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Is technology replacing the role of an Executive Assistant?

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Oxford Languages defines an “Executive Assistant” as “a person employed to assist a high-level manager or professional with correspondence, appointments and administrative tasks”. This role has, and still is, often misrepresented, as it has here, as a purely administrative or secretarial position, covering tasks such as diary and expense management and typing of correspondence. In reality, for the businesses and Principals that genuinely recognise the value of an Executive Assistant, the role is much more comprehensive than this. It is pivotal to the executive teams’ success, the person they support, and the broader business. A traditional Personal Assistant, by comparison, is much more reactive and transactional, with its primary function being to alleviate the administrative burden of the individual(s) they support.

A true EA role can encompass anything from overseeing budgets to project management, standing in for their Executives at meetings and anything in between. An EA is, and should be, an extension of the person they support. The two positions are often differentiated by mindset, too, with the EA role being much more proactive, constantly thinking two steps ahead of their Executive(s). 

The most crucial difference, however, lies in the EA’s greater responsibility and influence over the business. An EA worth their salt is a leader in their own right, with Jeremy Burrows (EA to the CEO of Capacity and author of ‘The Leader Assistant’), coining the term ‘leader assistant’ to emphasise the significant impact the role can have within a business.  

The substantial technological advances in recent years have resulted in businesses relying more and more on technology, software, and in some cases, Artificial Intelligence (AI) to streamline processes and make companies run more efficiently and effectively. This has and will continue to impact and considerably change the business landscape, regardless of position or industry, but how will it affect the role of an EA? 

Although some within the business support sector may be reluctant to embrace these changes and perhaps feared that their jobs would cease or be replaced by technology or AI, we believe technology will positively transform and revolutionise the role of an Executive Assistant.  

Typically, EAs can spend up to 80% of their time on mundane and lower-level duties, leaving only approximately 20% to focus on other areas of their role that can have a broader impact on the business. Technological tools, including AI, should enable EAs to reverse this ratio. 

Duties like processing expenses, scheduling meetings and booking travel can now be aided or completely taken over by technology, allowing EAs to focus their already limited time, on other areas such as assisting with projects, looking at internal comms or even the operations of the business.  

Technology and AI should be welcomed with open arms and, if used correctly, enable EAs to be more creative, hands-on and productive in their roles. This, in turn, positively affects the person(s) they support, as well as the overall running of the organisation. It is an asset in today’s market. 

What technology can’t do, however, is replace the fundamental human elements of an Executive Assistant’s job, nor the pivotal relationship between an EA and their Executive(s).  

In conclusion, technology cannot replace the role of an EA, and it will, more likely, become the EA’s assistant.