Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within Adam Fidler Academy?
My name is Adam Fidler and I am the Principal of Adam Fidler Academy. I specialise in the training, education and self-development of Executive Assistants and business support professionals. You might be interested to know that the UK labour force currently employs 3.2 million people in business support/administrative roles – that’s 10% of the whole UK labour force. So, despite technology, ‘admin’ and professional executive support has a strong presence in today’s commercial workforce.
What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
I opened my Academy in September 2016, but have been training Executive Secretaries, PAs and EAs since 2011. With more people employed in ‘admin’ and more and more young people entering the commercial market in these roles, I felt it was important to provide high-level training and education for people who wanted to make a proper career out of being an Executive Assistant. In the right organisation, Executive Assistants are the backbone of the commercial world; they carry out many duties traditionally done by junior- and middle-managers, so their skillsets are dramatically different to the more traditional ‘secretarial’ jobs of years gone by. If people attend my talk at PA EXPO Wales this year, then they will find out more about this – what is happening in the PA sector, and how many PAs leave themselves exposed by not considering what the EA/PA role is really all about. If PAs don’t transition and move upwards, then they are likely to be left behind as they will not meet the demands and requirements of today’s business world.
Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?
I would have taken more opportunities and pushed myself further! We can all have confidence, but if we don’t have the self-belief, that’s what holds us back. Much of my training with my students is not only about how to be more effective in the job, but the foundation of any successful person – whether an Executive Assistant or a CEO – is that they foster self-belief, self-worth and strong self-awareness. I cover these aspects inherently in my training courses; if you believe in yourself, your behaviours follow – and so does your confidence.
What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?
I think that strong leadership is the hallmark of any successful business. Leadership applies to everyone – from the CEO to the Executive Assistant; to the person who works in the canteen. Leadership is about taking ownership, self-improvement and ‘standing for something’. I see many good managers, but they lack leadership qualities as they don’t step back and really understand the impact of their role. A leader sets the tone and culture of an organisation. The way a good leader does it will be the way others do it. Success in business is therefore about leaders who demonstrate good behaviours, emotional intelligence, vision (strategic thinking) and agility. The same could be said of Executive Assistants!
What are your top three tips for success?
Know yourself (self-awareness); know your boss (managing upwards) and know your business (strategic thinking).
Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?
A big challenge for organisations is their ability to develop staff not only on the technical aspects of their role, but also the softer and managerial qualities of roles. Again, this applies to everyone – but especially to younger people entering the job market, and those who provide ‘support’ such as the Executive Assistant. There is now an understanding that whilst employees have the technical and certificated skills to do their jobs, they lack some of the crucial emotional skills – such as collaboration, team working, self-confidence, executive presence, influencing – that they need to enhance the running of a business. These are my passions – and I focus more on these in my educational programmes.
Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?
I regularly attract students from Europe to my training courses. Just last week, I had a lady who flew in all the way from Italy; next week I have a student coming to see me from Portugal. Brexit will mean that anyone who wishes to ‘study’ in the UK will probably find it more costly to do so. But that could be a good thing – as many European students look to the UK as the benchmark of good education, and certainly in the industry I work in, the training of Executive Assistants, the UK does set a very good example of the ‘new’ and transformational role of the Executive Assistant.
What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?
Young people need to learn about collaboration, working in teams, and the social skills of being at work. They are so used to being on a PC or in front of a computer or tablet, that they often don’t have the finesse in ‘people skills’ that are paramount to their success. Admin Apprentices, for instance, need a lot of spoon-feeding, and the level of their training depends heavily on their immediate supervisor at work. So for me, education should be promoting more rounded courses, that not only focus on the hard-skills and qualifications, but also on the softer-skills that underpin a successful office professional. Everyone now does ‘admin’ so we have to ask, if a firm employs Administrators, what are they really employed to do? The routine aspects of processing and transactional duties are continually being outsourced or automated; for those who aspire to be leading ‘Office Professionals’ their skill sets will need to focus on sound management disciplines, such as Project Management, Leadership and Management.
How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?
I worked in the FE sector for over six years, and there was always the debate about FE needing to get closer to business and having a stronger link with employers, to really grasp what employers want. This will nee to continue – but more flexible pathways for students will need to be introduced. If someone does a BTEC Level 3 for 2 years, with only say 2 weeks’ worth of work experience in it, in the whole time, then that leaves that person very unknowing about the real world of work. Blended learning is key – and this is a combination of class-room learning, on the job-learning and real work experience, so that students get a feel for their vocation, not just from theory and books, but from the real world of work as well. Higher Education has a key role to play but employers need to have more influence on what the student learns. Degree Apprenticeships are a good example of this. They are designed to be done on the job, but are at a significantly high-enough level to educate students not just for their first or entry job, but for their longer-term futures as well.