promoting administrative assistants

How to Create an Upward Career Path for Your Administrative Assistants and Front Desk Team

When you think about which of your employees have ambitions for the corner office, perhaps the front desk staff and administrators aren’t the first ones to spring to mind. But it’s a mistake to count them out.

For many employees, starting as an administrator or receptionist can be a great entry point to a long and successful career with an organization.

If ambitious administrative employees don’t have opportunities to advance along a career path within your company, they’ll leave as soon as they’ve outgrown the position’s responsibilities. And that, of course, means that your organization will be losing out on some serious talent and institutional knowledge — not to mention the fact that there are recruiting and hiring expenses to pay each time an administrator leaves. When you promote your existing administrator, you’ll also have the perfect candidate to train their replacement.

Plus, if you can make the receptionist role into a position of significant and skilled responsibility from the outset, you’re likely to attract more highly qualified people for the job.

With that in mind, here’s how to create upward career paths for administrators that help keep the best people on your team for the long-term.

Get the Formal Documents in Order

It’s a good idea for your HR department or leadership team to keep clear records of each employee’s responsibilities and accomplishments. These records make it much easier for managers to identify potential paths for advancement and to recommend administrators for additional responsibilities over time.

Here are a few forms of documentation you’ll need:

  • An organizational chart: A good organizational chart makes it clear to employees how different departments interact and what the management structure looks like. As this Inc. article sums up: “An organizational chart will clarify questions like “is shipping part of operations or customer service?” and “do the software developers report to head of product or head of technology?” The chart may also show visually how core processes are handled across all departments. (There’s no need to include personal details about every single employee, which will cause the chart to become outdated really quickly.)
  • Updated job descriptions: Many job descriptions are crafted carefully at the time of the initial hire, but they don’t always reflect an employee’s full responsibilities as time goes on. Good managers will make sure that employees get credit for the types of “hidden work” that often falls to receptionists and other administrators. Related post: How to Recognize Your Front Desk Staff’s “Hidden Work”
  • Performance reviews: Not all managers are fans of formal, annual sit-down evaluations. However, keeping some record of an employee’s accomplishments and updating it regularly is key for keeping track of strengths that can benefit the company in other ways.

Suggest Opportunities for Advancement

Not every administrative professional will climb the corporate ladder the same way. Their potential for advancement will depend on their personal strengths as well as the needs of your organization.

Here are areas that administrators can move into full-time if they outgrow their administrative role.

  • Human Resources – The people who work at the front desk tend to have their fingers on the pulse of the office because they greet each employee as they arrive and come in and out for their breaks. This knowledge combined with their people skills (that are useful for greeting guests and checking them in) can put them in a perfect position to move into a full-time human resources position. In many offices, the front desk administrator already takes care of certain HR tasks, such as payroll and expense reimbursement.
  • Customer Service or Sales – A lot of the skills that receptionists use to greet visitors and answer the phone translate well to customer service roles.
  • Marketing – Many offices tend to outsource some marketing jobs, such as social media management, to the front desk staff. If your receptionist has the skills and interest in marketing, they could easily expand into a full-time position in the marketing department.
  • Office Management or Property Management – The front desk staff is often tasked with maintaining some aspects of the physical building, such as managing the relationships with contractors (landscapers, cleaners, interior designers), scheduling general repairs, and updating access codes and door locks. They may also manage office equipment and staff supplies, so in some cases, it might make sense for a receptionist to move into a position as an office manager or property manager — especially if your company is growing.
  • Security – Front desk administrators are one of the office’s first lines of defense when it comes to recognizing office threats from outsiders, which is why many receptionists get emergency response training and are primed to recognize suspicious behavior in the office lobby. Smaller businesses may not have departments that are totally focused on security, but if your company is growing, it might make sense for an administrator to move into a security management or emergency planning role full-time.
  • Guest Experience Management – If your company is big enough, it might be helpful to have someone take on the role of managing the entire front desk staff — for example, making sure someone is always scheduled to cover the front desk, or managing part-time employees who come in to help cover the office on busy days. There’s often room for administrators to take more initiative when it comes to other aspects of visitor management. Related post: The Case for Hiring a “Director of First Impressions”

Stay Flexible

Again, there’s far from just one way for an employee to advance through an organization. And you don’t have to limit yourself to the paths mentioned above if there’s another path that works for you as an employer.

Remind administrative professionals and front desk workers that they have options when it comes to switching roles in the company or taking on more responsibility.

You can change an administrators’ title to reflect new responsibilities without having them completely move out of the world of administration, for example.

Another unconventional alternative: “Promote” your existing front desk staff by removing their visitor management responsibilities entirely.

We at The Receptionist believe that most companies benefit from a live front desk staff. But in some companies, visitors are so infrequent or inconsequential that having an employee sit up front simply means that they’re frequently interrupted from their other work.

Investing in a digital visitor management system can serve as a digital stand-in for a live receptionist, allowing your administrative employees the luxury of more uninterrupted work time. Or, if they still sit near the door, using The Receptionist means that your front desk staff can spend less time on tedious tasks.

The right visitor check-in app keeps your front desk staff from spending too much time on tedious tasks. Click To Tweet

Click here to learn more about The Receptionist visitor management software.

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