THE IMPACT OF MODERN OFFICE MACHINES ON SECRETARIES.
1.1 Background to the study
For decades now, fast changes have been taking place in all facets of human life including the office environment. This is as a result of technological advancement. Every office in today’s business world, be it government, industry or other human endeavors, require facts and accurate information for quick decision-making. The office worker, including the secretary, expects certain support from the organization into which he/she is employed. This support can be technological (machines and equipment) and human. In offices of past, manager’s dictated memos and letters and secretaries typed them. Most recently, business have developed word processing centers and relied on personal computers and even electronic mail in an effort to lessen the need for secretarial support and make the employee-secretary very productive (Ezoem, 1995; Osuala, 2004).
As a result of changes in technology, the role of secretaries in business has changed tremendously from that of typewriting and shorthand dictation, answering of telephone calls and processing of mails. Today’s secretaries are exposed to office technology including the internet that make work much easier and knowledge more accessible (Edwin, 2008). It is now easier to send messages by telex, electronic mails (e-mails), fax and telephones. Other office gadgets available to the secretary are photo-copy machines, duplicating machines, dictating machines, printers, among others. This is the era of computers and information technology which has become an enabler of greater convenience. Three of the most popular types of computer software programs are word processing, which help the user to write and edit memos, letters and reports, data management programs or databases, which help the user/ secretary to use long lists of data and spreadsheet programs, which handle tables and numbers (Dulek and Fielden, 1999).
Secretaries now have many technologically advanced office gadgets to ease their jobs and enhance proficiency and productivity leading to improved access to goods and services globally (Wofersohn, 2001). There are wide range of office machines and equipment which now enable secretaries to improve their performances. Such new machines take the form of electronic typewriters that have replaced the manual ones. Word processors with milt-purpose facilities, computers and other sophisticated office machines and equipment are now provided by employers. Some of the physical equipment used by secretaries includes computer communication equipment and electronic pocket organizers (Lucas, 1997). New technological equipment that has altered the procedures and technique for office functions include the computers, electronic mail/ commerce, voice mail, and the Internet.
However, these new developments brought by technological challenges require even more knowledge and skills beyond being a professional secretary. For the secretary to be abreast with the changing times, face the challenges and overcome the old ways of doing things she or he needs training requirements in recent times to help meet organizational objectives. Information technology has affected many professions in recent times. The roles of secretarial professionals have been turned around by technology. It has provided the tools that shift the role of secretaries from that of information recorders to business strategists (Appah and Emeh, 2011). Several other authors are of the view that the secretary has to be well equipped to meet the present challenges of a modern office.
The ministry of Education is one of the key ministries for the Government of Ghana. The overall goal of the Ministry is to provide relevant and quality education for all Ghanaians especially the disadvantaged to enable them acquire skills which will make them functionally literate and productive to facilitate poverty alleviation and promote the rapid socio-economic growth of the country. In order to achieve its broad objectives the ministry has employed a significant number of secretaries to perform clerical works. This study seeks to examine the level of productivity of the secretaries in the context of modern office technologies.
1.2 Statement of The Research Problem
An automated office, undoubtedly, offers new roles and responsibilities for the secretary. Such new roles presuppose that additional training and qualifications are required from the secretaries. The relevance of automation in business was identified by Aromolaran (2003) as follows
i.) Creating a distinct career path for the secretary.
ii.) Automation creates a prominent place for the secretary on the organization chart.
iii.) It creates routine and assigned roles for the secretary.
iv.) With automation the secretary now spends less time in correcting, revising, proof-reading and reproducing documents.
Cameron (1982), a very long time ago, commented that it takes up to 10 to 15 years between the introduction of new equipment in the market and its installation in small organizations. This is particularly peculiar to private business organizations in developing countries. In modern times, it is not uncommon to find some organizations still subjecting secretaries to the use of manual typewriters. When secretaries are not provided with efficient and effective working tools, productivity is definitely bound to be low.
Duniya (2011) also observed that due to the introduction of sophisticated technological (electronic) office equipment into today’s office and the role secretaries need to play in ensuring accuracy and efficiency in their jobs, the secretaries need to meet the challenges by acquiring new skills and competencies for efficient operations in the electronic office. There is continuous advancement in technology which has affected the secretarial profession in terms of the quality, speed and accuracy of works performed.
This study is therefore undertaken in order to gain understanding about the impact of modern office technologies on secretaries’ productivity at the Ministry of Education, Head office, Accra.
1.3 Aim and Objectives of Study
The main aim of the study is to examine the impact of modern office technologies on secretaries’ level of productivity at the Head office of the Ministry of Education. Specifically, the research aims at achieving the following objectives.
1. To ascertain the range of new office technologies existent at the MOE
2. To investigate the level of usage of these new office technologies
3. To identify the level of productivity of the secretaries at the MOE
1.4 Research Questions
In order to achieve the objectives of this study a number of questions would be explored. Consistent with the topic and objectives the following questions will guide the study;
1. What are new office technologies?
2. What range of new office technologies exist at MOE?
3. What is productivity and how is it measured?
4. Does the introduction of office technologies impact on secretaries’ productivity?
1.5 Scope of the Study
Geographically, the study covers the Head office of the Ministry of Education, which is situated at the ministry enclave in the Accra metropolis as a case study. Contextually, the study focuses modern office technologies and their impact on secretaries’ productivity.
1.6 Significance of the Study
To date, just a handful studies have been published that looks at modern office technologies and secretaries’ productivity in African nations and more particularly, in Ghana. This study intends to contribute to a greater comprehension of the subject of matter. From a practitioner’s perspective, the results of the study will provide a benchmark that can be used in assessing the effectiveness of the implementation of new office technologies in an office environment as well as define key productivity factors.
Finally, this study will provide a foundation for future researches as this will serve as a motivation for many researchers to further examine other aspects of the subject matter.