THE CHALLENGES OF OFFICE MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY PROFESSION IN THE MODERN TECHNOLOGICAL ERA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Secretaries as seen in the secretarial world and business organizations today, are faced with many problems and also have some prospects. A secretary according to Hornby (2001), “is an employee in an office who deals with correspondence, keeps records, makes arrangements and appointments for a particular member of the staff”. The American Secretarial Association defined a secretary in the most acceptable way as – “an assistant to an executive, possessing a mastery of office skills and ability to assume responsibility without direct supervision, who displays initiative, exercises judgment and makes decisions within the scope of assigned authority.”
A secretary can also be defined as a person who maintains a high standard of confidentiality and a repository of information. Infact, there are numerous definitions of the word secretary as far as there are many authors. With the above definition in mind, one can easily see that the need for a secretary in any corporation cannot be overemphasized. A secretary is a major communicating link between the executive ad his associates, the office staff and the public. As a result of this important linking position, a secretary can play a vital role in helping to create and maintain a smooth running business office. Thus a secretary seen as the bedrock and image-image of any business organization.
For a secretary to perform her functions efficiently and effectively, she must have undergone some educational training and obtained the basic office knowledge and skills to be efficient and effective on the job. A secretary is quite different from a clerk, a typist and other office workers. However, for one to qualify as a secretary, she must have taken courses in shorthand, typewriting, office practice, secretarial duties and must be fairly computer literate for easy adaptation in modern offices.
Shorthand and typewriting are the key working tools of a secretary and it is expected that any person who aspires to take up any secretarial post must have passed typewriting ad shorthand within the following speed range – 25-100 words per minute, 80-120 words per minute in typewriting and shorthand respectively. It is not uncommon to see people who have only passed typewriting at any of the recognized speeds without shorthand or those that have typewriting and shorthand skills are referred to as secretaries. These categories of secretaries are not qualified secretaries.
Some of the certificates recognized in our business organizations and of course our corporation for secretaries are – Royal Society of Arts Certificate, Pitman Certificate, Federal Technical College certificates, national Diploma certificate all in Secretarial field obtained in the Polytechnics, and Colleges of Technology. Bordus Diploma of Mc Cann Erickson Advertising once said, “professional training on a good secretarial course is the basic requirement for the would-be top secretary”. It will help her perform her duties efficiently and effectively.
A close look at some selected public corporations like the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) and National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) revealed a lot of problems and prospects of the secretarial profession. For instance, in Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL), Enugu, the corporation stride towards meeting subscribers’ expectations has always bee made impossible by some of those problems inherent in the organization.
In an attempt to remedy the problems in the organization, the Federal Government as well as the management of the corporation has introduced a lot of innovations for the effective functioning of the corporation. The former Post and Telecommunication (P & T) and the Nigerian External Telecommunication (NET) were incorporated into one department on January 1, 1985 and by June 1985, the department was split into NITEL and NIPOST (Nigerian Postal Services).
The Nigerian Railway Corporation is one of the many corporations owned fully and controlled by the Government of Nigeria. Hence, it is a public corporation, which is meant to provide adequate transportation through the rail system for the growing population of the country, to assist the commercial growth by carrying goods from the interiors to the urban cities. The Nigerian Railway Corporation can be traced back to the early colonial masters who ruled the country. The corporation was set up for profit purposes or social benefits of the population. A study into the Nigerian Railway Corporation shows a lot of irregularities. The organization has put in more efforts to improve its services both to workers and customers.
The other training corporation stressed on the impact of modern technology on their secretaries. The services of the secretarial profession are utilized by various organizations. Those in the secretarial profession work directly with the management of these organizations as support staff and they help in realizing effectively the missions and objectives of the organizations. Most of these objectives are geared towards resource management, which shows in the production, distribution and utilization of goods and services.
Today therefore, technology has become the centre point of the secretary’s performance. The role of secretaries in the highly automated industries tends to become that of monitoring, maintaining and adjusting the equipment involved in the production process. Generally, in this era, those in the secretarial profession do not actually work on the product directly, rather, they maintain and monitor the equipment and records of operations. Those in the secretarial profession have tender opportunities to interact socially since the number of people with whom interaction may occur has been reduced and replaced by machine. The availability and the use of those modern technologies have led to increase in the job interest of secretaries. There is efficiency in production also; there is maximization of profits in organizations. This immediate point is the prospect of the secretarial profession. In view of all these facts, the problems and prospects of the secretarial profession in these selected establishments are critically investigated in this study.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The invention of computers (word processors) into the business and academic sectors which secretarial profession is not an exception, has exposed the secretary to acquisition of modern skills necessary to improve on the secretarial challenges. Storage facilities have been reduced to a small compact called disk. How reliable this medium of storage is, is still a mirage to the secretary. A file can remain as long as a secretary or an organization wants it to last. The use of intercommunications, audio-recording equipment and the likes has alienated the secretary from her boss that the interpersonal relationship which she used to enjoyed, is virtually not there. In this isolated situation, how can the secretary morally cope with the present day challenges?
Many other professions where major improvements were made in their scheme affects their “nomenclature” or the nature of their professions but that of the secretary, till date, has not experienced any change to reflect her present status with that of the computer. Old “nomenclature” and the nature of their profession still remain and in use. It is the purpose of this work, by the time it is completed, to make absolute recommendations and bring to light the challenges and prospects of the secretary in the present day dispensation.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this study is to find out the problems facing the secretarial profession and their prospects in relation to their job on selected establishments in Enugu State and make recommendations. The study specifically, aimed at:
1. Identifying the problems and prospects of the secretarial profession in the following establishments;
a. Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL)
b. Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC)
c. Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)
2. Determining the cause of those problems, which affect the secretarial profession in these establishments?
3. Highlight the prospects of secretarial profession in a growing economy.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. How could inadequate training and under utilization of secretarial staff pose problems to any establishment?
2. How could lack of modern equipment and unfriendly attitude of the boss cause problems to a secretary?
3. Do you think that the use of modern equipment and proper motivation can improve the productivity and prospects of the secretary?
4. Do you think that inability of the government and private employer’s of labour to reviewed the secretarial status affects the secretarial output?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
It is hoped that this study will reveal the problems that the secretarial profession battles with and it will go a way in finding ways of improving the performance of the profession which will lead to increased productivity and enhanced prospects. The study will give more light on the major causes of these problems and then highlight what the employer should do to eliminate most of them in order to motivate the secretary towards achieving the corporation’s goals.
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