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Background to the Study

Over the years, the world has been experiencing technological changes in business and office activities/functions. In Nigeria, many government and private sector offices, are fast adapting to modern technologies. This trend appears to be one of most viable ways to survive the industrial and group competitions as well as the evolving global technological culture. Many organizations make use of new technologies to handle people, coordinate activities, and evaluate performance directed towards organizational goals and objectives. Enyekit (2006) asserted that the modern business office is rapidly changing as a result of office automation, which has brought about new methods in carrying out functions performed by people in organizations. One office employee that constantly use this ever-changing technology in the office is the office secretary who is expected to handle numerous office functions related to information processing.

An office manager or a secretary is a member of staff who is concerned with the preparation, preservation and transmission of different types of office documents as well as conventional secretarial duties of confidential nature at various levels in an organization.  This implies that a qualified secretary should possess basic secretarial skills, have sufficient business acumen, be versatile in office information and communication technology and have sufficient knowledge of the operations of all departments within the organization where he/she works.

An office secretary is always referred to as the ‘hub’ on which other activities of the office revolve.  This is because her duties do not only end with mere keeping and retrieving of valuable office documents but include other functions necessary for the smooth running of the office.  This point is buttressed by the National Secretaries’ Association (NSA) cited in Ejeka (2004) which defined the secretary as an executive assistant, possessing a mastery of office skills and abilities to assume responsibilities without direct supervision, who displays initiative, exercises judgment and takes decisions within the scope of her authority. This definition applies in situations where a secretary is required to assume responsibilities, make decisions and work independently.

In the civil service where professionalism is highly emphasized, secretaries perform according to their qualifications and experience. The highly qualified and experienced secretaries perform secretarial duties for top-level executives or those responsible for major functions of their organizations. These categories of secretaries do confidential work and relieve their executives of designated administrative details. They need to possess good initiative, good judgment, thorough knowledge of their establishments and general government practices. The training of all the above categories of secretaries is done in colleges of technology, polytechnics and universities of technology where successful trainees are awarded National Diploma (ND), Higher National Diploma (HND) or Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Secretarial Administration (now Office Technology and Management) as the case may be.

With the advent of automation, the duties of secretaries or Office Technology and Management (OTM) graduate workers have been revolutionized especially in the areas of communication, telecommunication, micrograph and reprography. Azih (2013) pointed out that in reprography, stencil duplication has been replaced by computer print outs and Xeroxing systems.  Horizontal suspension and other systems are now replaced by compact disc run on data base computer systems in the area of micrograph and telecommunications. Telephones have gone digital while teleconferencing, internet and networking, e-mail, facsimile and other telecommunication equipment are now used. There is hardly any modern business organization that operates without the use of one form of modern office technology or the other.

In the light of the pervasiveness of modern technologies in offices, office technology and management (OTM) graduates ought to have the competencies to use these technologies to perform effectively in the workplace. This is important because OTM graduates are ubiquitous office workers needed in every type of government or private office to assist their superiors or executives in carrying out their responsibilities. Igbinedion (2010) described the OTM graduate worker as an assistant to an executive, who possesses mastery of office skills and ability to assume responsibility without direct supervision, displays initiative, exercises judgment, and makes decisions within the scope of his/her authority. The OTM function requires a large amount of initiative, tact and resourcefulness to succeed. Thus, an efficient OTM graduate worker operates with a better combination of resources and opportunities with the aim of delivering the appropriate level of services at the quality level expected by a particular organization.

For OTM office workers to be able to perform their duties and make meaningful contributions to the success of the organizational goals, they also need to acquire the relevant office competencies. Modern office competencies are those capabilities and abilities required for maximum utilization of innovative office technologies. Competencies refer to the skills, behaviour and knowledge acquired and manifested by people. The organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2009) defined competency as a bundle of skills, which derives from a combination of knowledge and personal traits. Anann (2012) stated that competency in modern office requires a combination of skills, attributes and behaviours that are directly related to successful performance on the job. For the purposes of this study, office competencies are the knowledge, skills and abilities, which an OTM graduate requires to effect desirable changes in the office in response to prevailing circumstances. Cornacchione (2012) stressed that such competencies provide a sound basis for consistent and objective performance standards about what is needed and expected in an organization in terms of human relations, managerial competences, communication competences, information and communication technology competences, secretarial competences and problem solving competences.

As stated by Goldberg (2012), information communication technology competencies include all the activities involved from the origination of information to its distribution in final form. The competencies cover the ability to use technology to carry out the activities of the information processing cycle including input, process, output, and distribution. Managerial competences are the ability to handle and manage time, human and material resources under ones control for the success of the organization. As a result of the fact that office activities are enormous and the resources are scarce or insufficient, they needed to be managed optimally. The way these resources are managed determines the level of effectiveness of office worker.

Communications competencies in this technology era include written communications, verbal/nonverbal communication and human relations functions carried out through electronic communication processes.  This competency incorporates oral and written communication as well as interpersonal communication skills for maintaining productive work relationships. Abdullah and Threadgold (2008) noted that human relations competencies are those used in enhancing positive attitudes and relationships about the work to be done, co-workers, customers, management, and employer policies. Secretarial competences include ability of OTM graduates to perform normal secretarial functions which take much physical and mental ability.

These functions include among others, relating the functions of the office to the whole organization, attending meetings and providing information as may be required, making accurate records of proceedings, filing and retrieving of information, taking appropriate action independently when faced with challenging secretarial office problems, showing personal qualities and attributes conducive to tolerance and co-existence with the work group

Problem solving competencies focus on the ability to identify problems, generate a range of solutions and courses of action with benefits, costs, and risks associated with each. These competencies would enhance the abilities of OTM office workers to effectively and efficiently discharge their duties and responsibilities in modern office, to meet the challenges of modern times.


Gender, educational attainment, and years of experience seem to influence supervisors’ rating of competences required of OTM graduates in modern offices. Agboola (2006) observed that male students and workers experience less anxiety about ICT and make more frequent use of it and that female students are assumed to show lower confidence or knowledge/ability than males about using computers. Another variable that could influence supervisors’ rating on office competencies required of OTM graduates is their level of educational attainment as well as the position or designation which they occupy in the office.  Workers with high educational qualifications and positions in office seem to be saddled with more complex responsibilities and the level of skills and competency required of them to perform office tasks adequately will be higher than others.

Supervisors’ rating of secretaries may differ on account of educational attainment and designation in offices. Similarly, the number of years of service may account for differences in the rating of office competences required of OTM graduates for effective performance in modern offices. In a nutshell, awareness and possession of office competences expected by employers of OTM graduates will determine their level of effectiveness and efficiency in responding to the needs of the present computerized work place. Unfortunately, the exact competences required of OTM graduates for effective performance in government ministries in Imo State has remained empirically uncertain, hence the need for this assessment.

Supervisors in this study are officers on Grade Level 10 and above in the civil service, who have secretaries attached to them and whose duties include overseeing secretarial staff that work under them. They are mostly Permanent Secretaries, Directors and Heads of Departments/Units who work directly with secretaries in their official assignments such as planning, organizing and coordinating the activities of their departments and directorates. This close work relationship enables them to understand the areas of strengths and weaknesses of their secretaries. Hence, they have both the knowledge and experience required to suitably assess the office competencies required of OTM graduates in performing various office functions.  They include males and females with different levels of educational attainment and supervisory experience which may affect their assessment.  Therefore, the effects of these variables on their responses will be investigated in the study.

Statement of the Problem

Developments and innovations in technology have brought about tremendous changes in today’s offices and business environments.  These innovations demand greater responsibilities and improved performance on the part of OTM graduates in view of their vital roles in processing office information.  This implies that today’s office managers who are unable to cope with the demands of office technology will become irrelevant, low priced or even unemployed as the case may be.

Unfortunately, the training given to OTM students does not seem to reflect the wave of technological changes. This has created disparity between what is imparted to the OTM students in terms of abilities and the needs of the industries. Azih (2013) observed that the performances of some OTM graduates fall short of accepted practices in modern office technologies, thereby suggesting that they have not adequately acquired the competencies needed for effective use of modern office technologies during their training.  Consequently, some functions supposed to be handled by OTM graduates are thus given to graduates of other disciplines. Where OTM workers lack competencies to use efficient and effective working tools, productivity is definitely bound to be unimpressive. If these OTM graduates are exposed to a variety of office competencies, they might become more effective in their jobs.

It then appears that the producers of the OTM graduates (institutions) are not quite sure of the exact competencies needed by employers of labour. The problem of skill mis-match implying that the institutions are not satisfying employers in terms of the office competencies expected of OTM graduates has induced this study. The problem of this study therefore is what are the Office Competencies Required of Office Technology and Management Graduates of Nigerian Polytechnics for Effective Performance in Modern Offices?

Purpose of the Study

The major purpose of this study is to determine the office management competencies required of Office Technology and Management graduates of Nigerian polytechnics for effective performance in modern offices. Specifically, the study will seek to ascertain:

  • The human relations competences required of Office Technology and Management graduates for effective performance in modern offices.
  • The management competencies required of Office Technology and Management graduates for effective performance in modern offices.
  • The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) competencies required of Office Technology and Management (OTM) graduate for effective performance in modern offices.
  • The communication competences required of Office Technology and Management graduate for effective performance in modern offices.
  • The secretarial competences required of Office Technology and Management graduates for effective performance in modern offices.
  • Problem solving competences required of office technology and management graduates for effective performance in modern office.

Significance of the Study


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