Lauren Edwards: Underwhelmed and Undervalued, Office Personnel Job Market Update

The trend of recruitment for Office Personnel (OP) professionals has remained stubbornly constant since our last update in November 2016. Temporary assignments account for over 80% of our placements, with many employers preferring to hire “temp to perm”. If you are not familiar with recruitment terminology read that as hiring on a “let's see how we get on” basis.

Although this type of recruitment works well for employers in the short-term, providing access to key skills, cover for absence, peaks in demand or organisational change it is unsettling for the majority of candidates who feel they are already being very flexible on rates of pay.

With exceptionally good candidates on the market employers are certainly getting “bang for buck” where the broad and diverse skills of OP candidates are being utilised – and there's the rub. So often they are not.

As a result of rationalisation some roles have become richer with an administrator taking on facilities, office manager or HR admin duties, going as far as to become the “go to” person in smaller organisations.

However, for others, role content has become more mundane because travel, personnel movement, events and employee engagement activities have declined.

The disillusion felt by excellent but beleaguered OP job seekers is compounded where:

  • There is disparity between the actual job content and the job description, with the role failing to deliver and subsequently, the post holder remains an active job seeker.
  • Previous work experience and skills are not understood with candidates inadvertently overlooked at the application stage – document controllers will be all too familiar with this scenario.
  • Initiative to complete new training or refresher courses is viewed with scepticism rather than praised for resourcefulness.
  • For job seekers it is team fit, company reputation and role content that make the difference between viewing a job as only a source of income rather than work where they can make a difference. This resonates even more strongly with candidates who are now working for a significantly lower salary.

So, how can employers find the best candidates for their OP roles? Our guidance includes:

  • If a candidate has been out of work for a while please don't write them off. Personal circumstances can afford the latitude to time out of work and with hundreds of applicants for every admin job it can be very hard to “stand out from the crowd”.
  • Be honest with yourself about the role content. Writing a job description which will attract an experienced executive assistant when you really need an admin assistant won't mean you hire someone who provides great value for money. This approach will only cause more work when you have to re-hire because the disillusioned executive assistant has left.
  • If you are intent on focusing on value for money consider if the role has to be full-time. Could an experienced, highly competent administrator perform the work on a part-time basis?
  • Become more familiar with the role content of traditionally niche oil and gas OP roles. For example, document controllers are rarely found in other local industries but that shouldn't stop you from utilising their skills within a different role.
  • Don't be a control freak – consider whether you really delegate everything you could to a competent assistant. The answer is probably not.
  • Engage in a conversation around skills development. Innovative administrators are trying to differentiate themselves through training which could benefit your organisation. Real life examples I've come across include photography courses which have generated images for marketing and excel skills which have created databases.

If you are unsure how the market for Office Personnel professionals has impacted rates of pay, you'll find the Thorpe Molloy Recruitment salary guide a handy resource.