ASSESSMENT OF COMPETENCIES REQUIRED BY SECRETARIES IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN AGUATA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF ANAMBRA STATE
The major purpose of this study was to determine the assessment of competencies required by secretaries in secondary schools in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. The population of the study comprises of 30 secretaries in 21 secondary schools in Aguata Local Government area. Two research questions were formulated which guided the study. A structured questionnaire was formulated which guided the study. A structured questionnaire was developed and validated percentage were used to answer the research questions. The major findings of the study were (1) Oral communication skills is important for secretaries to carry out their works effectively. (2) Written communication skill is essential for a secretary requiring a broad vocabulary, proper grammar and good spelling (3) Interpersonal communication skill will help secretaries to build a good relationship with people. It was concluded that (i) Preparing presentation and creating spreadsheet is important to secretaries (ii) Word processing and transcription is essential to secretaries employed in secondary schools (iii) Secretaries employed in Secondary schools must master document management for the effectiveness of their job.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
Secretary has always been a vital link between those who make management level decisions and those who react to and implement the decisions. In the present role of administrative assistant, however, a competent and responsible secretary serve not only as a link between management and staff but also a key support person for the executives.
The word secretary has been understood in different ways by different people. Some see if as a typist or a receptionist or even as an office clerk.
According to Azuka and Agomuo (1993) secretary is a person employed by another person, society or corporation for the purpose of conducting correspondence, keeping business records and transacting other business. He acts as an aide and the close assistant to the boss. He is the vehicle through which his boss or organization’s actions are conveyed to the public in readable and discernable form.
A secretary is therefore a person overseeing business confidentially, usually for powerful individuals. A secretary can also be seen as a person, whose work consists of supporting management, including executives using a variety of project management, communication and organizational skills. These functions may be entirely carried out to assist one other employee or may be for the benefit of more than one.
In other hand, a secretary is an officers of an organization who deals with correspondence admits new members and organizes official meetings and events. According to Merrian Webster secretarial Handbook (1993) the administrative expansion of the secretaries function is reflected in the definition of a secretary provided by professional secretaries international. A secretary was defined as an executive assistant who demonstrates the ability to assume responsibility without direct supervision who exercises imitative and judgment and who makes decisions within the scope of assigned authority. From the definition the real secretary is an assistant to the executive. A secretary as a result of training process mastery of office skills, discharges his duties unsupervised and displays initiative resulting from a good knowledge of his organization.
Whitehead (1977) in Elendu (2001) observed that “behind every successful executive, there is a first class private secretary who acts as an alter ego or other self”. For this reason, secretaries should possess some qualities and skills to enable them act as alter ego to their executives. These requirements include: business knowledge, secretarial skills, language skills and so on. The duties of secretaries have contributed to the growth and fast changing of the organizations. The quality of secretaries in this modern era has made it easy to meet social, political, economic and educational needs of the society, Onwuka (2005).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In many organizations, secretaries are seen as disposable employee who should be hired and fired at will (Azuka and Agomuo 1993). This is as a result of poor skills acquisition and poor attitude of these secretaries. In the past, many secretaries were placed in positions of responsibility but lacked enough authority to carry out their responsibility. The current foster pace of business and the resulting functions and more advanced skills available help to delegate both more responsibility and more authority to the secretaries. While the qualifications for different job slots, vary with the nature of the particular job and the requirement of each executive, the trend today is towards better educated secretaries who are willing and qualified to perform as many tasks as can be delegated to them (Webster’s secretarial Handbook).
Therefore, the problem of this study posed as a question to identify the knowledge, skills and attitude of secretaries that work in secondary schools to enable them face the current roles and responsibilities of secretaries in this modern era.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The major purpose of this study was to determine the competencies required of secretaries employed in secondary schools in Aguata local government area of Anambra state.
Specifically the study was to:
- Identify the communication skills required of secretaries employed in secondary schools.
- Find out computer skills required of secretaries in secondary schools.
1.4 SIGNIFICANNCE OF THE STUDY
This study will contribute to the re-examination of the skills of school secretaries, the expansion of their work in this contemporary era. It will also help the executive of secondary schools to understand the importance of secretaries should possess to enable them perform their duties.
The findings of this study will help secondary school administrators to have a better administration. In allocation of duties the findings of the study will help them to know the necessary skills and attributes the secretaries should possess to enable them serve their organization well. It will also help the secretaries in secondary schools to realize themselves as the image maker of the school.
1.5 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study sought answers to the following research questions:
- What are the communication skills required of secretaries employed in secondary schools?
- What are the computer skills required of secretaries in secondary schools?
1.6 DELIMINATION OF STUDY
This study is delimited to the knowledge and skills required of secretaries employed in secondary schools. It focused on the communication skills and computer skills of secretaries employed in secondary schools.
1.7 DEFINITIONS OF TERMS
ASSESSMENT: The evaluation or estimation of the nature quality or ability of someone or something.
COMPETENCIES: Having the necessary skill or knowledge of doing something.
SECRETARY: A person employed by another person, society or corporation for the purpose of conducting correspondence.
MANAGEMENT: Is the act of managing or able to cope.
ADMINSTRATIVE: Of or relating to administering or administration.
ASSISTANCE: A person who assists or helps someone else.
RESPONSIBILTIY: A duty, obligation or liability for which someone is held accountable.
ORGANIZATIONS: An organized body of people with a particular purpose, especially a business, society, association e.t.c.
2.0 REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
In this chapter, relevant literature related to the present study were reviewed. The review was presented under the following headings:
- Concepts of competency and secretary.
- Communication skills, required by secretaries in secondary schools.
- Computer skills required by secretaries in secondary schools.
- Summary of literature review
2.1 MEANING OF COMPETENCY AND SECRETARY
Competence is the ability of an individual to do a job properly. A competency is a set of defined behaviours that provide a structured guide enabling the identification, evaluation and development of the behaviours in individual employees. Some scholars see “competence” as a combination of practical and theoretical knowledge, cognitive skills, behaviour and values used to improve performance, or as the state or quality of being adequately or well qualified, having the ability to perform a specific role. For instance, life, management competency might include systems thinking and emotional intelligence, and skills in influence and negotiation. Competency has different meanings and continue to remain one of the most diffuse terms in the management development sector, and the organizational and occupational literature.
Competences are also what people need to be successful in their jobs. Job competencies are not the same as job task competencies include all the related knowledge, skills, abilities and attributes that form a person’s job. This set of context specific qualities is correlated with superior job performance and can be used as a standard against which to measure job performance as well as to develop, recruit and hire employees.
Competencies and competency models may be applicable to all employees in an organization or they may be position specific. Identifying employee competencies can contribute to improved organizational performance. They are most effective if they meet several critical standards, including linkage to, and leverage within an organizations human resources system. Core competencies differentiate an organization from its competition and create a company’s competitive advantages in the market place. An organizational core competency is its strategic strength.
Competencies provide organizations with a way to define in behavioural terms what it is that people need to do to produce the results that the organization desires, in a way that is in keep with its culture. By having competencies defined in the organization, it allows employees to know what they need to be productive. When properly defined, competencies allows organization to evaluate the extent to which behaviours employees are demonstrating and where they may be lacking. For competencies where employees are lacking they can learn. This will allow organization to know potentially what resources they may need to help the employee develop and learn those competencies. Competencies can distinguish and differentiate your organization from your competitions.
BENEFITS OF COMPETENCIES
Competency models can help organizations align their initiatives to their overall business strategy. By aligning competencies to business strategies, organizations can better recruit and select employees for their organizations. Competencies have become a precise way for employers to distinguish superior from average or below average performance.
The reason for this is because competencies extend beyond measuring baseline characteristics and or skills used to define and assess job performance. In addition to recruitment and selection, a well sound competency models will help with performance management, succession planning and career development.
TYPES OF COMPETENCIES
Organizational competencies: The mission, vision, values, culture and core competencies of the organization that sets the tone and context in which the work of the organization is carried out (e.g customer driven, risk taking and cutting edge). How we treat the patient is part of the patient’s treatment.
Core competencies: Capabilities and /or technical expertise unique to an organization, ie. core competencies differentiated on organization from its competition (e.g the technologies, methodologies, strategies or process of the organization that create competitive advantage in the market place). An organizational core competency is an organization’s strategic strength.
Technical competencies: Depending on the position, both technical and performance capabilities should be weighed carefully as employment decisions are made. For example, organizations that tend to hire or promote solely on the basis of technical skills, ie. to the exclusion of other competencies, may experience an increase in performance related issues (e.g systems software designs versus relationship management skills).
Behavioral competencies: Individual performance competencies are more specific than organizational competencies and capabilities. As such, it is important that they be defined in a measurable behavioural context in order to validate applicability and the degree of expertise (e.g development of talent).
Functional competencies: Functional competencies are job-specific competencies that drive proven high performance, quality results for a given position. They are often technical or operational in nature (e.g “backing up a database is a functional competency).
2.2 MEANING OF SECRETARY
The word secretary is derived from a Latin word secretarius which means “confidential employee”. This made some people to define a secretary as a keeper of secret. The Webster New collegiate Dictionary (1983) defines a secretary as “a confidential employee, one employed to handle correspondence and manage routine and detail work for a superior, a business concern, organization, or society, one responsible for it records and correspondence.
The Webster Dictionary of English (2005) however, defined a secretary as one trusted with secret of or one employed to handle correspondence and manage routine and detailed work for a superior. This depicts that a secretary is a skilled personal who possesses both executive and personnel attributes in managing the affairs of any organization effectively and efficiently in order to achieve organizational objective. A secretary is the live-wire of any organization who receives correspondence, processes them for management decisions. Odiagbe (2001) defined a secretary as high-caliber support staff who can be relied upon to relieve the boss of some stress- inducing work-load, solves problems, represents him when necessary, organizes the office, manage his tour, she is also a resource person or a reservoir of facts and information germane to the organization.
A secretary has many administrative duties. Traditionally, these duties were mostly related to correspondence, such as the typing out of letters, maintaining files of paper document, etc. The advent of word processing has significantly reduced the time that such duties require, with the result that many new tasks have come under the purview of the secretary. The duties may vary according to the nature and size of organization. These might include managing budgets and doing book keeping, attending telephone calls, handling visitors, maintaining websites and making travel arrangements. Secretaries might manage all the administrative details of running a high level conference or arrange the catering for a typical lunch meeting. Often executives will ask their assistant to take the minutes at meetings and prepare meeting documents for review. In addition to the minutes, the secretary may be responsible for keeping all the records of an organization.
The qualities are as follows:
Punctuality: Punctuality they say is the soul of business. She should be the type of person who gets to the office at the required time and early enough to start the day’s work even before the boss’s arrival.
Diplomacy: The secretary must be able to deal diplomatically with callers to the office and all telephone inquiries.
Enthusiasm to work: The secretary should carry the essential routine tasks like ensuring that the secretary’s and the boss’s desk are ready for the work at the beginning of each day.
Honesty/ Trustworthiness: This is the best policy as it is the most important qualities known to all. A secretary should therefore be honest about her job and how she goes about it.
Human Relations Skills: She should be willing to help people solve their problems and always friendly to colleagues and customers.
Compatibility: A competent secretary should be able to deal with people and work amicably with people either in or outside the organization.
Initiative: A secretary is expected to use her initiative and discretion as situation demands.
Loyalty: A competent secretary should be loyal to his/her boss observe the company’s rules and regulations concerning work schedules and must not divulge official secret.
2.3 COMMUNICATION SKILLS REQUIRED BY SECRETARIES IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS
What kind of communication skills does a secretary need?
Managers and executives who are fortunate enough to have secretaries also referred to as administrative assistant in many organizations will tell you their department or office would be chaotic without them. A good secretary is the hub of the office wheels that keeps all of the spokes in place and everything moving forward on the right path. Organization skills, attention to detail and computer and office equipment proficiency are important abilities. However, being able to communicate in writing, speech, and face-to-face situations is critical for being a successful secretary. Every industry uses secretaries, so your choices of which field to enter are broad.
Oral communication: Secretaries are often the first point of contact for their departments and commonly play the role of gatekeeper. As a secretary, you must be polite and discern the nature of each call or request so it gets routed to the proper person. This requires a caller or visitor properly. Some secretaries provide training to other personnel, such as with new office equipment. Others give high-level presentations in board and committee meetings.
Written communication: Excellent written communication skills are essential for a secretary, requiring a broad vocabulary proper grammar and good spelling. Be prepared to answer correspondence sometimes preparing and writing letters for the boss. You may take notes at meetings and then compress relevant information into a brief summary. With e-mail so common in business, you may also be responsible for superiors’, e-mail responses, and you need to treat all office e-mail as proper business correspondence.
Interpersonal communication: If you want to be a secretary, think of yourself as a level-headed ambassador, able to act with diplomacy and get along with diverse individuals. You will be building relationships with other departments and people from all levels-from board chairpersons to cleaning staff. Be prepared to bear the brunt of frustrations from irate callers who have been put on hold, or an unsatisfied customer or investor, while mountaining a professional demeanor.
2.4 COMPUTER SKILLS REQUIRED BY SECRETARIES IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS.
Many attorneys have neither the time nor expertise to operate law office technology. They rely on tech-savry legal secretaries to perform a variety of computer-based task such as: creating spreadsheet, preparing presentation, entering time for building purposes, creating and typing documents, maintaining calendar and tracking deadlines. Therefore, legal secretaries who are proficient in a variety of computer software applications will have the most career opportunities.
Some of the most common technologies that legal secretaries must master include:
- Word processing
- Document management
- Time and Billing
- Calendar and Docketing
- Desktop publishing
- Video conferencing
2.5 SUMMARY OF LITERATURE REVIEW
In summary, the literature review works at the competencies required of a secretary. It examines the types of competencies required by secretary. Organizational competencies, Technical, Behavioural and functional competencies. The review was also on the communication skills required by secretaries in any organization to carry his/her work effectively. These include oral communication, written communication, and interpersonal communication.
Computer skills acquired by secretaries was also reviewed, highlighting some of the most common technologies that secretaries must master to carry his/her work effectively.