Some of the happiest and longest standing Personal Assistants and Receptionists are... the ones with temp cover...
Recently I’ve been thinking about why some companies have much higher turnover among their support team than others. One of the regular bits of feedback we hear from candidates about leaving their jobs is that they’ve felt overworked and haven’t been able to have a good holiday or even take time off for sickness without being contacted by their bosses. Support staff work very hard and are busy little bees who need a break too! It’s not just about being developed or getting a higher salary, it’s often about feeling supported by your employers and your role being valued enough that, when you’re on holiday or off sick, your team gets some proper cover.
The companies we recruit for who have a ‘no temps’ policy can sometimes be least friendly places for permanent PAs. In private equity, a Personal Assistant rarely (if ever) looks after just one person - they are usually supporting 3-5 very busy people who travel extensively and change their minds at the drop of a hat. When their PA goes on holiday or is sick, that team will be allocated to another PA in the business to cover. That PA probably has 3-5 executives of their own to support and now an additional 3-5 which can leave then with as many as 10 people who need cover of a very high standard. Sometimes PAs are asked to cover reception during lunches or if a receptionist is off sick/on holiday too. If you’re already covering a fellow PA colleague and then have to handle reception too, you can understand why that’s not much fun for anyone!
Personal Assistants by nature generally care an incredible amount about providing the best service and, when this becomes compromised due to inefficient systems or having another team dumped on you, it can make them feel incredibly depressed about their ability to deliver. The executives also rarely adjust their expectations when their PA or receptionist goes on holiday. Why should they? They need their jobs doing too!
Quite often, companies are reluctant to use temps due to budget reasons or because they’ve have had an experience with a bad temp. But these really shouldn’t be reasons to avoid temps. Our best temps are ‘career temps’ who take their jobs incredibly seriously. They don’t want to be a human voicemail, they want the PA they are covering for to come back to an empty inbox and a calendar as neatly arranged as a game of Tetris. In fact, the flexibility offered by being a temp is so appealing that it’s becoming a really popular career choice.
The ‘budget’ reason is also a false economy - getting, on average, 4-5 weeks of temp cover in per Personal Assistant each year is considerably cheaper than the cost of constantly having to replace your staff due to overworked and unhappy employees. It also far outweighs the lost opportunity cost of having at least 10 weeks’ a year when your permanent employees are spreading themselves too thinly and less productive as a result.
If you’re a Personal Assistant with experience working for companies that do/don’t offer temps, then we’d love to hear from you! Likewise we’d love to hear your opinions in any event!