The Kwickr Blog

The Evolution of the Office Manager Role

Picture an office in 2030.

It’s a glass-fronted architectural wonder with a handful of robots whirring around, coffee cups that instantly refill, and virtual meetings instead of in-person ones.

Sounds feasible, right?

Everything will be run on autopilot, with technologies and tools set up specifically to carry out certain tasks. But, despite our giant leaps towards this futuristic office landscape, there are still some roles that will remain an integral part of business.

In the office of the future, office managers will be even more important than they already are today – particularly ones that have a sophisticated skill set and a deep knowledge of technology, HR, and niche business processes.

The office manager role has dramatically changed,” says Marni Hockenberg, co-owner of The Hiring Experts. “Gone are the days of being the messenger and supervisor of tasks. The value of the office manager is their ideas that save costs, increase profits, help customers directly or motivate employees to increase company profits.” 

Office Managers in the Past

Where office managers in the past needed to type quickly, balance the books, and know a calendar inside-out, times are changing.

The OM will become an integral part of any working team for growth, cash-flow, people management, and innovation.

Remember, the office manager knows the business, and the people working in it, better than anyone else on the team. They’re privy to the business numbers, staff compensation, how much is spent on what, who is absent for what reason, and literally everything in between.

Without the Office Manager things start falling apart right in front of your eyes.

Office Manager

A Master of All Trades

The office manager role is pretty fluid.

Duties and responsibilities differ depending on the company and the specific needs of the boss or other employees.

Daily tasks might involve everything from high-value activities like carrying out interviews and helping to plan the budget to more mundane things like  in office supplies and doing the bookkeeping
and monthly payroll entry.

These are all pretty standard parts of an OM’s job, but things are beginning to fork out in new and exciting directions.

Because they are the face of almost every part of a business, the OM is often the go-to person for professional and personal issues. In fact, in The State of the Office Manager 2018 report, 29% of respondents said that being someone in the office that people rely on is the thing they enjoy the most about being an OM.

It wouldn’t be unusual for an OM to spend their morning checking payroll queries and the afternoon having a candid conversation with an employee about their work-life balance.

With workplace happiness having such an impact on business success, it’s more apt than ever to make sure employees are happy (even if it’s to encourage more focused work: 39% of the workforce admit they would work harder if they were happier in their current role).

OMs have a finger in every pie, so to speak, which makes them an incredibly visible member of staff.

Without even realising it, you OM can determine the culture of your company by their efforts alone.

Less Routine, More Value-Focused

Routine was the lifeblood of an OM’s job. Without it, an office could fall to pieces in a matter of days.

But this is changing.

With new automated technologies that have been made especially to do certain tasks at certain times, it’s becoming less important for office managers to stick to a rigorous routine day-in and day-out.[

This has opened up a space for creativity and innovation. And, more and more, OMs are beginning to become key to the financial and operational health of organisations, whether that’s by knowing where to cut costs or experimenting with new processes.

Of course, every OM needs to be fully in cahoots with management, but they also need to be open to hearing ideas from other members of staff. Their job is essentially to gather opinions and ideas, create solutions using those suggestions, and implement processes to reach those solutions.

And, with 60% of employees claiming that managers are most
responsible for implementing employee engagement strategies
businesses are turning to their OMs to make this happen.

More Entrepreneur than Employee

The most successful OMs today
bring a more entrepreneurial approach to their jobs.

Rather than a linear set of job responsibilities, they are bringing high-value knowledge of management principles and technology, unrivalled communication skills, and an intuitive understanding of business that OMs of the past just didn’t posses.

As more and more processes become automated through technology or outsourced to providers that are specialised in doing it efficiently, it’s more important than ever that OMs bring something more to the table than computer and organisational skills.

This has opened up time and space for the office manager to step into a higher-value work role where they can contribute more to helping a company achieve its goals.


Office Managers Can Add Value Further Up the Value Chain

This goes hand-in-hand with the need for innovation in the workplace.

OMs today are bringing training to staff, using refined interpersonal skills to preempt workplace needs, and provide an intuitive, human touch that those whirring robots of the future won’t ever be able to.

“Managers of the future will need to have the ability to understand, direct and facilitate change,” says leadership speaker Adrian Geering. “They will need strategic thinking and an ability to rise above the detail. They will need to not only manage finances and produce technology but also to set up the proper change processes to foster flexibility with innovation.”

This this is true for Office Managers too.

What Will the Role of Office Manager Look Like in the Future

We don’t even have to look as far ahead as 2030 to see what the role of OM will look like in the future. The change is already happening now, and it’s happening at such a speed that if you blink you might just miss it.

There’s no doubt about it: technology is changing and will change the workplace beyond recognition. It’s transforming the role of every
job, not just office managers, though they might be the ones where the change is most visible.

We’ve already come a long way in the last 20 years, when office managers went from essentially being secretaries to becoming an integral part of a keeping a business ticking over.

This will become more and more apparent as we move into a tech-fuelled future that’s heavy on the automation. Instead of rigorous routines and lengthy to-do lists, office manages will take on new roles that are more exciting and important than ever.

Things like:

  • Workflow controller, where the OM makes sure employees have the support they need to carry out their jobs and coordinates projects in different departments
  • Knowledge manager, where the OM gathers insights and intel from different departments to create a bigger picture, organises key training programs, and helps people find the information they need to successfully perform their jobs
  • Telecommuting liaison, where the OM is in charge of organising and liaising with off-site members of staff (something that’s set to hit the big time as remote work becomes more and more feasible)
  • Virtual meetings organiser, where the OM helps schedule teleconferences, set up equipment, and install and maintain software, audio equipment, and other relevant tools

An Innovative and Integral Part of Business

Despite being in a time of technological upheaval and uncertainty in the business world, the role of office manager is far from extinct.

Instead, it’s evolving into something that will be an integral part of a business in the future.

Office managers are no longer just in charge of payroll and ordering supplies. We’re now in the age of innovation, where OMs have the opportunity to develop a diverse set of skills across all areas of
business; from technology, to interpersonal skills, and everything in between.

And, with more and more routine tasks being outsourced or automated than ever before, there has never been a better time to involve office managers in the deeper runnings of a business.

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