Can AI Replace a Human Executive Assistant?
Last updated: June 26th, 2023
If you’re a C-Suite level executive you may be wondering if you really need a human executive assistant. And, if you’re an EA, you may be wondering if AI is going to replace your job. After all, can’t AI get all the information you need more quickly than a human executive assistant?
Take a deep breath, this isn’t an either/or situation. For now, and for a long time to come, AI will be a tool to amplify the role of the human executive assistant to better support executives.
How Can Your Human Executive Assistant Use AI Now?
AI is a new, exciting, complicated, and fast-moving subject. It has many of the best minds on the planet excited and terrified. AI is the “elephant in the room” when we look at the future of work. One of the most applicable and developed areas of AI is already here and involves gathering, verifying, and interpreting Information. But even with information there are limitations to what AI can do versus an executive assistant:
- AI can gather information, but you need someone to ask the right question to get the right information
- Once you have the information, you need someone to verify the information
- Once you verify the information, you need someone to analyze the information in the right context
How Can a Human EA Use AI to Source and Gather the Information You Need?
1. Ask the Right Question
The first step is to make sure you have an executive assistant who understands the big picture well enough to ask the right question in the right way. What questions do you pose and how do you pose them?
I learned this lesson years ago in “real” life when I ran out of gas on a busy road in London. Noticing a car rental shop across the road, I asked the attendant if they could sell me a bit of gas to get me to the next gas station. The answer was a flat “No, against the rules”. Back in the car and desperate to make my next appointment, I crossed the road again and this time asked if they could just give me enough gas to get me down the road a mile. The answer was “Yes, of course”! In a way, the rental car attendant was like AI, not intuitive enough to figure out what information or result I needed because the question wasn’t worded correctly.
So, the first basic skill critical to harnessing AI is the importance of asking the right questions. For this, you need someone smart enough and knowledgeable enough to ask the right question.
Most of us already use AI multiple times a day to get information on:
- Weather and weather trends for any location now
- Directions on how to get somewhere
- Dates for almost any event
- Best restaurants or theater
- Simple conversions for currency or measurements
- Where to purchase something
- Historical dates and description of historical events
If your EA doesn’t already know how to do this, it would be a good idea to start looking for a replacement right now.
2.Verification of Information
The weak link in using AI is IA. What is IA? IA is Information authenticity. Part of evaluating data is to see what’s worthwhile and what’s relevant and especially to detect what’s true and what’s not.
What if the information gathered and used isn’t true? Some experts call this the “hallucination effect.” If AI has insufficient or conflicting data in its system it can sometimes just make something up or “hallucinate”. In creative endeavors, this can be a positive and can result in new and interesting art or literature. But when you need solid facts and conclusions, this can be a huge issue. You need a human, and a smart one at that, to verify the information. Your EA can serve as the first line of defense in verifying facts.
3. Analysis and Context
Despite AI’s many capabilities, it falls short of understanding context. You still need your EA to double-check everything. On a basic level, despite grammar and spelling checks, you need a person to double-check outgoing emails and texts. As we all know, the autocorrect function (basically an AI app) can get you in trouble.
Also, AI Applications are only as good as the information that has been uploaded into them. Information needs to be “uploaded” and learned from within the AI Application, and many applications don’t include the most recent updates and breakthroughs. If the uploaded information itself is not entirely accurate it may also lead to a faulty analysis. Common sense needs to look at both the question and the information.
What Advanced AI Applications Are Useful for a Human EA?
We have all heard about how ChatGPT can be used for researching and even writing articles. So, if you need your EA to draft something on a particular subject, a good start might be ChatGPT. But be careful!
True Story: when testing ChatGPT a couple of months ago, I asked it to write something pertaining to hiring EAs for venture capital-backed companies. Within seconds, Chat GPT returned a beautifully written article which was almost verbatim a blog I had written a month earlier. Plagiarism can be a real issue with AI apps.
Aside from ChatGPT and Bard platforms, there are numerous other specialized AI applications useful for executive assistants such as Jasper, Lovo.ai, Fireflies, Pictory, Murf, Speechify, Reply.io, Tidio, Anyword, and Clockwise. For more details on these apps and training resources for administrative professionals go to The American Society of Administrative Professionals.
What You or Your Human EA Can’t Delegate to AI
The Human Touch: A Human EA Can Observe as well as Understand Context and Nuances
Senior executives can become removed from the everyday world of an organization and all the people and interactions that impact outcomes and results. A good human EA serves as a liaison to the rest of the organization and can notice and pick up on interactions and nuances that a busy executive can miss. They build relationships and can help manage and bring a human touch to interactions.
One of the key strengths of human EAs is their ability to build relationships and manage stakeholder interactions. EAs often serve as the first point of contact for external stakeholders, and their ability to build trust and rapport is critical in ensuring successful business relationships. While AI-powered tools can assist with scheduling meetings and managing email correspondence, they cannot replace the human touch that EAs bring to their interactions.
Good Human EAs Are Here To Stay
A good EA can also serve as an advisor to an executive. They can anticipate problems and needs, heading off issues before they become intractable or blow up. In order to do this, they need deep knowledge of the organization, its people, and an executive’s responsibilities. AI can’t do this, at least not yet.
Can you imagine AI noticing or understanding the importance of:
- who to include in sensitive meetings such as one on downsizing
- the way a certain manager speaks demeaningly to their direct reports
- why people hate to work for certain executives (maybe they shout or maybe they are disorganized and always ask for a new deliverable at 5 pm on a Friday afternoon)
- when an employee’s performance is slipping and needs compassion and support because they just lost a loved one or have other serious personal problems.
Although many top executives don’t realize it, they are often cut off from their employees’ day-to-day work lives – to some extent this is inevitable – but a good assistant picks up on the human interactions and filters them through to their executive. The EA can bring information, insight, and ideas on organizational and human situations to help their executive stay in touch, make improvements, and head off potential problems.
AI Can Enhance the Role of a Human Executive Assistant But It Has Limitations
Executive Assistant’s are already using the basics of AI in their jobs and many are looking at new ways to harness additional applications of the technology to improve efficiency and productivity. The easy and fast access to information is the most obvious way AI applies to a human EA role but it comes with perils and pitfalls that need to be addressed thoughtfully. Education is important for this.
AI cannot, however, replace the ability of an EA to understand the context and nuance of a situation or data and it can’t replace the human touch and intuitive skills that a good EA brings to their job. Good EAs are here to stay and the role is becoming more critical to the productivity and success of the executives they support. Used properly, AI will leverage and supercharge what a human EA can contribute to you and the organization.
With C-Suite Assistants, finding the right EA is simple. As experts and specialists in the staffing of Executive and Personal Assistants for C-Suite executives, let us help you find a human EA who uses AI to boost your performance and free up your time.
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