WISER is proud to support the continuing education and development of Simulationists from around the world. Often, when I speak with our visiting Scholars and Fellows, one question that is commonly asked “How do you decide how to hire administrative support staff?”
Sometimes that question has a financial component to it, other times, it’s about the qualifications that make the ideal administrative staff member. While I know that not all centers have the luxury of a full-time dedicated administrator, let alone a team of administrators, let me try to help you make the pitch as to why this is an essential staff position.
Let’s start with the idea of an administrative staff “supporting” a Center. What are the essential skills a candidate should possess? I’d suggest that they be strong communicators, detail-oriented, reliable, positive, and invested in your Center’s mission.
While answering phones and replying to emails is an essential job responsibility, it is a misnomer to suggest that simply anyone can do this. Quality customer service is what needs to be expected from your Administrative staff as they are the face of your Center. Your Administrators are often the first point of contact by phone, email, or in person and help to set the tone for expectations at your Center through their interaction with learners, instructors, and other guests.
Additionally, this is a time-consuming process – one that often requires quick responses. While this could fall to Simulation Specialists or Center management, this takes time and effort away from those staff members and their specific job responsibilities. Having an Administrative staff member responsible for responding to these queries allows other staff members to stay focused and invested in their areas of expertise, maximizing their time and skill sets.
Since your Administrative staff is often the gatekeeper in terms of Center communications, it makes sense to have them involved in the scheduling process of your Center’s calendar. Helping them to understand the essentials of scheduling (staff, equipment, space, time, etc.), they become a significant support to your Operations team. The more knowledgeable the Administrator is to your center’s operational needs, the smoother the process will go. This takes an investment on the part of your Administrator – they need to be interested and excited by the work that center is doing for this to work.
Your administrative team can also help with your coordination of Standardized Patients. The administrator can become a familiar face when the SPs arrive, helping them become acclimated to the space, directing them to their meeting locations, helping with the distribution of day-of materials, parking validation, sign-in, and eventually, become a trusted resource for the SPs.
As for the procurement of supplies, be it consumables for simulations, office supplies for staff, or catering, your administrative team can shoulder the burden of navigating complicated requisition systems, tracking of orders, and distribution upon arrival.
Since your Administrative team is at the heart of your Center’s communication, they are also an ideal resource for your Center’s social media coordination. While traditional marketing is still important and effective, social media allows your Center to stay present on a daily basis with those who use your center or are interested in learning more about what your center is doing. Once again, effective social media involves strong communication skills and a defined strategy … and most importantly, time. Having your administrative staff involved in this process allows them to communicate exciting news about your center and helps to provide them a sense of pride about the work they perform for you.
Lastly, while “support” is important, a strong administrative team needs to go beyond waiting to be asked to do something. A strong Administrative team needs to anticipate needs, problem solve, and remain calm and cool under pressure.
I’d like to thank Bianca Caruso, Jen Sinclair, and Noreen Mahboob for making up WISER’s amazing Administrative Dream Team.