It is always a good time to check organizational efficiency, even more so in an uncertain economy. When growth slows, revenue declines, and operations leaders must find ways to do more with less.
One of the first places to look is at executive productivity. A cost-effective way to boost organizational output is to delegate administrative work to others so leaders can focus on revenue-generating work.
Executives Inundated with Busy Work
"With endless meetings, incessant emails, and casts of thousands, companies have mastered the art of unnecessary interactions," McKinsey analysts said. "Most executives say they frequently find themselves spending way too much time on pointless interactions that drain their energy and produce information overload."
Research bears this out.
Service Now's 2017 State of Work report found that executives spend 16 hours weekly on "manual administrative tasks."
Asana's 2022 Anatomy of Work Global Index found that managers spend 62 percent of their time on busy work.
Paying executives to do administrative work? In any economic environment, you cannot afford this kind of inefficiency.
Where does the time go?
Executives spend six hours a week scheduling meetings.
It takes a whopping 12 hours to plan a door-to-door business trip.
Executives spend 24 percent of their time checking email.
54 percent of executives spend more time looking for information than working.
Outsourcing Admin Work
Innovative companies are turning to outsourced administrative services as a cost-effective way to optimize productivity. Giving executives more time to focus on strategic work improves business performance at a minimal cost.
James Orsillo, Partner and Chief Financial and Operating Officer at venture capital firm Underscore VC, outsourced executive support with Prialto's managed subscription executive assistant service.
Outsourcing executive support saved the firm the cost and time of hiring internal admins.
"We had gone through some of the pain of hiring and training people, and they leave, and you start over," he said. "The executive assistant was a high turnover position in every company I have worked at, and I saw Prialto's model as a way to avoid that."
Managed Subscription Executive Assistant Service
Prialto is the leading managed subscription service for executive assistants. Prialto hires, trains, and supervises offshore executive assistants, placing them with businesses worldwide for a flat monthly fee. Executives get dedicated, professional administrative assistants without HR, payroll, or managerial overhead. The assistants work in teams of managers and fully trained backup assistants to support large executive teams with standardized processes for tasks like:
Travel and expenses
Contact/CRM data control
The trained backup assistants are crucial. James never has to worry that a colleague will lose support due to illness or vacation, and the backups can step into primary roles as new executives join the service.
Underscore started with two Prialto Productivity Assistants (PAs) to schedule executive meetings, coordinate travel, and file expenses for two partners. "One of the partners told me how much value the PAs were adding beyond calendar and expense management, doing project work too, so we expanded from there and brought a PA in to support myself too," James said.
"There are a bunch of things that are important, and there are things that you need me to do, like wire money," James said. "But I'm not the only person that can send an email to someone to schedule an important meeting."
Underscore reduced administrative costs with a team of part-time assistants and gave each executive 55 hours per month of support. "People were so used to doing administrative tasks themselves; we initially had to train ourselves to delegate to the PAs," James said. "But now that they've seen their productivity rise, the value is clear."
Outsourcing to Reduce Costs and Risk
Outsourcing non-core work is a time-honored means to protect businesses in an uncertain economy. In the case of executive assistants, it is also a way to find hard-to-fill positions. Administrative assistants are hard to find. Some two million have left the workforce since 2020, and executive assistant roles are the third most challenging job to fill. Because Prialto maintains a bench of trained assistants, companies can quickly scale up without the risk and costs of hiring internal employees.
At the same time, millions of educated English speakers are in regions where meaningful job opportunities are scarce. Working with cutting-edge firms like Underscore and picking up marketable business skills gives people a chance for a brighter future. The combination is a win-win for HR and operations leaders looking to boost organizational productivity and remote executive assistants looking for better job prospects.
Underscore scaled up to provide eight executives with Prialto executive assistants. James valued the service so much that he worked with Prialto to bring his assistant on as a full-time employee of Underscore.
Managed Executive Admin Services Moving Up Market
The virtual assistant market started as a niche role for digital nomads using low-cost freelancers to supplement their business with administrative help. Individual assistants are now available through gig platforms and agencies that match independent contractors with individual executives.
More recently, larger businesses are using managed subscription executive assistant services as a staffing mechanism to fill hard-to-find roles and reduce costs and risk in good times and challenging times. The service makes administrative support a turnkey, scalable option with a minimal lift by HR and operations teams.
"The more sophisticated and highly developed VA firms will offer a managed service where Virtual Assistants are supervised locally with the quality of work checked and with regular training and development offered," Staffing Industry Analysts wrote in its first report on the sector. "This contrasts to a self-serve model which is more akin to a platform that simply facilitates the introduction of a client to a Virtual Assistant and does not provide ongoing support throughout the engagement."
Hiring assistants one at a time for executives, whether as employees or freelancers, is time-consuming, and the quality of work and levels of training is uncertain. Retaining and developing employees is also challenging for the executive assistant role.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.