Should you put recruiting your executive assistant on hold?

11 June 2020 Anastasia Kelly

Hiring An Ea

If your industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 and the subsequent recession, you may be rethinking your recruitment policies. When you need an EA for your senior leadership during this challenging time, is it the right idea to proceed? If you’ve made redundancies in other areas of your business, is it consistent with your employer brand and values to then hire an EA? 

There are a few options to consider. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each so you can decide whether hiring an EA is appropriate for you at this time. 


When you’ve made redundancies or cut salaries elsewhere 

Many senior leaders worry about the appropriate time to hire after making redundancies, freezing salaries or even reducing them. It’s not a good look to your loyal workforce to put families under financial pressure, only to hire staff in other departments. This is a common concern. Rightly so, because it gets to the heart of the values of your business. 


Your legal requirements

When considering hiring again after making redundancies, it’s important to consider your legal obligations. We are not lawyers so can’t give advice. So we can strongly urge you to seek legal counsel. If there is doubt the dismissal is a genuine redundancy you can be subject to unfair dismissal claims.


Placing a recruitment freeze

This is a common approach. By freezing all appointments there can be no accusations of hiring people while firing others. It certainly helps control the wage costs too when cashflow is limited. 

However, when it comes to recruiting an EA, it means that senior leaders are left without the support they need. This makes it difficult for the executive to perform their role adequately. Naturally, they wind up doing administrative tasks themselves. Which is a huge waste of their talent. Your senior management should not be booking their own appointments or formatting their own PowerPoint presentations. 

This can work in the short term. But when it turns into weeks and months the executive may feel pressured, stressed and frustrated. This in turn affects performance, loyalty and enjoyment in the role. 


Transferring staff from elsewhere  

Instead of hiring an EA for the CEO or other C-suite executive, you can save a redundancy by bringing in someone from another department. This solves the problem of a lack of support for the executive. However, the skillset may be varied and not to the standard of a high performing EA. Also the staff member, with experience in other areas may not value the opportunity and will consider it a short-term option only. If they don’t understand the duties and responsibilities of a high performing EA, they may find the appointment insulting, or simply not in line with their career goals. 

Consequently, the loyalty and investment in learning and efficiency may not be what you expect. Someone without the experience and skills of a senior EA is a good short-term source of help, but it is unlikely to perform well in the long-term. 


Hiring a contract EA 

This can be a wonderful option to get you a better level of support. Sadly, many high-quality EAs have been made redundant recently. Many are open to temporary or contract positions while they calculate their next carer move. This can be a workaround within a recruitment freeze, if company policy allows. Plus, it’s a win-win for both EA and employer. The EA gets short term work and builds even more experience and the employer gets the immediate, experienced support. During their tenure the EA can identify better ways of working and productivity efficiencies that benefit the employer long after the contract ends.  A high-performing, experienced EA will be able to jump headfirst in the role and start delivering and supporting your executive from day one. 


Recruiting an EA during troubled times

If you’d rather not put your executive through the challenges of going without an EA or a temp/contract support, then you may decide to proceed with recruitment. To avoid leaving a sour taste in the mouths of any recently departed employees, it’s important to be transparent in your communication. 

Current staff will notice a new EA in the role, and word will get back to those made redundant. So resist temptation to conduct the hire in secret to avoid criticism. This can often backfire. Instead, by carefully wording internal communication to your broader staff and explaining the rationale behind the appointment, you can win the hearts and minds of your team and avoid nasty whispers in the hallway. 


The benefits of recruiting now

We’ve been speaking to highly qualified EAs during the pandemic and can attest that many are continuing to grow their career and seek the next exciting opportunity. This may be a good time to recruit with so many quality candidates on the market and limited competition from other employers who are not recruiting. Whilst the salaries haven't taken a hit, so you won’t necessarily ‘grab a bargain’, you may find yourself having your pick of top candidates who wouldn’t otherwise be available, or who would be snapped up by your competition. 

The benefit of using an agency like us is that we can make the introductions the minute you place the position with us. With many great candidates on our database, there may be no need to advertise the position to the market. 


Looking to recruit your EA or temp EA? 

Contact Anastasia on  0421 16 55 96 to discuss your needs and get expert advice on the best way to proceed according to your requirements.