Administrative skills and how to improve them

Administrative skills and how to improve them
SEEK content teamupdated on 11 April, 2024

Do you thrive in fast-paced office environments? Are you naturally organised and highly detail-oriented? Perhaps you’d excel in the world of administration, where organisation, efficiency and multi-tasking are life. 

Administrative roles form the operational backbone of any organisation. Admin officers play an essential behind-the-scenes role, taking care of a wide range of duties, like managing schedules, safekeeping important documents, organising files, and managing databases. In this article, we explore the day-to-day responsibilities involved with administrative work, why it’s vitally important for an organisation, and how to improve your administrative skills.

What are administrative duties? 

At the heart of every well-run organisation lies a vast network of essential tasks known as administrative duties. These include:

  • Answering calls and emails. Admin workers are often the first point of contact for internal and external queries. Taking appointments and responding to general enquiries. 
  • Scheduling. One of the major administrative tasks is coordinating meetings, appointments and events; taking care of appointment calendars for management; planning travel and making sure that all involved parties are informed and prepared.
  • Data processing. Admin tasks include safekeeping important information, handling, organising and maintaining records, whether financial, for personnel or client-related.

The above are some of the most common tasks for admin officers, but what are administrative skills? A keen eye for detail, strong organisational skills, computer literacy and the ability to multi-task are some of the main skills needed for admin roles. Mastering these transferable skills is essential to excelling in any kind of administrative role. Interpersonal skills are also highly regarded in these types of roles. 

Why are administrative tasks important? 

Administrative responsibilities are at the core of organisational success. They play a crucial role in processing and storing important information, maintaining order, and ensuring company processes run smoothly and efficiently. They’re essential for:

  • Streamlining workflow and processes: by taking care of general office management, scheduling, and data organisation, administrators ensure that operations run smoothly.
  • Acting as a support system: administrators provide support to different departments and team members. By handling general office work, other team members can focus on their core responsibilities.
  • Contributing to efficiency and productivity: administration officers help reduce disruption and free up time and resources.

Types of administrative tasks and duties 

Administrative roles are generally responsible for day-to-day office tasks, but could also be in charge of more demanding, high-level organisational responsibilities. Here are some of the main tasks and duties that professionals can list as admin skills for a resumé.

1. Communication management

Communication management means taking care of any correspondence for the company. It might also mean maintaining internal and external comms systems and meeting/conferencing equipment, updating social media, and being in charge of internal communications platforms. This duty commonly requires you to:

  • Manage emails: admin professionals handle an organisation’s inbox, sorting, responding to and forwarding emails as needed. This task requires understanding the importance and urgency of each message to prioritise responses.
  • Take phone calls: handling incoming and outgoing calls, including customer enquiries, interdepartmental communications and external business.
  • Use other forms of communication: this can include managing postal mail and digital platforms like company messaging systems.

To become skilled at handling communications, admin professionals must be technically proficient with a wide range of software packages (like Outlook/Mail, Teams, Microsoft360 etc.) and have thorough knowledge of their company’s organisational structure, which is something they learn on the job.

2. Scheduling and calendar management

Most administrative roles include the management of schedules and calendars for managers and setting up meetings. This set of tasks would see you:

  • Schedule meetings: this includes coordinating between various parties to find suitable times. It also includes booking meeting spaces, and ensuring all necessary equipment and materials are on hand.
  • Manage calendars: keeping track of executives’ calendars, which may involve planning for upcoming events, organising travel, and setting reminders for important dates.
  • Coordinate appointments: organising external appointments for executives and team members, for health, legal or travel purposes, for example.

To manage the above tasks, you need keen attention to detail, to be able to keep track of schedules without missing any appointments or deadlines. Good time management is also important, as is technical skills using scheduling programs or apps.

3. Document handling and filing

Document handling and filing are fundamental responsibilities of the administrative team, encompassing:

  • Document preparation: this involves creating, formatting and editing various documents such as reports, presentations and letters. Proficiency in different software tools is required to prepare official documents.
  • Data entry: entering information into the company’s computer systems or database is an essential admin duty that calls for a high level of accuracy and confidentiality. This can include inputting client information, updating records, and transcribing minutes from meetings. 
  • Maintain filing systems: a well-maintained filing system ensures easy retrieval of information, contributes to data security, and supports compliance with record-keeping regulations.

It’s important that administrative professionals are detail-oriented and computer savvy enough to quickly pick up different database systems and CRM platforms. Company documents often contain confidential information, and any errors or mishandlings can lead to significant problems. Admin officers need to handle sensitive information with discretion and ensure it’s stored securely.

4. Inventory management

Inventory management means making sure the office/workplace is well-stocked with everything it needs. It involves overseeing and organising its resources, like paper, tech hardware, desks, supplies for the restroom – everything you’d need at a work site. For this duty you would need to:

  • Track inventory: keeping a detailed record of supplies in the workplace. This involves monitoring usage and identifying when items are low and need restocking.
  • Order supplies: admin workers are in charge of replenishing office inventory within budget, which includes finding cost-effective vendors and building relationships with them. It requires planning ahead and keeping track of what has been ordered and paid for.
  • Manage office resources: beyond ordering supplies, this includes making sure all employees have what they need, overseeing the distribution of supplies, managing digital/software subscriptions, paying utility suppliers and keeping the pantry stocked.

Handling inventory means accurately forecasting your company’s needs, being meticulous about record-keeping and knowing how to allocate admin budgets. 

5. Financial responsibilities

An important aspect of many administrative roles is managing financial duties. This often requires you to:

  • Handle billing processes: this involves issuing bills to customers and clients, managing receipts, and sometimes following up overdue payments. Attention to detail and time management skills are important in ensuring all billing processes are completed accurately and on time. In larger companies, there is usually a finance department to handle billing. 
  • Manage petty cash: administrators may be responsible for handling small, daily expenses, like buying pantry supplies or paying for deliveries, which requires keeping records and receipts and ensuring the petty cash fund is used appropriately.
  • Process invoices: this task includes reviewing invoices and getting them approved by management, entering them into accounting systems, and ensuring timely payments. Its essential to be detail-oriented to avoid errors.

Beyond these day-to-day tasks, administrative financial responsibilities can also include:

  • Budget preparation: this can involve gathering data, tracking current expenses and helping to project future costs.
  • Expense tracking: keeping an eye on how much money different departments spend to ensure they stay within budget, then identifying any areas for savings.
  • Ensuring financial compliance: organising and storing financial records in compliance with legal and company policies, which is important when it comes to tax audits and financial reviews.

6. Human resources support

Administrative professionals sometimes provide support to human resources teams. Here, they help with various aspects of employee management and development. This would see you:

  • Assist with recruitment processes: posting job advertisements, screening applications and scheduling interviews. 
  • Manage employee records: maintaining accurate and confidential records, including personal details, employment history and performance reviews.
  • Handle onboarding procedures for new hires: administrators are often involved in the onboarding process. This includes preparing employment documents, introducing new hires to company policies and more.
  • Coordinate staff training and development programs: this involves organising training sessions, workshops and other professional development courses. Administrators might manage details like scheduling, booking venues, and liaising with trainers or speakers.

7. Operational oversight

Operational oversight basically means being across what’s happening in the company. It’s a broad duty that requires you to have in-depth knowledge of your organisation and its different departments and functions, encompassing:

  • Smooth day-to-day office operations: this involves overseeing the daily functions of the office, ensuring that all processes and systems are running as they should. 
  • Coordination with various departments: this includes lining up schedules, facilitating interdepartmental meetings, and ensuring seamless communication across the organisation.
  • Implementation and monitoring of office policies and procedures: implementing procedures for various office tasks, ensuring compliance with company policies and monitoring these processes.

8. Stakeholder engagement

In most administrative roles, engaging with stakeholders – both internal and external – is a big responsibility. This area of duty would see you:

  • Act as the point of contact: administrative professionals often serve as the primary contact for stakeholders, helping with office queries and providing any requested information. 
  • Schedule and prepare for stakeholder meetings: this includes setting up meetings, booking meeting venues, sending out invitations, and making sure rooms are clean and ready, whether for conferencing or in-person meetings.
  • Maintain positive relationships: building and maintaining constructive relationships with clients, suppliers and other partners is a crucial part of providing admin support. This involves regular communication, prompt responses to enquiries and a proactive approach in managing these relationships.

9. Office maintenance and upkeep

An often overlooked but essential aspect of administrative duties is ensuring the office environment remains clean, safe and well-maintained. This responsibility would see you:

  • Ensure a clean and organised office environment: overseeing, and sometimes hiring cleaning staff, making sure common areas are well-maintained, and ensuring supplies are stocked.
  • Manage office equipment: monitoring the condition of office equipment, arranging for repairs or maintenance when necessary, and sometimes making decisions about purchasing new equipment or upgrading existing hardware.
  • Implement office policies related to health and safety: organising safety drills, displaying proper signage, and keeping up to date with relevant laws and guidelines.

10. Providing executive support

Providing executive support is an important part of administrative roles. This covers a range of tasks that assist top-level management in their daily activities. This means you would:

  • Manage executives’ schedules and travel arrangements: organising and maintaining a calendar of appointments, planning and booking travel itineraries, and sometimes handling their personal engagements.
  • Handle confidential documents and communication: managing confidential documents and keeping secure communication channels for sensitive discussions.
  • Assist with executive-level decision-making processes: gathering necessary information, researching, preparing reports or presentations for decision-making, and sometimes offering administrative insights into organisational processes.

Providing executive support demands a high level of trustworthiness, discretion and professionalism. This means anticipating the needs of executives and staying ahead of schedule changes or potential conflicts. You’re also required to keep sensitive information private and always maintain confidentiality of personal details.

How to improve your administrative skills 

Improving your admin skills can have significant benefits, whether you’re planning on a career in administration or your chosen field requires a high degree of organisation and multi-tasking. While administrative skills cover a vast range of abilities, there are some main areas you can focus on to upskill. Here are some methods to develop and improve your administrative skill set.

1. Work on your time management 

Time management is a cornerstone skill for anyone in an administrative role, and a handy ability for anyone to have. Mastering this skill involves:

  • Prioritising tasks and setting realistic deadlines: recognise which tasks are urgent and divide your time accordingly. Setting realistic deadlines helps you manage your workload and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
  • Using tools like calendars and task lists to stay organised: use a desk calendar or digital tools and planners to keep track of your tasks and deadlines. 
  • Avoiding multi-tasking: while multi-tasking might seem efficient, it can often lead to reduced focus and quality of work. Focusing on one task at a time allows for better concentration and more efficient use of time.

2. Use technology for administration

There’s a wide array of programs, apps, and platforms you can use to become an administrative pro. 

  • Use software for scheduling, document management and communication. Familiarise yourself with software tools that help in managing calendars (like Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook), document storage (such as Microsoft Office Suite or Google Drive), and quick communication (like Slack or Microsoft Teams). These tools help keep everything organised and make communicating with colleagues effortless.
  • Implement automation tools for routine tasks. Look into automation tools that can handle repetitive tasks. For example, use email filters to sort incoming mail, automate data entry tasks with software like Excel or Google Sheets, or schedule social media posts using tools like Hootsuite or Buffer.
  • Stay updated with the latest technology trends and tools. Make a point to educate yourself about new technologies that could make your job easier or more streamlined. Subscribe to tech blogs or attend webinars to stay in the loop.

3. Master basic administrative software

A solid grasp of basic administrative software is essential for anyone in an administrative role. Here are some main areas to focus on:

  • Microsoft Office Suite: this includes Word for document creation, Excel for data analysis and spreadsheet management, and PowerPoint for presentations. 
  • Email management: develop a system for prioritising emails effectively. Use folders and filters to organise your inbox and learn techniques for composing clear, concise and professional messages. 
  • Calendar management: master scheduling tools to organise appointments, meetings and deadlines. This includes setting up meetings and understanding how to manage calendar invites, set reminders and coordinate schedules with others.

4. Improve your communication skills 

Good communication is a non-negotiable skill for administrative professionals. Improving your communication skills involves:

  • Being aware of your communication style: this means paying attention to how you sound to others, choosing your words carefully and being mindful of your tone in both written and verbal exchanges.
  • Having good written communication: pay close attention to grammar, spelling and formatting in emails, reports and other documents. Use a spell checker, but also learn to review your work to catch grammatical and factual errors.
  • Practising clear verbal communication: practise active listening, which involves paying full attention to the speaker, understanding their message and responding thoughtfully.

Administrative duties provide vital behind-the-scenes support to a company – they keep an organisation running smoothly and efficiently. The diverse skills they bring to the workplace allow them to liaise with clients, provide executive assistance, maintain office cleanliness and comfort, and oversee the operations of everything on-site. While admin roles aren’t often in the spotlight, they’re an essential part of any successful business. 


What are the skills needed for administrative tasks?

Skills for administrative tasks include:

  • organisation, 
  • time management, 
  • communication, 
  • technological know-how, 
  • attention to detail, and 
  • problem solving.

Administrators need to be good at juggling multiple tasks, prioritising work, communicating clearly and finding creative solutions to challenges.

What are the challenges faced in administrative roles and how can they be addressed?

Challenges in administrative roles often include:

  • managing a high workload, 
  • handling diverse tasks, 
  • dealing with difficult people, 
  • staying up-to-date with technology, and 
  • maintaining work-life balance. 

These can be addressed by developing strong time-management skills, setting clear priorities, improving communication techniques, and learning new software and skills.

How can I transition into an administrative role with minimal experience? 

Here’s what you can do to change to an administrative role with minimal administrative experience: 

  • Gain basic knowledge of administrative tasks, as outlined above
  • Familiarising yourself with office software 
  • Volunteering for relevant roles to gain experience
  • Take courses in administration
  • Highlight transferable skills like organisation, communication and time management in your job applications 

What kind of tasks do administrative assistants do?

Administrative assistants typically handle tasks such as:

  • calendar management, 
  • document handling and filing, 
  • inventory management, 
  • financial record-keeping, 
  • maintaining the office environment, and 
  • providing executive support. 

Administrative tasks examples include a mix of organisational, interpersonal and technological skills.

What are some common administrative software programs I should know?

Common administrative software programs include:

  • Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), 
  • email platforms like Microsoft Outlook or Gmail, 
  • calendar management tools such as Google Calendar, 
  • data management software like Microsoft Access or Excel, 
  • accounting software such as QuickBooks, and 
  • project management tools like Asana or Trello.
More from this category: Workplace skills

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