How to Become an Operations Manager

What are the benefits of effective operations management? Discover how to become an operations manager, along with job responsibilities, salary, and outlook.

Effective operations management helps organizations identify key areas in need of improvement to achieve goals such as quality products, satisfied customers, and higher profits. Capable operations managers use their expertise to coordinate the work of various departments, bringing together the potential power of people, information, and technology. For this reason, organizations value talented operations managers who can significantly contribute to ensuring their operations run smoothly. 

Those interested in learning how to become an operations manager can benefit from exploring the responsibilities, education, and skill requirements, as well as the salary and job outlook, of this rewarding role.


What Does an Operations Manager Do?

Operations managers work in businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies, planning and directing activities across an organization. This includes establishing policies, overseeing daily operations, and strategically managing human resources and the use of materials. Operations managers help ensure the various departments of an organization work in sync with one another to meet organizational objectives. 

Allocation of Resources

Well-functioning organizations know how to strategically allocate their resources, financial and otherwise. This allows them to make the most out of their investments and cover the operational costs and needs of every department.  

Operations managers apply their knowledge of resource allocation to assess the funding, material, and manpower needs within their organizations. They then distribute resources accordingly. This allows each department to meet its performance goals. With effective distribution and use of resources, organizations can create better products and services at lower costs. 

Operations managers also look into investment opportunities to determine if they can help an organization run more efficiently or increase customer satisfaction. For example, operations managers may assess the cost-benefit ratio of purchasing energy-saving equipment. They may also assess the time and expense of streamlining a particular business process to see if making changes will pay off. 

Quality Assurance

Quality products and services help a company compete. Operations managers play an important role in ensuring their organizations’ products or services meet quality standards and satisfy customers.  

They accomplish this through quality assurance programs. These programs help ensure products and services meet expectations related to several elements:

  • Reliability
  • Functionality
  • Design
  • Cost
  • Durability 

Quality assurance programs also help make sure organizational activities comply with safety and legal obligations. They help prevent internal mistakes or those made with customers. 

Operations managers take the following steps to build quality assurance programs.

Setting Goals That Meet Customer Needs

To develop effective quality assurance programs, operations managers first consider customer wants and needs. Then, they strategize how to meet those wants and needs and define performance indicators to determine their progress

Formulating Departmental Policies and Procedures

Operations managers collaborate with departmental leaders to devise customized policies and procedures that support product and service quality. These policies and procedures create structured rules about how to conduct various tasks. They lay out roles and responsibilities and provide guidance that can improve employee performance.

Operational Efficiency

Organizations strive to reduce waste and operate as efficiently as possible. Therefore, operations managers work to boost the efficiency of their organizations’ activities, saving them time, effort, and money.

This involves creating operational plans that outline:

  • Tasks to complete on a daily basis and strategies for how best to do so
  • People or teams responsible for completing those tasks
  • Time frames for completing those tasks 

Operational plans also lay out the costs of daily operations. 

Operations managers review operational plans and adjust them as needed. They also monitor compliance with the plans and give feedback to employees accordingly. 

Additionally, operations managers improve efficiency by conducting audits on performance and operations. They use data to guide decisions that help lower costs and identify methods to eliminate waste and generate more revenue. 


Steps to Becoming an Operations Manager

Operations managers serve as top leaders within their organizations. Reaching this level requires a certain amount of education, skill development, and work experience. The following steps offer valuable guidance on how to become an operations manager

Step One: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Operations managers need at least a bachelor's degree in business or in a field related to their work, such as engineering. Degree programs can inform operations managers of fundamental business concepts about organizational leadership, finance, and human resources. They can also cultivate important problem-solving and communication skills. 

Step Two: Gain Skills and Experience

Operations managers typically have years of experience in lower-level management positions. With a bachelor’s degree, aspiring operations managers can seek out entry-level supervisory roles where they build their leadership skills and gain valuable experience in decision-making and time management. 

Planning

To implement operational plans and quality assurance plans, operations managers need excellent planning skills. This means they should know how to anticipate problems and strategize solutions for them before they happen, since they are responsible for determining organizational needs. It also means they can accurately gauge the time and skills required to complete defined objectives as they connect groups within their organizations. 

Delegation

As top leaders in their organizations, operations managers delegate a range of tasks according to employees’ strengths and talents. This improves productivity and empowers team members to reach goals, which will play an important role in their responsibilities to oversee the supply chain and inventory. Successful delegation involves strong communication, constructive feedback, and thoughtful monitoring of a plan’s progression.  

Time Management

Operations managers have deadlines to meet, reports to issue, audits to conduct, and meetings to hold. Keeping up with all their duties requires excellent organizational skills and time management. Operations managers must prioritize various tasks and accurately estimate how long they will take. For example, as they manage staffing issues, they must also find time to make adjustments to work flow in each department.

Leadership

Operations managers guide diverse teams of people with a range of skill sets. They also unite different departments to achieve the same goals. Clearly, operations managers need strong leadership skills and the ability to motivate people. These characteristics are key when implementing policies for operational plans or initiating new procedures to improve product quality. Operations managers also need leadership skills to manage and drive performance. 

Step Three: Earn a Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in business management can give operations managers the competitive edge they need when striving to secure desired positions. MBA curricula train graduates in financial management, team leadership, and operations management. With an MBA, operations managers gain credibility with potential employers and build their self-confidence in their strategic thinking and planning skills.


Operations Manager Salary and Job Outlook

Operations managers tend to earn handsome salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), operations managers earned a median annual income of $103,650 in May 2020. Geographic location, years of experience, and industry can all affect salaries. However, BLS data indicates that top earners in the field make up to $161,190 a year.       

The BLS also projects jobs for operations managers to increase by 8% between 2020 and 2030, which is in line with the projected average growth rate of all occupations.