How to Keep Your Dream Team Together!

No matter how tenured or loyal your admin team, it’s never a good idea to believe they’ll be there forever! 

Yes, key members of your admin team, like all your employees, are vulnerable to turnover – no matter how important they are to your company, how much you rely on them for everyday support, how loyal you believe they are to you, their team, the company.

And when a valued admin team member quits, its not always pretty. It often happens unexpectedly, at a time when you have the least bandwidth to deal with change. And yes, losing a member of you admin team always means change!

And shame on any of us who didn’t take the time to see it coming. The reasons why admin employees quit sound very much like the classical reasons for all unwanted turnover.

“I wasn’t really looking to change jobs, but an opportunity came up that I just couldn’t pass up.” 

And these “new opportunities” should sound familiar.  Your favorite person on earth, your admin support, has just told you something you should have known.  I just wanted to….…

  • Make more money.
  • Get better healthcare benefits for my husband’s new illness  
  • Work closer to home (or in today’s market – to work more days from home)”
  • Find better work/life balance – less stress, fewer hours of work
  • Try something new (or more meaningful)
  • Get away from ________ who has been pissing me off for some time 

Yep, we’ve heard it all.

It might be of interest,  and psychologically soothing,  to know that turnover and all the disruption it creates is a much bigger component of everyday life at enterprise level organizations (as compared to what happens  in smaller organizations like ours). According to some recently generated research sponsored by, the Northwest “bigs” deal with a level of churn that would bring most of us to our knees. Check out this data showing the average length of time an employee is in the workforce for the following companies…

  • Facebook 2.02 years
  • Google 1.9 years
  • Apple 1.85 years
  • Amazon 1.84 years
  • Microsoft 1.81 years

Looks to me that one of the ways smaller organizations can compete for talent is to find new ways to retain their employees for more than 2 years. Now that’s not a high hurdle.

And keep in mind that when you get better at retaining your admin staff you also impact the retention of the people they support.  The old trickle down effect. Putting focus on retaining the key members of your admin team can indeed create a competitive advantage.

We’ve put together some ideas to help you retain the members of your admin team…

…these are suggestions we’ve used on our own team, plus seen our clients use in their work environments – in most cases very successfully.  As we all know there is no ONE magic bullet that fixes everything.  Nor should we expect to get to a level of turnover that keeps us safe from an unwanted turnover.  What we can do is a whole bunch of little things that we think will impact how you work with and develop a high performing admin team. Certainly those of us who fall into the small to medium sized group (SMEs) can do these things better than our Northwest bigs.

Check out these ideas….

Adjust your expectations for longevity.  You’re not living in the 80’s. 

Gone are the days when an admin employee earns their stripes only after being in their job for a “really long time.” Based on the data we see, and the resumes we review, employers who can keep a good member of their admin team happy, productive and contributing for 3 or more years should consider themselves successful. That said, if you aren’t retaining who your new hires in their admin roles for more than a year it might be time to re think your hiring process. The data clearly suggests that to avoid surprises, you need to stay close, checking in with an employee on what’s going on with them, every six months, or even more.

Remember what was important to your employee when they were hired!

We believe that any retention strategy worth its salt, starts during the hiring process.   As part of the hiring equation, a hiring manager needs to learn about why the employee works, what they want to achieve through their work. The employee needs to learn about the company and its mission. Where is it going? How they will fit in?

If you’re walking thru all the steps in a results based hiring process you’ll know at the point of hire what’s important to your admin employee and why they chose to work for you.   Veer too far away from their beliefs about who you are really, and the chances of an unexpected  turnover increase. And if you’ve found one of those high performing admin folks who simply wants to do a job and do it well with a stable source of income, your risk of an unexpected turnover goes down if you continue to provide them with steady work. But if you’ve hired someone looking for an opportunity to grow, you’d better make sure you give them those opportunities from time to time or they’ll likely find a reason to check out.

Stay connected to the “person” who is your employee.  

People’s lives change, and so do their needs for what they want from the “work” side of their lives. Stay close to your employee’s personal lives, paying attention to any issue that might change their job needs. When life gets a bit too dicey, be ready to offer short term part-time arrangements. When life needs an energy boost, a trip to attend a conference in New Orleans might do the trick.  A sudden health issue can change an employee’s need for expanded healthcare benefits or a pay increase so they can cover new out of pocket costs. The bottom-line you need to know who you are working with, not just what they do!

Build in opportunities to develop new skills, new work experiences.  

Your admin employee isn’t just an admin so take them out of that box.  Admin employees in particular are often in roles filled with their share of work (i.e. tasks) that are more routine and boring than challenging and creative.  Many admin employees originally took those jobs because it involved work they could do – they were organized, they knew how to use all the Microsoft software, they were pleasant to be around.

But landing an admin job they can do, doesn’t mean that’s where a talented admin employee wants to end up. Finding opportunities for members of your admin team to flex their career focused muscles, to learn new skills, to practice leading others on short or long term projects or initiatives are pieces of work you can give to your admin staff that will keep them active and engaged.

And you might want to stop thinking of them as admins…and more as folks who can make important contributions to your company’s success. Better yet, organize your admin work so that it includes natural paths of advancement opportunity. An entry level receptionist, for example, should be able to advance into other roles – a team assistant, a project coordinator or even a project lead. If you’ve got a clear career path for members of your admin team, spell it out clearly. Also get really good at hiring at the entry level – knowing they will be employees you can count on to advance, always building from the bottom up. (These kind of “advancement” stories, by the way, are great recruiting tools.)

Play with job titles that actually reflect the employee’s real contribution.

And when one of your admin employees is doing work that goes well beyond the admin title, adjust their job title to reflect their contribution. Admin I, II and III are job titles that only make sense in an enterprise level organization where pay plans often dictate job titles. Not the case in a small to medium sized company where you have lots of room to develop the job titles that employees want – titles that reflect the value they have to the organization.

Ask yourself in what areas your admin employee is making a difference and create an out of the box  job title that matches their contribution. How about Social Outreach Manager for someone who is executing your social media campaigns? How about Director of Business Execution for someone who is working in your back office making sure all your operational teams are working together?

Keep up with what’s going on with pay in your market.

Market competitive pay rates can shift quickly if you’re not looking at the market regularly and adjusting pay levels accordingly.  This is oftentimes tough to do with admin jobs where the actual duties and levels of responsibilities attached to a role can vary significantly from job to job, company to company.

If you have a question about what you should be paying for someone who does ________________________, give us a call and we’ll try to benchmark that work against what other companies in this market are paying for the same or similar type work.  Market competitive reviews of your pay plans for all job categories are critically important and should be done annually.

Believe what you’re being told.

Ask the right questions and your admin employee, any employee, will tell you what you need to know about where they are with respect to their job. Stay interviews have become increasingly popular over the last several years but they need to be for real – authentic discussions of “how are you feeling about your job right now” “Is there something a competitive employer might offer that would convince you to make a change?” 

Know where you stand so you don’t have surprises.

Never take your admin employee for granted.

Just because a member of your admin team was willing to work some extra hours during a product launch, doesn’t mean they want to keep working at that level on the go forward.  Never take advantage of your admin employees sterling work ethic – any employee’s sterling work ethic.

Keep in mind a member of the admin team doesn’t always get to set the company’s agenda but is expected to respond to it. This means that your admin’s employee’s work life balance is always in some sort of ebb and flow and not always at their own direction. You can’t expect to keep your admin staff perpetually operating on the flow side of the ebb and flow and get their best performance.

And don’t forget to show your appreciation for everything your admin does –  even if deep down you believe its stuff in their job description. Showing appreciation, making sure your admin knows you see the link between their hard work and the results the organization enjoys, is worth its weight in gold.

Bring in a temp from time to time for some mental health relief.

You know that pile of paperwork over in the corner that your admin team never quite gets time to process?   That project you asked your admin to do “when they had time.” Well, those stacks of paper, those projects that stay on the to do list forever, can be a really big source of stress for the conscientious people on your admin team. They hate not checking things off their to do list.  They hate boxes of paper sitting in the corner.

Bringing in a temp every once in a while to do clean up projects, answer phones when things get super busy, or just cover work that tends to stack up on when someone is on leave or vacation, is a nice mental health thing to do for your admin team. Trust me, they will appreciate that you noticed!

How Can PACE Help?

First of all we can help by making sure your hiring process helps you identify the kind of admin employee who is the “right fit” for your team. That “right fit” is key to long term retention of any employee.  Admin employee’s, in particular, like to have some kind of affinity or personal connection with the people they work with .  That doesn’t mean they hang out for a beer after work, but it does mean that there needs to be a good match between an employee’s preferred work environment and team culture and what the employee will actually experience at work.  r.

Our team can help you piece together the key factors impacting the type of candidate who will be the “right fit” for your team, plus help you source and then assess potential candidates to meet those requirements.

And we don’t see any two work environments the same, particularly thru the eyes of the admin staff who work in these environments.  Personal initiative for example, is a quality required for many admin roles while in others not so much, where a willingness to do things as directed is more valued. The employee’s communication style always makes a difference – some employees being really good at keeping others in the loop, others not so much. Which communication style works best for your team? Some admins are most effective when they can work alone with minimal interruptions while others thrive on ongoing interactions to keep them alert and productive.  Some admins love jobs with lots of details and prefer work environments with enough space to do high quality, no mistakes level of work. Others prefer a faster moving environment, where mistakes can be made and corrected quickly.

What we’re trying to say is that particularly for an admin employee a candidate’s work experience or hard skills are not the only factors that need to be considered when it comes to finding the “right” employee.  

Another way we can help is to do exit interviews with admin employees who have decided to leave their job. Finding out from the horses mouth why they decided to leave the stable, can be invaluable in profiling the right replacement candidate – what type of candidates to interview, which candidate is likely to be the right hire.  We are big fans of exit interviews, particularly for smaller employers who can’t afford to repeat past hiring mistakes.

PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 45 years.

A 5-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditionsdirect hire professional recruiting servicesEmployer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

To learn more about how partnering with PACE will make a difference to how you find and hire employees,  contact our Partner Services and Solutions team at 425-637-3312, email us or visit our website.

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