Virtual Executive Assistants: Professional, Scalable Support for Enterprise Teams

Updated: 19 Jul, 2022 | Bill Peatman

When the new director of executive support for one of the world's largest asset management firms joined the company, she was immediately overwhelmed.

"I had dozens of open recs for executive assistants, but it was tough to find candidates," she said. "And when I did hire people, they would work for a few months and quit for a better job."

Then she found Prialto, our managed virtual assistant service. We hire, train, and supervise professional assistants in Asia and Latin America and place them with North American and European companies. At Prialto we train in teams, and trained backup assistants take over when an executive's primary assistant is sick or on vacation.

"Our executives get dedicated assistants trained on our tools and systems, and we can add more at any time," the director said. "We have a reliable talent pool that operates as its own team, with backup support, so we never have to start over."

Work the firm delegated to virtual assistants includes:

  • Calendar management--booking meetings and serving as the primary point of contact for others requesting executives' time.
  • Task management--keeping an up-to-date task list and tracking tasks to completion.
  • Support for meetings—updating agenda topics, taking meeting notes, and distributing action items.
  • Team support--documenting processes, including onboarding new team members, collecting survey responses, and running reports.
  • General admin support--time for other tasks done and report with daily updates.

"It is a huge relief to get so much support with so little effort on our part," the director said.

Virtual Assistants are a Maturing Staffing Solution 

When you think of virtual administrative assistants, your mind might take you to people like Tim Ferris, a solopreneur who championed the concept in "The 4-Hour Work Week." Ferris argued that you could run a business from anywhere, outsource administrative tasks to low-cost freelancers in Asia or Latin America, and live a good life.

In the early days of the gig economy, that was (and still is) a popular model. 

But as the virtual assistant marketplace matures, enterprise organizations are turning to virtual assistant service providers for turnkey executive support staffing.

"The Virtual Assistant market is more typically characterized as the supply of individual workers to SME clients," Staffing Industry Analysts said in "The Virtual Assistant Landscape," their first-ever report on the sector. "However, some VA firms have not failed to recognize the potential of providing more enterprise-strength services to larger organizations."

Large organizations are seeing the value too. HR and talent leaders struggling to find and retain executive assistants for enterprise teams find it easier to engage one supplier to hire, onboard, train, and manage multiple assistants, rather than hire freelancers or FTEs one at a time.

Executive Team Growing Faster than Admin Support 

Hiring velocity was the challenge for the head of talent at a global philanthropic organization looking to add 100 executives per year.

"We found some great traditional recruiters, but we still couldn't hire fast enough," he said. "We also wanted to look outside the box of the traditional 1-1 executive to admin model because our executives and their team's needs differ significantly."  

When he discovered Prialto's managed virtual assistant service, the head of talent was intrigued. The organization's executives include scientists, educators, academics, investors, analysts, program leaders, and operational staff in HR, events, and other corporate functions. "What appealed to us about Prialto was their team approach—we hoped that Prialto would enable us to scale faster and tailor services for each executive."

They started a pilot project with Prialto's assistants for five executives in three core areas:

  • Calendar management-- coordinating meetings with large global teams was incredibly time-consuming.
  • Travel and expense management—some executives come home with receipts from several countries and currencies. 
  • CRM contact management—different divisions use different CRMs.

"I can't tell you how huge the value-add has been for us," the head of talent said. "I can see where every director and above role in the company has a Prialto assistant."

Unleashing Sales 

The VP of sales operations for an international financial services firm was frustrated that his team didn't have enough time for sales. Administration tasks—data analysis, email outreach, scheduling meetings, and reporting were eating up time.

"There are only so many hours in a day, and our sales team needs as much time as possible to seek opportunities," he said. "These administrative tasks are an important part of the sales process but don't have to be done by a salesperson."

Recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, and managing support staff would be time-consuming and require more HR and management resources. The VP had heard about Prialto and wanted to see if our model would work for sales teams. After starting with a small pilot project, the service grew from there.

"We started with a few assistants. After seeing the value, the relationship expanded to assign one to every salesperson, and they love the service," he said. "Best of all, they don't require any hand-holding by me or anyone else. We tell them what we need, and they get it done."

Tasks our assistants do for the company's sales team include:

  • Prospecting--using buyer persona data to search contact databases and find leads.
  • Outreach—building email lists, launching campaigns, and following up on leads.
  • Reporting--pulling regular reports from the CRM, formatting them in templates, and delivering them to the sales team and executives.

"What I love about the service is that it is seamless and requires very little management," Rob said. "The onboarding was effortless, backup PAs for continuity—Prialto has thought of everything."

Growing Solution

The virtual assistant market is growing at 40 percent per year as HR and talent teams see the value of outsourcing executive support to service providers. The model makes sense when you consider that there are about half as many executive assistants as there were in 2000, and turnover is high. It is a win-win for companies searching for a reliable talent pool and for college-educated Asians and Latin America looking for more meaningful work than local companies like call centers offer.

Want to learn more? Check out “How Enterprises Outsource Executive Assistants in 2022.”

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.

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