Chief of Staff vs. Executive Assistant: Which to Hire

Chief of Staff vs. Executive Assistant: Which to Hire

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Building a business isn't easy, but people who have never done it often have no idea how stressful it can be. You can see it in the data: a study published by Deloitte says that one out of three executives struggle with poor mental health and fatigue. To stay efficient, leaders need all the support they can get from staff like executive assistants or chiefs of staff. However, you might wonder about the difference between a chief of staff vs. executive assistant.

CEOs of fast-growing businesses typically have a team of high-performing leaders. However, when they deal with diverging ideas, energies, and visions, they find it challenging to hold people accountable. That situation is common and is often the root cause of executives’ burnout.

Here at Wing, we’ve helped fill the project management gap for CEOs in various fields by providing them with experienced executive assistants. Moreover, we help our clients identify what kind of support they need. So, today, we’ll help you determine whether you need a chief of staff or an executive assistant.

What Is a Chief of Staff?

Businesses or organizations can have a chief of staff who manages various administrative tasks and day-to-day operations. They are highly skilled and experienced individuals who work as strategic partners of the CEO and other C-suite executives. Because of the nature of their duties, they usually have strong leadership, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.

According to Zippia statistics, the start-up industry pays the highest chief of staff salaries. Moreover, the sectors that commonly employ them include Fortune 500, government, education, technology, and finance industries. They ensure that C-suite executives focus their time and effort on long-term planning and decision-making.

Benefits of Hiring a Chief of Staff vs. Executive Assistant

Aside from functioning as a gatekeeper for the information that reaches CEOs, the chief of staff also addresses concerns that directly impact business operations. Here are some of the benefits you can expect when you hire a chief of staff:

Streamline operations and improve overall business performance

As we’ve mentioned, a chief of staff is crucial in managing and implementing strategic plans across various departments. So, they can support correlating and collecting metrics; coordinating new product development; new service rollout guidance; and crafting marketing plans, among others.

Besides, they work closely with individual players and entire teams. Consequently, they can identify skills gaps and determine appropriate solutions. By course-correcting areas for improvement, they significantly contribute to the overall performance of a company or an organization.

Having someone to oversee operations, manage projects, and coordinate teams

When choosing between a chief of staff vs. executive assistant, you’d like to think of what type of tasks you’re delegating. One of the significant duties of a chief of staff is managing projects. They coordinate with department leaders, ensuring deliverables are completed on time and within the budget.

Moreover, if different departments deal with information silos, the chief of staff will resolve communication issues.

Gaining a trusted advisor and sounding board for decisions

Assessing the risks, cost, and amount of work necessary for every new project is part of a chief of staff’s responsibility. Moreover, C-suite executives can rely on a chief of staff to cultivate relationships within the company.

This way, they can get unbiased and unfiltered opinions about different individuals and departments. Consequently, they will have all the information they need to make profitable and safe business decisions.

Besides, your chief of staff will know your company as well as you do. So, you can trust that they will provide reliable and wise advice for difficult decisions.

When to Hire a Chief of Staff vs. Executive Assistant

When you’re choosing between a chief of staff vs. executive assistant, you can hire the former if you’re dealing with the following:

  • Struggling to define areas for improvement – A chief of staff can effectively identify growth opportunities and skills gaps. They can lead these initiatives using their analytical and data-driven approach.
  • Scaling your organization – If you plan to expand your business, a chief of staff can lead the organizational planning and recruitment process. They will determine gaps in your operations and identify candidates with the skills and experience to fill those needs.
  • Finding a proactive solution – Instead of reacting to any issue, your chief of staff allows you to stay ahead of urgent concerns. They will resolve problems within their means, allowing C-suite executives to focus on higher-priority matters.

What Is an Executive Assistant?

An executive assistant takes on a more administrative role. Moreover, they perform essential support tasks that ensure the executive they’re working with possesses all the information, resources, and personnel they need to fulfill their job.

Most of the time, their duties include calendar coordination, data management, and other administrative work. Because their role involves ensuring efficient communication within an organization, they also have exceptional organizational skills.

Benefits of Hiring an Executive Assistant vs. Chief of Staff

These days, more companies are hiring remote CEO assistants. After all, they can perform duties that help drive overall business success and performance optimization. Here are some of the benefits you can expect when hiring an executive assistant:

Alleviating administrative burdens in an office

CEOs can rely on executive assistants to manage communications, organize files, process invoices, and track project budgets. These tasks may seem something that a C-suite executive can do, but they are time-consuming. So, having someone take over these administrative burdens gives you more time to focus on more pressing tasks and concerns.

Having someone handle logistics, planning, and coordination

A Harvard Business School study revealed that CEOs described time management as one of the most significant challenges of their job. With an executive assistant on the team, business leaders can alleviate this problem.

They can schedule appointments, manage calendars, and even set reminders. Moreover, they can prepare essential documents for an executive and even make travel arrangements. Taking these administrative tasks off your plate gives you more time for critical decision-making and strategic planning.

Fostering effective communication and supporting efficiency

An executive assistant can also function as your spokesperson. So, instead of spending time communicating with personnel, you can delegate the task to your EA. Your assistant can deliver your decisions, plans, and orders to your staff. Besides, they function as gatekeepers determining urgent concerns you should know. This way, you won’t waste your time dealing with trivial matters.

Aside from handling your phone calls and emails, your executive assistant can also attend specific meetings on your behalf. If the meeting does not require making decisions, you can send your EA to relay or receive information. When you have the time, your assistant can give you a rundown of the essential details from the meeting.

When to Hire an Executive Assistant vs. Chief of Staff

Here are some factors to consider when choosing between a chief of staff vs. executive assistant:

Your priorities and needs

Consider the size of your business operations. If you’re managing fewer employees, hiring an executive assistant would suffice. On the other hand, a chief of staff may be the better option when you need someone to streamline operations across several departments. CEOs of bigger enterprises would benefit more from hiring a chief of staff.

Your leadership preferences

If you can rely on another person to manage projects, you can hire a chief of staff. On the other hand, if you prefer handling essential tasks yourself, you’ll work best with an executive assistant.

Your company values and culture

A chief of staff can also handle employee engagement. Moreover, they can motivate teams to reach company targets. Meanwhile, working with an executive assistant will suffice if you have intrinsically motivated employees.

Your budget and resources

Remember that a chief of staff comes with years of experience and a specialized skillset. Naturally, they will ask for higher pay. According to statistics, the median annual salary of a chief of staff is $286,481, but their rates can go as high as $401,217.

So, if you don’t have the budget for hiring a chief of staff, going with an executive assistant would be the cost-efficient alternative. As of this writing, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary of an executive assistant is $65,980. You can even save more when you hire a virtual executive assistant.

Your plans for expansion and growth

A chief of staff can provide critical support when your business is ready to scale. Now, if your company is still in its infancy, then an executive team would be enough to ease administrative burdens while boosting productivity. Along the process, you can save resources and time.

Key Differences Between These Positions

While chief of staff vs. executive assistant positions have similarities, they fulfill distinct roles within a company or an organization. Here are some ways they differ:

Executive Assistant vs. Chief of Staff: Decision-making authority

A CEO can rely on an executive assistant to collect the details, resources, and information they need to make a profitable business decision. The assistant can conduct surveys, generate reports, and perform research. Sometimes, a skilled executive assistant can proactively gather what the CEO needs. However, most of the time, they follow the directions of an executive.

On the other hand, a chief of staff takes a more proactive role within an organization. Moreover, they contribute significantly to decision-making processes. A chief of staff can ensure that the CEO deals with high-level decisions.

After all, they get to choose which concerns will reach the executive. Consequently, the CEO won’t waste time dealing with issues that department heads can resolve efficiently.

Chief of Staff vs. Executive Assistant: Strategic focus

A chief of staff focuses on strategy. Meanwhile, an executive assistant works on tactics. Usually, EAs address individual tasks that have to be addressed immediately. You’ll usually see urgent responsibilities on their daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists.

In contrast, a chief of staff always looks at the bigger picture. While working on tasks that need immediate attention, they generally focus on long-term strategies. Usually, you’ll see items that drive the future success of an organization in their to-do lists.

In larger enterprises, both of these roles are typically present. However, you’ll usually find a chief of staff or an executive assistant for smaller companies or start-ups. In this case, it’s crucial to choose the ideal option.

If what you need is a chief of staff, yet you choose to hire an executive assistant, you might find it more challenging to reach your full potential. On the other hand, if having an EA is enough for your needs, you might be spending more than necessary on a chief of staff.

EA vs. Chief of Staff: Scope of work

While their tasks overlap in certain areas, chiefs of staff and executive assistants differ in their scope of responsibilities. As we’ve mentioned, the latter work on long-term goals that usually involve operational strategies. On the other hand, an executive assistant focuses on weekly or daily tasks that primarily support their leader.

Chief of Staff vs. Executive Assistant: The Bottom Line

Companies usually invest much time, effort, and money into filling chief of staff or executive assistant positions. However, many hire someone who only knows how to sell themselves well but underperforms on the job.

So, once you’ve determined that an executive assistant is what you need, you should choose Wing. We match our clients with executive assistants who have the specialized skills and experience necessary to support their success. We ensure this by subjecting candidates to our rigorous pre-screening and vetting processes.

Hire Dedicated Executive Assistants from Wing

As a managed service provider, Wing handles most areas of human resource operations. For instance, we provide customized training programs for our executive assistants. During this time, they are supervised and mentored by senior members of our operations team.

Moreover, we’ll handle the payroll and create workflows for you. We’ll even provide you with a Customer Success Manager to help you get started. When you get a custom and entirely managed solution from Wing, you can free up your time. Consequently, you can focus more on making critical decisions that will drive the success of your business.

Ready to hire an executive assistant? schedule an appointment with Wing today.

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