Workforce Issues in the News and What They Mean for Leaders and Force Multipliers – March 2023 Edition

As founders, leaders, Force Multipliers, Chiefs of Staff, and Executive Assistants, it’s imperative that we stay on top of workforce trends and issues. They not only impact our career choices, but employee retention, hiring, company policies, and organizational culture. And when major publications, like The Wall Street Journal, enter the conversation, I pay attention. This information is being broadcast to other leaders and decision makers. Staying informed, and being able to interpret and thoughtfully discuss this information, is key.

Here are some of the most recent trending workforce issues in the news.

“Executives Lose a Coveted Status Symbol—Their Assistants” – The Wall Street Journal

This article asserts that assistants are “perks” and “status symbols” for their Executives. And while it may be true that the number of assistants (they cite Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants) is declining, the article fails to mention that the role of Executive Assistant and other assistants is evolving.

You’ll get no argument from me that the assistant role looks much different than it did fifty years ago. However, while the right hand partner role may look different in the future, it’s still a critical Force Multiplier position for leaders. 

In fact, one Executive interviewed for the article said he hopes to start another business someday and when he does, “… he looks forward to having an assistant again—ideally a Chief of Staff who knows him well enough to function like a second brain.”

How do you see the assistant role evolving in the next 10 years?

“Assistants kindly request that you stop calling them assistants” – Los Angeles Times

As Bonnie Low-Kramen, author of Staff Matters, said in this article, “The stigma with ‘assistant’ has to do with the stereotypes of secretaries as the put-upon lackeys in The Devil Wears Prada. Some people really suffer from old ideas of what an assistant is.”

Bonnie is right. And one way to help distance assistants from that old stereotype is to start with a title change. Title changes are gaining momentum—Strategic Business Partner, Executive Business Partner, Program Manager, Chief of Staff, and more—to better reflect the current and increased responsibilities of these Force Multiplier roles.

What do you think? What’s in a name?

“4-day work week trial yields overwhelming success in U.K., researchers say” – PBS News Hour

From June – December of 2022, Britain conducted a 4-day work week trial with 61 companies – the largest study of it’s kind. The results? 4-day work weeks work for employees and employers.

The information that I found most compelling was that during the 4-day work week trial, employees were less stressed and had better work-life balance while the company’s revenue even stayed the same or grew. Many of the companies that participated in the study have decided to continue with the 4-day work week schedule.

In 1926, it was revolutionary when Henry Ford set the 40 hour, five days a week work schedule, with no loss of pay. This is now the American standard. However, when that was set in the early 20s, it was assumed that there would be someone at home to take care of life (the home, children, finances, recreation, etc.). Obviously, that is not the case now and could be one reason why burnout has been running rampant over the past few decades. The pandemic made us all reevaluate our work-life integration needs and preferences.

Could the 32 hour, four days a week work schedule, with no loss of pay, become the new norm? Despite the research and positive outcome of the study, this new schedule wouldn’t necessarily work for every industry or company.

What do you think? What are the pros and cons to the 4-day workweek?

“Don’t Let Remote Work Derail Your Career: 3 Ways To Enhance Visibility” – Forbes

This is such an important topic as more companies move to remote or hybrid work. I mean, even if you work in-office, your Executive may be back to traveling extensively, so visibility can still be an issue.

Forbes suggests three ways to enhance visibility: be accountable (do great work!), be present and accessible (ask questions, be engaged), and be connected (reach out to co-workers and team-up on projects). It absolutely takes more work to be connected and visible in a remote work environment, but it’s essential for recognition, challenging projects, career growth, building relationships, and more.

Just remember to keep it authentic. Yes, take initiative and be purposeful, but stay true to who you are. If others see your commitment to your role and staying connected they will root for you, as long as it also benefits them and the team. If it is purely self-serving to make sure you are seen, people can see through that in a second.

For other ways for EAs specifically to enhance their visibility in-office or remotely, click here.

Do you have a visibility strategy?

Trending Workplace Terms and Definitions

  • Liquid Workforce – The liquid workforce comprises of both traditional employees and a variety of non-employee workers (freelance and independent contractors). A liquid workforce allows companies to optimize their competitive performance. Companies that use this newer liquid workforce may also elect to bring in experts for specific development projects or project launches. This is also beneficial for individuals who want a fractional role, part-time work, or are just interested in working with multiple companies or on various projects at the same time. Fluidity in the workforce allows companies to focus on workplace innovation and rapidly respond to the demands of the market or their client base.
  • Fractional Leadership – Fractional leadership is a type of interim management where organizations bring in external executive talent to fill specific roles on a temporary basis. Those companies with a liquid workforce strategy would likely hire a fractional leader at some point. This can be for a specific project or piece of work, or to cover a period of transition such as a change in leadership or a hunt for human resources. This can also be a great opportunity for employees to round out their career portfolio or take on a new challenging project without a long-term commitment.
  • Career Portfolio – A career portfolio is different in that it is not a physical entity or system. It’s a new way to think about, talk about, and—most importantly—craft your professional future in order to navigate our ever-changing world of work with purpose, clarity, and flexibility. Whereas a career path tends to be a singular pursuit (climb the ladder in one direction and focus on what is straight ahead), a career portfolio is a never-ending source of discovery and fulfillment. It represents your vast and diverse professional journey, including the various twists and turns, whether made by choice or by circumstance. For example, an Executive Assistant who also teaches yoga on the weekends and provides career consulting and coaching for other administrative professionals.

What other trends are you seeing in your company or your industry at large?

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