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Measuring Hard-to-Measure Work: Secretary

Several supervisors have told us they have difficulty measuring the results of their secretaries' work rather than the activities they perform. In the first article in this series, we described a results-focused method for measuring the accomplishments of a research scientist by charting the flow of the scientist's work. Because the purpose of a scientist's work is very different from that of a secretary's, a different method for measuring work better fits the secretary's role—a customer-focused method. (You can find this and several other methods for measuring results in A Handbook for Measuring Employee Performance: Aligning Employee Performance Plans With Organizational Goals, available on our website.

Focusing on Customer Expectations

The first step to a customer-focused method is to ask the following questions:

  • Who are the secretary's customers?
  • What products and/or services do the customers expect?

By asking these questions, a supervisor and secretary could develop the following list of customers and their expectations. Note that we list customer expectations as products or services, not activities.

CustomersSupervisor and StaffOther Agency Offices
and the Public
Administrative Officer
Expected Products and Services
  • An easy-retrieval file system
  • A calendar
  • Travel reservations and vouchers
  • Correspondence in draft
  • Information
  • Messages
  • Time and attendance records


This example is very general and represents a minimum framework of what a performance plan could include.

Example Elements and Standards

By using a customer-focused method, and by describing the results of the secretary's activities rather than the activities themselves, supervisors and secretaries might develop a performance plan that includes the following elements and standards:

Element: Administrative Support Results. Products or services include a file system, time and attendance records, a calendar, travel arrangements, and draft correspondence.
Fully Successful Standard: The supervisor typically finds that:

  • Files are easily retrievable, logically organized, clearly labeled, and neat, with documents usually filed within 3-5 days of receipt;Time cards correctly reflect information provided by employees, comply with established procedures, are successfully entered into the automated system, and submitted to the Administrative Officer by established deadline, with no more than three noted errors per quarter;Calendar is consistently accurate with proper additions and deletions, reflecting realistic scheduling, with changes made quickly, and a hard copy provided to supervisor in accordance with personal preference, with no more than three noted errors per quarter;Travel arrangements are realistic, meet the traveler's expectations in terms of timeliness and accommodation to extent possible, and confirmation is received prior to travel. Travel orders and vouchers are completed in accordance with regulations, policy, and automated procedures. Vouchers are completed usually within 3 days of receipt of traveler's documentation; and
  • Draft correspondence is clear, logical, follows Plain Language guidelines, and is presented to supervisor generally 1-3 working days before due date or 3-5 days after receipt of initiating event.

Element: Office Information
Fully Successful Standard: The supervisor typically finds that:

  • Messages are given to appropriate persons usually within 3 working hours of receipt or when the person returns to the office, and contain the caller's name, organization, phone number, date, time, and subject of the call; and
  • Information provided is generally accurate, meets the customer's requirements, and is given from 6 hours to 3 working days after the request is made
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