Feedback keeps you connected to your Personal Assistant. Ask the right questions and listen! Click To TweetYour own PA is a wealth of information, one you should tap into and use to your benefit. A PA, whether in a business or in a private home, may well be dealing with all sorts of issues you are not aware of, as they are your gate keeper. They are there to make your life run smoothly and will see and hear things you yourself will not.
Your PA is a bridge to your staff and will have a real sense of what the general feeling is. As your PA’s job is to make your life run smoothly and deal with issues for you, they may not feel comfortable volunteering this information so asking the right questions is crucial.
So what questions should you be asking your PA so that you learn what you need to know and retain your perfect PA for many more years to come?
Using the questions below you should have the tools to uncover what you need to know.
As with any employee it is important to schedule regular reviews with your PA and stick to them. It can be tempting to let them slide, something “more important” becomes pressing and your PA suggests you reschedule, you can be lulled into the sense of believing you have a great relationship and speak all the time. But a regular review is worth so much more, you are showing your PA they are respected, important to you and valued by keeping the appointment.
That ring-fenced time is valuable. Like any relationship it needs to be cared for and nurtured; your PA is responsible for taking the pressure off you. Take a minute to imagine what your life might be like without your PA and then add some more hassle, because generally PA’s deal with a lot more than you imagine without being asked or told! So put the time to one side and talk. As knowledge is power you will then be able to ensure your PA is engaged, satisfied and can work together to improve things that need to be changed.
The below questions should help you get meaningful and helpful feedback from your PA. Remember this is an important relationship that needs to be nurtured, built on trust and understanding. Like any conversation, listening to what your PA has to say is the key.
“How meaningful is your work?”
This should help you find out if your PA perceives how much they are helping you and how much you value them. Is your PA engaged or are they no longer engaging with you or the other staff around them? You need to be sure they feel their work has meaning as they are far more likely to put effort into a job which they perceive is truly helping someone, doing good or helping the company succeed.
“Does your role challenge you?”
Challenge is important too: a bored PA will not be happy and a challenged person is more likely to perform better. Your PA will never reach their full potential or grow if you do not use their abilities or skills. By harnessing those skills you may well find there are other things they can help with. By asking this question and listening you will also learn about the challenges they are facing on a daily basis and are shielding you from. Whilst growth is important, helping your PA, mentoring them to grow further, you may well be able to suggest a solution they had not considered, or you may learn a valuable piece of information which makes other things you have experienced make a lot more sense.
“How satisfied are you with your compensation and benefits?”
This can be a difficult topic to talk about. Remember your PA is likely to be privee to the majority of information that passes your own desk and part of that is likely to be how much other members of staff are paid. You need to be sure what you are offering is fair. Fair compensation usually results in your staff staying with you long term. You may find that whilst you are offering a gym membership as part of the package at a particular gym, your PA is not actually gaining any personal benefit from it. In particular if the activities on offer at the times they are able to attend are not of interest to them, then they won’t see it as a benefit to them. With that knowledge you could perhaps ask them to investigate another gym offering the activities they would like at a suitable time for them, as alternative.
“Do you feel you have too much, too little or just the right amount of supervision?”
Getting the balance right here is important, whilst your PA should be able to work independently and take the load off you. There will always be larger decisions they need to run by you, and having access to you regularly to catch up on these things is important. You might perhaps consider scheduling in some time in your diary to catch up and go over anything which your PA feels would benefit their guidance. Equally, a micro managed PA may not be happy and until you ask the question you might not know. It can be tricky for both parties but gaining trust and working on a relationship where all parties are happy is important. Lots of people have different styles of working and you really won’t know until you ask the question.
“How well does your team work together?”
This is an interesting question which you could rephrase as necessary. In a private home the PA may well be able to comment on the household staff as a whole. This question can tell you a lot, you may have a great team who are working very hard to support you; so much so, that you are unaware that they, as a team are supporting a colleague who has suffered a significant life event. A PA in a business may be able to comment on a department or the particular team they help to support. The most relationship you develop is with your own PA who, working as a team with the staff, ensures tasks are already taken care of. You will both learn how to get the best from each other and how to do it efficiently.
“How proud are you to work for your employer?”
In a company situation there is nothing better than a company employee advocating for their employer’s brand; if an employee is happy with their job they are most likely to be proud of their employer. A PA in a private household is likely to see themselves as part of the team, supporting their principal. They will be proud to be a part of the team that enables you to live your life successfully the way you like.
“Are your own skills made good use of in your job?”
This is a great question. Your PA may have spotted something they have the skills to help with yet are not on their CV and are itching to help! Or perhaps they are doing just a little of a particular task for you when they could be gladly and skillfully doing the whole task for you.
“Do you feel like you have the opportunity to grow and advance here?”
This is a really important question which you need to understand the complete answer you receive. A PA’s job needs to give them the opportunity to grow as a person. There may not be an obvious next position up for a PA, such as a deputy manager looks to become manager. Your PA is your right hand and once you have a great one whom you have a great relationship with you will really want to hold on to them. Giving your PA the opportunity to grow within the position is important to retaining them. Typically a person will feel they grow as they learn to overcome challenges or learn new skills. A stagnant PA doing the same jobs repetitively may not feel there is space to grow and will start to look elsewhere for challenge and growth. Sending your PA on training to gain or develop existing skills is to your advantage in not only retaining them, but for having those skills at your disposal in house.
“What suggestions would you make for improvement?”
Open questions give the most interesting answers. Your PA can take this question where ever they feel things could be better. They may have spotted something where a small change could really make a big difference. Or have an idea for improving team moral. Once you ask for their opinion and a proposed solution, you really need to listen–you are showing that you value them and their opinion. Their may be reasons why their idea wouldn’t work, but they are highlighting an area that needs working on and you should look to work together to improve it.
“How satisfied are you with your job overall?”
The final question asks your PA to look at their job overall and take into account all the various aspects of the previous questions which influence how a person feels about their job. As we all know there are innumerable factors we personally take into consideration when we are asked about our job, by asking the question directly you will get an overall indication of how your PA feels about their job.
Once you have found a great PA and built up a relationship it is important to continue to get their feedback regularly and give them your own personal feedback. As important as listening is communicating your own thoughts, giving your PA feedback they can work on to improve. For some ideas on how to effectively give feedback see our article here.
By regularly meeting, your working relationship will continue to improve, any issues can be addressed quickly and you show your PA they are valued. The time and energy you invest in your PA is important. Like any great relationship it is important to continue to work at it and nurture it to ensure you retain a highly valued, key member of staff.
Finding the right person to be your PA is extremely important and spending the time at the start of the recruitment process to identify the right person to work with you is a worth while, long term, time saving investment.
A recruitment agency such as Polo & Tweed can help reduce the time you have to spend looking for the right person. For some pointers on what to look for in your new PA, take a look at 10 qualities every good personal assistant should have. Instead of sifting though a multitude of CVs, an agency will select the best matching candidates for you to review, you can then interview your desired candidates (For some useful ideas on questions to ask a PA and at interview see here).
You will be working closely with your PA so asking your chosen candidate to do a short paid trial with you is a low risk way for both parties to decide if the match is going to work for them. This is an efficient way to evaluate the situation and if the match is not right, quickly choose another potential candidate to trial. A good agency will have checked the candidates references, but it is always advisable to check references yourself. This guide here will make sure you can be confident in your background checks.
You can read more about the benefits of hiring a PA here. For a personal perspective on how a PA can change your life you can read how hiring a PA changed Polo & Tweed’s CEO Lucy Challenger’s life here.
If you would like Polo & Tweed to help you find the perfect PA please get in touch here.