Written by Bill Davis, MA, CM, core faculty and program chair in the Forbes School of Business and Technology® at the University of Arizona Global.
This article was originally posted in UAGC Forward Thinking Blog on November 15th, 2023
Operations management is a hot topic and burgeoning field with skills you can apply across a variety of industries — and with good reason. Whether it’s business acumen, problem-solving, or project management skills, the education and experience you gain from working hands-on with people and processes will prepare you for a variety of professional environments. Read on for more about the role of an operations manager, including salary and job outlook for the career.
What Is Operations Management?
Broadly speaking, operations management, according to financial expert site Investopedia, involves the administration of business practices and creating the highest level of efficiency within an organization. In Investopedia’s words, the practice can be summed up as follows:
“Operations management is the administration of business practices to create the highest level of efficiency possible within an organization. It is concerned with converting materials and labor into goods and services as efficiently as possible to maximize the profit of an organization.”
What Is an Operations Manager?
Within operations management, single or multiple operations managers must oversee the processes and ensure all are running smoothly. An operations manager is someone who plans, directs, and coordinates multiple departments, operations, or locations of an organization, according to O*Net Online. Diverse in their very nature, the role is sometimes also known as operations general manager, store manager, center manager, district manager, or department manager, among other titles.
What Is the Role of an Operations Manager?
With this foundation in mind, it’s important to dive deeper into what the role of an operations manager entails to fully understand the education and skills you will need to be successful in your career. So exactly what is the role of an operations manager? An operations manager’s role is to ensure efficiency is maintained at all times across all points of the organization, including managing the services or products of the company.
For instance, as the operations manager of a retail organization, you would oversee areas such as planning and strategizing merchandise, location details, and selling the product of the company. As the operations manager of an event planning company, on the other hand, you would still share the same big-picture tasks — planning, strategizing, and coordinating — but applied to a service, which in this case is planning events. According to the career board site Indeed, an operations manager for events may help with hiring staff for events, managing a team, supervising the events themselves, communicating with stakeholders, identifying and fixing problems quickly, fortifying processes, and more. Although the roles of operations manager for retail (goods) and operations manager for events (services) may seem worlds apart, the skills required are much the same for both.
What Does an Operations Manager Do?
What you can expect an operations manager to do on a daily basis comes down to core responsibilities and duties that are integral to the organization’s success, efficiency, and bottom line. In addition to the tasks outlined by O*Net Online, a close look at the job descriptions of operations managers on popular job boards like on Upwork.com reveals these 10 common job functions:
- Review financial statements: Analyze and assess the financial health and performance of the organization via a thorough examination of financial records.
- Review and coordinate business activities: Oversee and synchronize various business functions to ensure alignment and optimal performance across departments.
- Direct administrative processes: Lead and manage the implementation and execution of administrative procedures to ensure smooth operational flow.
- Prepare staff work schedules and assign specific duties: Organize and allocate tasks to employees by creating schedules and assigning specific responsibilities based on individual skill sets and organizational needs.
- Direct or coordinate finances to maximize efficiency: Oversee and manage financial resources to optimize efficiency and effectiveness within the organization’s budgetary constraints.
- Develop, implement, and review processes and procedures: Create, introduce, and evaluate operational frameworks and protocols to streamline and enhance business operations.
- Identify quality control issues and offer ways to improve: Recognize and address quality control concerns, devising strategies and methods to enhance product or service quality.
- Strategize objectives for different departments: Formulate and set strategic goals and objectives tailored to individual departments to align with overall organizational vision and mission.
- Recruit, train, and supervise staff: Manage the recruitment process, training initiatives, and supervisory activities to build and maintain a skilled and motivated workforce.
- Examine data and forecast any long-term planning: Analyze data and trends to make informed decisions, forecast future requirements, and develop long-term plans for sustained organizational growth and success.
What Is an Operations Manager Salary?
For all their hard work and diverse responsibilities, general and operations managers are well-rewarded. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2022, an operations manager earns a mean wage of $122,860, or $59.07 per hour. By hourly wage percentiles, the lowest 10% earn a mean of $20.90; the lowest 25% earn $29.84; the median, that is the 50%, earn $47.16; the top 25% earn $74.21; and the top 10% earn $106.38 hourly.
What Skills Are Required as an Operations Manager?
Education will help prepare you for a career as an operations manager, but experience will help you truly hone the skills you need to succeed in the role. So just what are these essential skills exactly? According to O*Net Online and Upwork, these include:
- Communication skills
- Organizational skills
- Data processing skills
- Ability to manage budgets
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to understand metrics
- Technology skills
- Delegation skills
- High level of stress tolerance
- Active listening
- Monitoring and managing skills
- Reading comprehension
- Verbal skills
- Coordination and planning
- Administration and management
- Customer and personal service
- English language proficiency
- Production and processing
In Sum: What Is an Operations Manager?
Operations managers are the backbone of efficiency within an organization, ensuring everything and everyone – departments, teams, goods, materials, services, and finances – are delivered and running smoothly. While the role may look slightly different whether it is for products or services, you can expect the responsibilities to be approximately the same across the various industries in which you see operations managers.
Author: Bill Davis, CM