To improve, your secretary or administrative assistant needs goals to shoot for. The more concrete and measurable the goals are, the easier it will be for her to aim at the target, and the easier it is to appraise her performance. You want to set goals that will challenge her without being out of reach.
Business guides and websites describe good goal-setting with the acronym SMART. It stands for making goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.
- Specific: "Learn to use the new email system" is better than "Improve computer skills."
- Measurable: "Keep board informed" is hard to measure. "Send report on project progress to board twice a month" is measurable. That makes it easy to see if he accomplished the goal.
- Achievable: Setting an unrealistic goal your secretary can't meet just sets him up for failure and frustration.
- Relevant: "Learn to cook three Indian dishes" might be achievable, and it's certainly specific and measurable. But it's a poor professional goal, because it doesn't relate to your secretary's work.
- Timely: There should be a deadline for mastering the new skill or completing the project.
Wants and Needs
Setting goals for any subordinate isn't an abstract exercise – it's about a specific individual. Different secretaries have different skills and ambitions; different bosses have different needs. If your secretary says she wants to improve her computer skills, ask what she expects to get out of that. Is it to improve her job performance? Move up to a higher position? Once you know what she wants, you can shape the goals toward that. You can also consider what you need from your secretary. It could be a particular computer skill you'd like her to prioritize or a weakness you'd like her to improve.
If no SMART goals come to mind immediately, kick around some ideas:
- Training: Is there training available that would make him a more valuable employee? Or a certification he'd like to acquire?
- Deadlines: Can he meet more of them?
- Documentation: Have him draw up a reference manual or wiki covering scheduling, billing expenses, filing procedures and other daily tasks. That will be invaluable if a temp has to step in for him.
- Cutting costs: Are there places he can save the company some money?
- Time management: Have your secretary track his time and the tasks he spends it on. This can tell you if there are areas where he needs to become more efficient.