Top Reasons Companies Lose Qualified Executive Assistants

— Jan 22, 2019 —

Losing an employee is always stressful, and losing a great Executive Assistant you’ve gotten to know and trust is particularly painful. You might have thought they were happy and that you had a great working relationship, and then had the rug yanked from beneath your feet. Or perhaps you knew that something was up, but just didn’t know what to do to fix it.

Sure, sometimes employees leave for reasons outside of their experience with their employer. Your Executive Assistant may leave for personal reasons, to pursue further education full-time, or to make a career change unavailable at your company. Not everything is preventable, and in these situations, you need to learn what you can from the exit interview and move forward.


But most of the time, churn is preventable. And given that the cost of employee turnover falls between 16% of the employee’s annual salary for low earners and 213% for highly educated top earners, paying attention to the reasons people quit is very important.

Retention rates fall all over the map, and vary greatly between positions and industries, so it’s difficult to say what high employee turnover would mean across the board. DailyPay, Inc. recommends aiming for an annual employee retention rate of at least 90%, which means a 10% churn rate. Looking at this for one position — your Executive Assistant — that would equate to having your assistant quit once every ten years.

Knowing the top reasons your Executive Assistant might decide to leave can help you to prevent it from occurring. We outline some of these reasons, as well as advice on how to avoid them and maximize talent retention, below.

Reason #1: “I hate my boss.”

Okay, “hate” might be a little strong, but the #1 reason employees cite for quitting is a bad relationship with their superior. This is clearly very important when it comes to Executive Assistants, who work so closely with you.

What exactly makes a boss “bad” is hard to define, but a lack of communication, feedback, empathy, and appreciation seem to be common denominators.

Make sure that you actually have open lines of communication between you and your Executive Assistant, and that they feel comfortable coming to you with problems without fear of repercussions. Meet regularly to see whether they are happy in their position, to provide and receive feedback, and to just generally check in to see how everything is going.

As far as empathy and appreciation are concerned, these are really important elements of the relationship between you and your assistant. It is easy to forget how much work they do for you, and all too easy to take out your stress on the person nearest you, which is often them. Take a step back, remember how valuable they are to you, and express your appreciation.

Reason #2: “I’m not challenged in the workplace.”

A monotonous work environment can get to anyone, and particularly to bright, motivated employees. You hired your Executive Assistant because they are the total package, and you need to make sure you don’t get into a routine where they’re doing exactly the same thing day in and day out.

Remember that you hired this person because you trust them to handle many elements of your business — make sure that you’re letting them do so. Looking for ways to expand your Executive Assistant’s responsibilities is a great way to add some challenge. Continuing education is another.

Reason #3: “I’m overworked and burning out.”

Executive Assistants often juggle a ton of responsibilities, and are expected to be “on” all the time. You likely hired someone who is capable of handling a whole lot. The flip side of this skill, though, is that your assistant is probably also great at putting on a happy face even when the workload is too much.

Frequent check-ins and an open communication policy, as discussed above, are essential in determining whether you’re working your Executive Assistant into the ground. You may have too many responsibilities for one person, and could use another assistant, or perhaps some duties could be delegated to other members of your administrative staff. Executive Assistants tend to be very capable people, but everyone has their limits, so make sure your expectations aren’t unreasonable.

Reason #4: “There’s no opportunity for growth.”

According to Willis Towers Watson, “More than 70% of high-retention-risk employees say they have to leave their organization in order to advance their careers.” Executive Assistants are not different in this regard. Remember that your assistant has goals, and know that the more receptive you are to those goals, the more likely they are to stay with you.

If you have someone in your office who could mentor your assistant, consider setting that up. And to tack onto Reason #2 above, link continuing education with advancements in the workplace.

Don’t be afraid that you are going to “overtrain” your assistant and cause them to leave the position for something better. That is always possible, but the likelihood that they will leave if they see no future within your company is, too, and wouldn’t you rather have a happy, highly capable employee than a disgruntled, undertrained one?

”I’m not compensated fairly.”

Of course, compensation and benefits can’t be overlooked when considering retention. Make sure that the rate you’re paying matches the market rate for similar positions, and that there is open communication about salary increases over time. Your Executive Assistant accepted the original salary offer, so it is more likely that they are frustrated by stagnation over time than by the original figure.

That said, compensation is not cited as often as the other reasons above for churn, so keep it in mind, but know that compensation alone isn’t enough

Rather than getting trapped in a costly and frustrating cycle of losing Executive Assistants, keep these things in mind to ensure your assistant is happy with their job. Open communication in these areas can help you to know where you’re falling short before it’s too late to do anything about it, and help you prolong your assistant’s career with your firm.

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