Why Outsourced Executive Assistants Make Sense for Any Size Company

By Bill Peatman | Updated: 29 Jun, 2023

In a strong or weak economy, companies look for ways to do more with less. When growing fast, hiring people is hard; when times are tough, you need to cut costs.

HR leaders, chiefs of staff, operations managers, and others tasked with supporting executives’ administrative needs are turning to outsourced executive assistants to reduce costs and improve organizational productivity simultaneously.

To fill the gap, more business leaders are turning to long-term outsourced executive support through managed remote executive assistant (virtual assistant) services.

Even those managing admin services at Fortune 500 are seeing the benefits. Five major trends largely drive this shift, and this guide will walk you through them!

If your executives are bogged down in day-to-day tasks and need more time for strategic business-building work, this guide can help you discover whether a managed virtual assistant service might be the right solution to provide long-term administrative support.

Related: The Difference Between Offshoring and Outsourcing

What is an Outsourced Remote Executive Assistant Service? 

A managed remote executive assistant service can hire executive assistants without adding any management or HR overhead.

Plenty of virtual assistant agencies match you with freelancers or independent contractors. But when you hire an independent contractor, you are responsible for training, managing, and supervising the assistants’ work.

With a managed remote executive assistant service, you hire a company, not a group of individuals, one at a time.

The service provider:

  • Hires
  • Trains
  • Manages and QAs all work
  • Coaches
  • Pays and provides benefits
  • Provides career development

The VAs are full-time service provider employees and offer a career path, growth opportunities, and incentives to optimize performance. But to you, they are just like internal employees, embedded in your organizations and working directly with your executives.

Learn more: 26 Virtual Assistant Tasks You Can Outsource

5 Reasons Businesses are Turning to Managed Executive Assistant Services for Teams

  1. Improve Executive Productivity (and Wellness)
  2. Executive Assistants are Hard to Find
  3. Scalability
  4. Lower Costs
  5. Expert Support and Management

1. Improve Executive Productivity (and Wellness)

All the productivity tools and technology that were supposed to make executives self-sufficient have only made human admins harder to find (more on that later). The pool of professional admins in the U.S. has shrunk by 65 percent since 2004.

Email, voicemail, chat, calendar apps, travel planning apps, and expense account apps take time to use. How much time? Sixteen hours per week, according to research by Service Now. Companies paying their executives to do their admin work realize that is not a good business decision.

Prialto’s 2024 Productivity Report found that 43 percent of executives list "administrative tasks" as the biggest drag on their productivity, and 52 percent listed "stress and overwhelm" as their primary blocker. 

Leadership IQ found that 67 percent of executives have also been less productive because of burnout, and 65 percent admit that they have made mistakes because of burnout. Just 35 percent said they are mentally thriving.

Outsourced executive assistants are a cost-effective way to take admin work off execs’ plates. Managed services make it easy for companies to deliver this support. HR departments do not have to recruit, hire, train, pay, and supervise assistants. The service provider takes care of all of that. Your executives sit back and enjoy the support of a trained professional and get those 16 hours a week back to spend on strategic work.

Outsource administrative assistant stats

2. Executive Assistants are Hard to Find 

As mentioned, there is a shrinking pool of U.S. executive assistants.

Job site Lensa released its 2021 list of the most in-demand jobs. Number three on the list: administrative assistant. The report said the most in-demand job roles of 2021 are desk-based administration roles – Customer Service, Representative, Receptionist, and Administrative Assistant. These were the most posted on the Lensa database.

Admin Assistants

From 2000 to 2019, the U.S. economy shed more than 2.1 million administrative and office support jobs, mostly due to technology. The shortage of executive assistants is particularly challenging for businesses with larger executive teams needing to scale up support quickly.

According to LinkedIn, the tight labor market and surging demand mean it takes 33 days to hire an administrative assistant. Stretch that time out for multiple executives, and you have a daunting challenge.

Outsourced administrative assistant services emerged to match U.S. businesses with offshore markets where talent is plentiful. But someone still must interview, onboard, train, and manage the VAs' performance. Doing this one at a time is also time-consuming and resource-intensive.

Global workforce consultancy Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) released its updated remote executive assistant marketplace assessment in 2022. The The Virtual Assistant Landscape report highlighted why businesses prefer the managed service approach.

“The more sophisticated and highly developed VA firms offer a managed service where assistants are supervised locally, the quality of work checked, and regular training and development offered,” SIA said. This contrasts to a self-serve model, which is more akin to a platform that simply facilitates the introduction of a client to an assistant and does not provide ongoing support throughout the engagement.”

Firms hiring assistants through a self-serve platform will have to take care of their own training requirements and generally manage their own quality standards,” SAI said.

Managed remote executive assistant services also offer backup assistants and managers behind the scenes to ensure continuity. The backup means a trained backup is always available if a primary assistant is absent. Because there is continual training and deployment of new and backup assistants, service providers have a “bench” of experienced employees ready to take lead roles. Hiring time for companies can be as fast as a week.

Learn More: 4 Types of Virtual Assistant Services

3. Scalability

Hiring executive assistants individually, remotely or in-person, is hard to scale effectively.

Hiring assistants one by one is slow, costly, and risky if you want to provide administrative support for a team of executives. Even if a freelance agency has VAs available, you need more management resources to onboard, train, and supervise them.

Also, if the Covid crisis has taught us anything, it is the importance of workforce flexibility. When shutdowns were announced, companies went remote in a matter of days.

  • Employees created home offices with or without extra space.
  • Companies delivered laptops, webcams, and headsets.
  • All meetings went online.
  • Millions of employees were laid off.

Now, companies are struggling to scale back up. However, with ongoing economic uncertainty, hiring full-time employees still feels risky.

Service providers hire, train, and supervise assistants in a managed service. There is no management on the client's part. Because the service provider has hundreds of assistants on hand, businesses can quickly scale their admin layer without additional HR or management resources and the long-term commitment of full-time workers. Trained backup assistants, performance managers, and account managers are on hand to ensure continuity and quality control.

GT Office (1)

You can scale up and scale back as business conditions change.

“Employment can be burdensome,” SIA said. “Managed executive assistant firms offer their clients the ability to upscale or downscale efficiently in reaction to unexpected changes in business demand.”

Administrative tasks are not core to most businesses. Offloading functions like calendar and inbox management, travel planning, expense accounts, data entry, and document preparation enable executives to pull the company forward.

Offloading these tasks to a managed remote assistant service further boosts operational efficiency by avoiding added management and HR overhead. At the same time, a managed service enables levels of organizational flexibility that are much more difficult to attain with direct hires or independent contractors.

Related: How to Gain Leverage with Prialto's Virtual Assistants

4. Lower Costs

“There are several reasons why organizations take advantage of remote assistants, and they mostly mirror the reasons why organizations might opt to outsource more generally,” SIA said. “Of course, a driver of any productivity enhancement is to lower costs.”

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for an executive assistant in the U.S. is $72,000 annually, or about $38 per hour.

That is just the salary. Typically, a fully loaded full-time employee’s benefits add another 25 percent to the company's cost. As SIA noted, remote executive assistants are usually hired on a fractional basis from markets where labor is less expensive.

The cost associated with recruiting, hiring, training, and managing employees also includes overhead for HR and executives, assuming each executive oversees their assistants. 

A managed service requires no HR or management overhead. The provider handles salary, benefits, and performance management.

A managed remote assistant service starts at about $25 per hour for offshore VAs. All training, HR, benefits, backup support, and performance management are included in that price.

Then there is the cost of office space. It costs about $11,000 per year per employee to provide office space. The service provider bears that cost. In the managed service model, the VAs are not independent contractors working from home. They work in secure facilities with company-owned computers and networks.

“Transitioning roles from a wage to an outsourced hourly basis means that you can carve out precisely the support you need at a price you can afford,” SIA said. Clients can save money on training and other employee benefits, payroll processing, and desk space (potentially lowering office rents).”

5. Expert Support and Management

The fifth reason businesses are turning to managed outsourced executive assistant services is to take advantage of administrative expertise they do not have internally—on the service and management sides.

SIA lists “Tapping into third-party expertise” as one of the drivers for remote assistant services. Remote assistant firms specialize in offering skilled workers in specific categories, and organizations that use these services prudently can gain a competitive advantage.

With a managed service, businesses get trained executive assistants, already onboarded onto their systems and tools, who show up ready to work on day one. They work in cohorts, so when they need to learn a new app or technology, they can quickly find someone on their team with that experience and learn from them, not from you.

“Remote assistant firms are remote work experts first,” SIA said. “With onsite work restricted, organizations having to source remote administrative support might prefer to use suppliers with well-established processes, technology, quality standards and protocols for remote work.”

But it is not just about the executive assistants' individual and collective expertise. The built-in performance management and service optimization are equally valuable.

Executive assistants do not traditionally have a career path, and most companies do not have personnel trained to manage and support teams of administrative assistants.

GT conference room (1)

With a managed, outsourced executive assistant service, you get experienced managers who understand how to build processes and workflows to make the service as efficient as possible. The managers also coach assistants and provide quality control of their work.

The management layer improves service performance and assistant retention. In a managed service, assistants have career growth opportunities—they can become mentors, managers, and trainers. They can also move into operational roles like recruiting, HR, and IT.

VAs stay longer at firms that provide growth opportunities, especially in regions where those opportunities are scarce.

“The remote executive assistant market was in robust health before the onset of the global pandemic,” SIA said. “As COVID-19 swept across the world in Q1 2020, firms took an initial hit to demand, especially among SME customers, but growth for many is now back to pre-COVID levels, if not higher.”   

Covid also sparked a drive for efficiency and digitization across organizations, and businesses created digital versions of themselves and offloaded more non-core work than ever.

The Bottom Line

Analysts at McKinsey wrote that the pandemic resulted in companies rethinking approaches to G&A work that are not core to the business. Managed executive assistant services are increasingly attractive for larger enterprises looking to streamline their administrative functions and cut the costs of non-revenue generating roles.

Outsourcing organizational administration to expert teams makes economic and operational sense.

Looking to outsource your team's admin roles? Book a call today and learn how you can save both costs and headaches with Prialto.