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Office professionals deserve better

Part of the audience at today’s Office Professionals AGM.

Part of the audience at today’s Office Professionals AGM.

The United States ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, is proposing better wages and salaries for office professionals in this country.

Larry Palmer made an impassioned plea this morning, while delivering the keynote address at the 16th Annual Conference of the Barbados Association of Office Professionals at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Palmer told the well attended conference that office professionals were over worked, under paid, under trained and deserving of more respect. Speaking on the theme “Are you still relevant?”, he gave a loud shout to the cheering audience, “yes”.

But the American diplomat insisted that companies and institutions needed to ensure their office professionals were adequately equipped to deal with the changing times and technological developments.

“One thing we all can agree upon is that the workplace has definitely changed. Acknowledging that change is one thing, but more than that, we must respond to that change. Embrace it and train for it,” he said.

“If we conclude that you now have to do all your old jobs, but in new ways and that you have a plethora of new tasks as well, then the question becomes, how do you prepare for them?” he asked.

Palmer recognised and emphasised the need for training.

“And, as office professionals, become more varied and stronger in [your] abilities and skills. I would also suggest that your supervisors consider rewarding the new roles, the non-traditional roles of office professionals with appropriate financial remuneration,” Palmer urged to loud applause from the attendees.

He referred to a February 2005 study conducted by the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which asked 15,000 randomly selected members to respond to a questionnaire in order to gather data on job titles, key responsibilities, adequate salaries, job satisfaction, technology usage, training needs and other issues.

“They identified several specific skilled areas that office professionals needed to succeed. Those areas were project management, integrated computer and software applications, organisation and skills-related, intranet communications and research, customer service and public relations, interviewing, orienting and interviewing other staff and event planning,” Palmer recalled.

He said he was not sure this was the kind of training office professionals currently received.

“How much training do you receive on project management, on integrated software applications, on Internet research, on public relations, on staff supervision and management. I would hope that it is significant, but I have my doubts,” the US ambassador argued.

He reasoned that since that study was done eight years ago, these roles had expanded even further to include more involvement in personnel management, organisational decision-making and strategic planning.

While the US foreign service official said he believed training was critical for office professionals to remain relevant, he urged them not to wait on their employers to provide the training, but to seek out all opportunities on their own to advance themselves.

He concluded by asking them to strengthen their communications and interpersonal skills, which he felt, would go a long way towards determining where they ended up. (EJ)

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