Administrative professionals play a key role in the operations of an organisation and deserve proper recognition and respect.
The call for greater appreciation of what 'admin' professionals do, comes from recently-elected president of the National Association of Administrative Professionals (NAAP) Clayton Blackman.
"Executives of companies, presidents and prime ministers, are the decision-makers, yet it is their admin professional who runs things in the office. An admin's duties will vary from company to company but they are the ones who manage the boss' schedule, book flights and accommodation for business trips, plan and co-ordinate meetings, the list goes on," he told Business Day.
"Admin professionals are also usually the first point of contact for the public and other employees, so they are essentially the voice/face of the company and their boss. People sometimes dismiss or downplay the role of an admin when, in fact, they are a big part of the reason organisations function smoothly on a daily basis."
During his two-year term, Blackman intends to change this misconception while simultaneously increasing the public's awareness of NAAP.
NAAP – formerly known as the National Secretaries Association (nSa) – elected a new board of directors
during its 46th annual general meeting at nSa House, Fitzblackman Drive, Woodbrook on June 30. The theme for the 2018-2020 term of the new board is together towards tomorrow.
Blackman – a senior lecturer in management and entrepreneurship at the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of TT (COSTAATT) since August 2009 – is not only the first man to lead NAAP, he's also its only male member.
"There is still a perception among many in TT that admin professionals are women while there are men working in the field. I expect that seeing a man leading the organisation will help to break that stereotype. When other men see me in NAAP, I believe more men will feel confident and become members."
Blackman joined the association in 2013 but was associated with it long before, thanks to his wife – Eileen Blackman – having been a member "since the 1980s".
While Blackman wants to see more men both working as admins and joining NAAP, he doesn't want that to be the sole focus of his time in office.
The association turns 50 next year and as part of its celebrations, Blackman intends to re-introduce and re-brand the secretary of the year award.
"We changed our name from nSa to NAAP in 2010 to reflect the evolving role and duties of admin professionals. In recognition of this, I'd like to re-introduce the secretary of the year award during Administrative Professionals Week (APW) in 2019. We haven't given that out for quite a while, not since the late 1980s or early 1990s but when we bring it back, I want to make it a joint award for administrative professional of the year and boss of the year – those two usually go hand-in-hand. The actual title of the award has to be finalised and both people would have to submit their names for consideration."
Blackman is also "very much concerned" about succession planning, so he'll be targeting young professionals and experienced admins alike during his term.
"We have a youth arm, which I want to make a more active part of the association. (For example) APW – which we hold every April – includes a day where secondary school students get to learn all about admins, explore career options and so on. I would like to expand the number of schools taking part next year.
"I also want to open a chapter in San Fernando and re-establish our Tobago chapter by working with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). Currently, we have about 30 members in Tobago. THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles has committed to assisting us in that. We plan to approach each of the THA secretaries and their administrative professionals, informing them about what we do and the benefits of being a member."
An education and membership drive will also be undertaken with human resource managers, whereby the association will request permission to make presentations to admin professionals at their companies.
Describing his leadership style as "very much democratic with an autocratic spin", Blackman told Business Day he's not a micro-manager and that each of NAAP's committees will be responsible for meeting their objectives. However, "there are times when the democratic leader must put their feet down and say, 'This is how it should be' and I will do so when necessary."
Prior to the 2018 AGM, the executive served one-year terms – Blackman held the post of honorary treasurer on the 2017-2018 executive.
The change was led by then president, Charmaine Gomez-Dolly, who Blackman said wanted to align a board's term with the association's financial year.
"Our financial year runs from April to March while our AGM is held in June. So changing the term from one year to two gives the treasurer time, about three months, to prepare audited financial results for the AGM. I'm proud to say that even with one-year terms, we kept on top of things and have audited financials for up to 2017," Blackman said.