ASSESSMENT OF COMPUTER COMPETENCIES NEEDED BY SECRETARIES FOR EFFECTIVE WORK PERFORMANCE

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

Every society is living in the technological age of constant change. Technology and information surround everyone in some form, no matter their personality, location and occupation. In some cases, technology and information can overwhelm and almost consume society. Informational and technological change is inevitable.

The world of business in the 21st century is also changing at a rapid pace. Use of computers and the internet in performing daily business functions is widespread. In fact, graphics and other business documents that are reproduced using these modern technologies can be very difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish from the original. These changes occur in many business environments, including how individuals function in offices on a daily basis.  As a result, the roles of the traditional confidential secretaries are being transformed. In the past, a secretary was commonly stereotyped as the person in the office who typed, taken note in shorthand and transcribed, prepared tea for the boss, filed correspondence and answered telephone calls. The duties of confidential secretaries have gone beyond that.

Today, the role of secretaries is being converted into a modern and realistic profession where individuals utilize more technological and information management skills.  In line with this, Okolocha (2015) are of the view that secretaries do not continually deal with papers or carryout their duties manually these days because virtually all office tasks may be handled with electronic and telecommunication gadgets. Based on the recent agitation, the National Board for Technical Education has equally changed the nomenclature of Secretarial studies programme to Office Technology and Management (OTM) in an attempt to flow with the new technology (Chigbuson and Nimfel, 2009). The technology and its skills applied in office task has not only changed, but also significantly enlarged the secretarial profession. Technology has brought about development in communication system worldwide, and has a direct positive consequence on secretarial profession as it becomes more multidimensional and sophisticated. Stephen (2016) affirmed that office environment has witnessed unprecedented changes in recent years due to technological changes in the method of processing and communicating information. It has been emphasized that organizations cannot afford to stand still. They must be ready for change and so must the people who comprise them.

According to Agomuo (2002), the relevance of the secretaries in today’s office is increasingly threatened by the flux of technologies and the role of this caliber of staff is being challenged by the wonders of technology. What is most important to note is that secretaries no doubt, will continuously come in contact with changing tools of technology in their offices as technology is continuously changing. There is therefore a need for secretaries to acquire skills that will enable them to cope with this development (Chigbuson, 2008).  Ohakwe (2001), argued that secretaries who are not well equipped in terms of computer competencies required for today are sure to be embarrassed as their inadequate skills will render them redundant or even throw them out of job. Okoli (2010), found that secretaries encounter problems in the use of these modern office machines. The problems may include lack of expertise in the use of modern machines, monotony and fear from confidential secretaries that the new office technology might lead to unemployment, lost of job, redundant at lower cadre, or even being replaced with computer operators.

The implication of the above is that since modern office activities have gone beyond typewriting and note taking at high speed and transcribing same, therefore there is a need for the secretaries to undertake capacity-building in the use of various computers competencies for effective work performance.  According to Webster (2008), operational competences needed in modern office are those skills acquired by secretaries to be able to operate office machine with some degree of mastery. He viewed competences as the capacity of a person to accomplish task with desired precision and certainty, it involves practical knowledge in combination with skills, cleverness, expertise and ability to perform a function required. Okolocha (2015) asserted that computer based application competencies may be in clusters of:

  1. Word processing competencies
  2. Electronic spreadsheet competencies
  • Power-point presentation competencies
  1. Database management competencies
  2. Desktop publishing competencies
  3. Internet competencies.

Word processing competencies is the ability to use a word processor namely, Microsoft Word to process textual materials and documents such as letters, memos, reports, minutes and so on.  Word processing skills are required for almost every daily office job.  A word processing can be used in a computer to create, save, edit, format and print all kinds of documents.  Electronic spreadsheets are application software used to solve business problem that requires comparison, projection, or evaluation of different proposal. Electronic spreadsheet are valuable tools for both analysis and decision support. With electronic spreadsheet application, such as MS Excel, information is easily displayed and people can insert formulas to work with data.  Information can also be sorted and filtered. Such information is usually useful for decision making.

Power-point presentation is also a computer system which users use to create powerful presentation to their audiences. This is mainly use during seminars, thesis defense class(es), larger lecture class(es), workshops, conferences as well as other staff training and development programmes. It allows the user to include formatted text, graphics, pictures, sounds and animations in the presentations. Ndukwe (2005) noted that presentation created with power-point can add audio and visual effects, making them look more professional or flashy to meet the high standard of presentation.

Database management system is another computer competencies needed by confidential secretaries and secretarial assistants. Database management system is a collection of programme that enable the creation and manipulation of a database. It enables creating a computerized database, add, change, delete and sort data, retrieve data from database. Example of database management system is Microsoft Access. MS Access provides security features that protect against unauthorized users trying to gain access to confidential database information and prevent loss of data in case of a system crash. Okolocha (2015) remarks that MS Access is among the database applications being used mainly in offices, banks and companies.

In addition to word processing applications to produce office documents such as letters, memos, reports and so on, a secretary may be required to produce newsletter, magazines, flyers and brochures that require the manipulation of text and graphics in a single task or documents. In this case, the secretary may need some level of competencies in desktop publishing. Desktop publishing is the ability to arrange text and graphics in such a way as to effectively communicate ideas and create documents.

Internet refers to networking of computers. Internet is the largest network of computers in the world today (Okoro, 2013). He described internet as the interconnection of two or more computer systems with the data communication devices. The introduction of internet in office administration has recorded remarkable improvements in business performance.  Okolocha (2015) sees e-mail as a widely used internet application that enables individual to quickly exchange messages, even if they are separated with long distance.

The relevance of computer competencies needed by confidential secretaries cannot be over-emphasized.  Apart from the fact that computer application competencies acquired by confidential secretaries determine effectiveness, efficiency and security of her job, it also makes her to be master of her job. Hence, the concern of the researcher therefore is to establish those competencies that would be needed by confidential secretaries for effective work performance.

Statement of the Problem

Some years ago, the need for modern office machines and equipment did not arise. This is because office functions could be performed using manual typewriters, electric typewriters, manually operated photocopiers and other office equipment operated manually to carry out the office functions. Developments and innovations have brought about tremendous changes in today’s office and have enlarged the scope of secretaries beyond just manual processing of office functions. These innovations demand greater responsibilities and improved performance on the part of secretaries in view of their vital roles in processing of office information. Agboola (2006) observed that despite the significance roles played by computer competencies in the success of an organization, a number of confidential secretaries have not given much attention to it. This might due to lack of expertise in the use of modern office machine, monotony and fair that computer applications might lead to loss of job, unemployment, redundant at lower cadre or even being replaced with computer operators. Okoli (2010) affirmed that it could make confidential secretaries narrow minded, rigid, unprofessional, academically inadequate, unorganized, slow, incompetent, and old fashioned workers.

Secretaries ‘performance is expected to positively contribute to the effectiveness of office work if they adequately possess relevant computer competencies.   In view of the above challenges facing them has a result of lack of computer competencies; it might make them not to exhibit the considerable skills and knowledge that is required in the world of work. This study therefore proposes to assess the computer competencies needed by confidential secretaries for effective work performance in Ondo and Ekiti States Colleges of Education.

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Updated: 20th November 2017 — 12:29 pm