Around 1440, the first moveable-type printing press was invented. Before that, books were handwritten by scribes and accessed only by the elite and educated, who really were the same people. Gratefully, the printing press revolutionised education and our human evolution. Imagine relying on the limited elite for the universe’s progress. A disheartening thought.
Scribes, also known as secretaries, were likely concerned, and wondering where to from here. Originating from the Latin word ‘secretum’, meaning secret, a secretary was a highly regarded profession of well-educated men. They took dictation as scribes and acted as trusted advisors. Today, they are otherwise known as the administrator.
Fast forward to 2023, and like the Printing Revolution and the scribe, the administrator job is changing. But there is a difference. Our fourth industrial revolution revolves around connectivity through cyber-physical systems, and the fifth industrial revolution, well, that is to do with our relationship with machines and artificial intelligence. These revolutions are fast and the speed of breakthroughs have no historical precedent. To evolve, administrators must keep pace and learn to love or at least embrace their AI colleagues.
Discover: Leadership 4.0: Redefining Leadership for The Fourth Industrial Revolution
The Printing Revolution increased literacy and education levels. It allowed ideas and news to be shared quickly, helping to usher in the Renaissance Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution.
The fourth and fifth industrial revolutions are said to be the world’s saviours. Both are tech-focused; however, the fifth is values-driven, concentrating on the systems and processes to serve people and the planet first. Solutions to preserve resources, ensure social stability and address climate targets will see us thankful in years to come. It affects all industries and sectors, from healthcare to manufacturing, and there is a role to be played by administrators.
Administration evolving as a by-product of AI?
Not to be cheeky, but I thought to put AI to the test. According to one AI writer/program, when asked the above, ‘AI is making administration work more efficient. Tasks and customer service can now be automated, freeing up time for administrative professionals to focus on more complex and strategic work’. Not bad for 2 minutes. In fact, it’s impressive!
Overlay the speed and efficiency of AI functions in our current global talent shortage, and the value is apparent. Factor in the burnout and employee churn from overworked and stressed employees and the worth becomes priceless to all. Administrator roles morph from task focus to strategy, enterprise thinking, problem solving and management. Add checking accuracy, data analysis, managing workflows, outputs and more and most importantly, the moral compass guidance.
What of our latest colleague and new hire, ChatGPT? They have a place at the administrator’s table. All administrators should encourage the collegial collaboration of any AI. The quicker you are across such functions and benefits, the faster you will be up-skilled and keeping pace with emerging changes and trends.
ChatGPT can assist with basic queries, scheduling appointments and more, freeing up time substantially. And they won’t quit, a bonus after the fallout of last year’s great resignation! But ChatGPT can’t replace the real human element. Administrators skilled in communication, negotiation, listening, and emotional intelligence, with self-awareness, will always thrive. Every business needs these skills. Customers and stakeholders expect it.
Read more about ChatGPT: How Will ChatGPT Shape Business, Society and Employment
Redefining Administrators: Nurturing Human Skills in the Age of AI
Roles such as word processing operators, typists and telephonists don’t exist now, but their skills do. Efficient, proficient, high attention to detail, accuracy and dependability are skills required in our current workplace. Equally, administration roles of today, such as Chief of Staff, executive assistant, operations manager, business assistant, or personal assistant didn’t exist then. But I bet your typist in the 50s possessed the attention to detail and adept mind to analyse, proofread, and check data quickly and operate as today’s nimble, bright administration assistant.
Preindustrial revolution, before the alarm clock, there was the knocker-up. Tapping on your window with a long stick, their job was to wake you in time for work. Some industrious workers had a team of people, who were coordinated with precision to be on time, every time. In another age, the organisers of these workers, with their critical thinking, would make phenomenal project managers, office managers, executive assistants and more. All administrators have the transferable skills to flow with the ever-evolving roles and the new jobs yet to be discovered.
As we become increasingly reliant on and seek out technology, we coequally crave the personal touch. The relationship between machines and human is here to stay, but there will always be a place for our human skills. Embrace technology, machines, and AI, and at the same time, appreciate, honour and work on your unique human skills. You will become more efficient and skilled at your job, but our human evolution is critical for society.
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