Executive assistant back in vogue

By Raewyn Court

Casualties of the financial crisis, senior EAs can now expect an average 7.8 per cent rise, says a salary survey.

Mid-level accountants, IT professionals, construction specialists and engineers are among those in high demand.
Mid-level accountants, IT professionals, construction specialists and engineers are among those in high demand.

Experienced executive assistants will be among the biggest winners when it comes to salary increases this year. They can expect an average rise in permanent salaries of 7.8 per cent, according to the recently released 2014 Robert Walters Global Salary Survey.

James Dalrymple, director of Robert Walters in Auckland, says that during the global financial crisis years several businesses were forced to make senior executive and personal assistant positions redundant, with mid-level EAs and PAs then expected to support multiple people. "We expect this will change in 2014 when senior EAs will be in demand again, as businesses come out of restructures and a period of cost control. This will drive salaries up."

Hiring is likely to increase across the board this year, but Dalrymple says that while many businesses will be looking to grow in 2014, they will continue to be mindful of managing their cost base. "Increased efficiency and productivity will be prevalent this year. Ensuring employees are motivated and appropriately skilled is essential to driving this. Many businesses have also been through restructures recently, and ensuring that those who have remained with the company are bedded down with as little disruption as possible is critical.

Strong, decisive leadership and communication are also key to driving efficiency and productivity."

Dalrymple recommends employers react quickly to the highly competitive job market by implementing an efficient interview process and taking extra measures to ensure new joiners are a "cultural fit" to maximise the chance of their long-term employment. "This could mean," he says, "that team members meet candidates in an informal setting, put them at ease to allow them to show their real personality, and ask about their achievements and aspirations. Reference checking is also important to ascertain whether a candidate will be a good cultural fit."

The survey highlighted several other trends, including mid-level accountants and IT professionals being in high demand, employers needing to look overseas for talent because of skill shortages in both construction and engineering, and the salary growth rate of HR specialists in Wellington being more than double the Auckland rate. Dalrymple explains that most of the Wellington HR roles are within the public sector, "which can mean the scope and scale of some of the senior roles in Wellington are larger than in Auckland. Also, there is a smaller pool of candidates in Wellington, meaning salaries are pushed up amidst more competition."

Robert Walters' research found that IT security staff who can thoroughly review company security systems will be among the most sought-after professionals in 2014 and that demand is expected to grow tenfold in the next decade. With competition over already-scarce IT specialists becoming "fiercer than ever", security specialists can expect a pay rise of up to 9 per cent this year.

New major construction and engineering projects will mean strong demand for site managers, quantity surveyors and project managers. Transport managers will be in demand, as will structural engineers. Project directors can expect a salary increase of up to 4 per cent, with principal engineers commanding up to 9 per cent.

Auckland and Wellington law firms are promising higher salaries and a fast track to career progression to appeal to a shrinking pool of intermediate-level professionals.

Dalrymple says the industries in which they expect to see continued demand for resources in the short-to-medium term are technology, engineering, construction, finance and sales.

- NZ Herald

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