The role of the Executive Assistant has dramatically changed in the past 20 years.
There is a tectonic shift occurring most acutely in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it’s not the fault line that causes our infamous earthquakes— it’s in the workplace. Just as Silicon Valley’s innovation accelerates technological advances, we see the most accelerated growth and advancement in the role and level of responsibilities of Executive Assistants (EAs) in this region compared to other major cities in the country.
We have gone from assistants providing administrative “support” to assistants providing “leverage.”
The first performs tasks and work as requested; the latter performs at a higher level: proactively providing leverage for the executive. That is what I call a high-value EA: one who understands and aligns with the executive’s business objectives adds value by optimizing the executive’s time according to priorities and makes business-critical decisions.
The fundamental transformation of the EA role is due to many factors. The graphic below depicts the accelerated evolution in this administrative profession.
The EA is a highly paid role and sought after commodity in the major cities around the country.
The “supply” of top-caliber EAs is not keeping pace with the demand, and their compensation packages are reflecting this fundamental economic reality. It is commonplace now for EAs to earn six-figure base salaries, along with bonus incentives plus equity, all of which were formerly the exclusive domain of executives. In fact, in my career, I have placed quite a few EAs who went on to become multi-millionaires because of their stock packages!
The most talented EAs come at a premium. When I started placing EAs with CEOs over 25 years ago, a typical salary was $40,000. Now, we’re placing EAs earning three, four, and five times that amount. With six-figure salaries and bonuses becoming standard protocol for EAs supporting high-level executives, these compensation packages are correlating to the increased level and scope of responsibilities involved in the role.
Beyond the phenomenon of escalating comp packages for top-caliber EAs, another fascinating trend is that CEOs have been retaining us to conduct nationwide searches for their EAs with full relocation packages. Our first-hand experience points to the shift of significance and value of the role for chief executives. I’ve had a few CEOs tell me that their need to hire the right EA is the most important hire for them in the company. In short, successful CEOs place a high value on having a great EA.
I’m often asked by EAs what salaries they should be making in their positions.
The answer is that “it depends” on your geographic location, type of industry, the size of the company, scope of responsibilities outlined in the job, and the executive’s job function, responsibilities and work style. On top of that, it boils down to each EA’s unique aptitude, abilities, capacity, and performance level. There are definite steps any EA can take to improve and enhance his/ her performance and progress in their career in this profession.
Based on this rapidly evolving EA role, there are several different titles emerging in the administrative profession. We will address the various titles and the complex issues around how they relate to the scope of responsibilities and compensation in an upcoming article.
In summary, high-value, six-figure EAs leverage their executives’ time.
I believe the profession will become more integral to the executive team and that compensation packages for top-performing EAs will continue to increase in the coming years.
About the Author
Kathy Macdonald is the Founder of Kathy Macdonald Associates, Inc., a retained search firm that specializes in top tier executive support. To learn more, please go to https://kathymacdonaldassociates.com/
Based on the number of inquiries we’ve had about this subject, we now offer individualized coaching sessions to help EAs level up their game. Please reach out directly to [email protected]