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What Does an Operations Manager Do?

A group of professionals discussing what operations managers do

Whether building processes for multi-national businesses or identifying logistical hurdles to save costs, operations managers keep organizations running.

“Operations management is the team of individuals who get the job done,” said Emily Grime, a project management adjunct faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). “They are the heart and soul of many operations, and leadership in this field consists of those who want to feel they are a part of something while motivating others to complete the tasks.”

The field of operations management “outlines the administration of an organization to drive efficiency and profitability into the business,” said DeMeeta Hulett ‘22, a graduate of the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Operations Management from SNHU.

Whether a business is providing a service or a product, operations managers are there to help ensure that cost-efficiency is prioritized and proper processes are in place, according to Hulett.

Professionals in operations management are the drivers of efficiency at an organization and may be called:

  • Manufacturing manager
  • Business operations manager
  • Logistics manager
  • Supply chain manager
  • Operations analyst

Operations managers are found in all industries and fields, including for-profit and nonprofit sectors, according to Hulett.

Manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare and business services are a few common fields in which operations managers find employment, Grime noted.

What is a Typical Day as an Operations Manager?

Emily Grime with the text Emily GrimeDue to the nature of managing various projects, processes and stakeholders, each day can look a little different for operations management professionals.

“Operations management is not a desk job,” Grime said. “It is active and participatory.”

From working with employees and customers to solving issues and making sure the line is running smoothly, operations managers handle many job responsibilities in addition to taking care of day-to-day tasks, according to Grime.

Operations managers work with teams, whether external or their own, and customers on a regular basis. "Operations changes regularly, so they need to be aware of what is happening and this means interacting with everyone,” Grime said.

Hulett adds that operations managers often work with direct reports, peer groups, vendors and members in leadership roles. Planning, developing processes and procedures and searching for opportunities to improve the business are all part of the day-to-day responsibilities for operations managers.

Professionals in this field work directly with associates, directing them to finish tasks in a cost-efficient manner while maintaining strong communication with stakeholders and customers, according to Hulett.

Keeping stakeholders updated is an important part of their responsibilities, and they may spend part of their day “producing reports, providing readouts to stakeholders and leadership and managing assignment department budgets,” Hulett said.

What is the Difference Between Operations Management and Project Management?

DeMeeta Hulett with the text DeMeeta HulettThere are many similarities between operations management and project management. From managing communication and developing processes to problem solving and increasing customer satisfaction, many of the day-to-day tasks overlap. Hulett said that “they are similar as both are responsible for producing an outcome, whether a product or service.”

However, there are notable differences between the two fields.

“Project management might be for one project, implementation or activity,” Grime said. “Operations management is taking what project management has done and making it a sustainable operation.”

Hulett highlights that operations management may include business segment or departmental oversight, while project management is more specific to a task and is often time-specified. This difference in scope shows how similar skill sets can be applied in unique ways to fulfill business needs.

What Skills Are Needed To Be an Operations Manager?

Often entrusted with a high level of responsibility, operations managers need a variety of strategic and people skills to effectively complete their daily tasks and long-term projects.

  • Leadership. Operations managers are often in leadership roles, whether formally or informally. While being in charge of their projects, they also have to lead others. “They are often the leaders of what is happening and need to know what is going on, when things will be completed, as well as deal with any issues that come up while being employee- and client-facing,” Grime said.

  • Project management. With multiple competing priorities, being able to quickly evaluate, prioritize, communicate and execute actions is vital. “Operations managers are great at task-oriented skills, project management, being able to drive process and process improvement to get the job done," Grime said. "They need to be flexible while focusing on the goal of completion.”

    As a part of project management skills, Hulett shared that budget administration, effective time management and organization skills are vital to finding success as an operations manager. "Aspiring operations managers should strive to be flexible and willing to address problem areas," she said.

  • Problem solving. Operations management professionals are often among the first teams approached to solve problems. “You are the individual that others look to for solutions and advice,” Grime said. “You have to know the ins and outs of how to do things and be able to quickly rely on key individuals to assist when you encounter an obstacle.”

  • Interpersonal. According to Hulett, operations managers must have effective written and verbal communication skills. Necessary interpersonal skills also include conflict management, as these professionals must become comfortable with addressing disagreements. According to Hulett, being able to motivate others is an important part of an operations manager's job skills.

For those considering a career in operations management, Hulett said that this field may be a good fit for you“if you like challenges, strive to think outside of the box, embrace motivating others to change and maintain a focus on the big picture of improving the business."

How Do You Become an Operations Manager and What is the Typical Salary?

A typical qualification for becoming an operations manager is earning a bachelor’s degree in operations management, but employers may also look for related degrees, including a degree in project management, engineering or management, according to Grime.

In addition to a degree, according to Grime, certificate programs can help with the understanding of operations management fundamentals, as well as navigating complex problems while developing leadership skills.

Building experience in the field through experiential learning, such as internships and job shadowing, can expand your knowledge while helping you stand out to employers. Networking with professionals in the field can also help you develop valuable connections while finding out if this is the right career path for you.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the estimated median salary for general and operations managers was $98,100 in 2022.*

Operations management professionals looking to advance their careers may consider a master's degree in project management or a master's degree in supply chain management.

What Does the Future Hold for Operations Management?

While many think of operations management as an asset to the field of manufacturing, Hulett shared that it is applicable to many more industries. “As we all experienced challenges during the pandemic, many are now more aware of the connections between supply chain and effective operations management for essential commodities we consume daily," she said.

Hulett noted the increasing purview of the field. Operations management has historically related to consumables such as paper products and food, but the field now has expanded to sectors such as telehealth and entertainment.

Hulett said, “While the world is forever changing, the need to have operations management as a dedicated discipline is vital to managing how we live, work and play.”

Grime also sees promise for the field. "The future is huge for operations management. If you see yourself in a certain industry and like the prospect of being in operations, take a look around because you may see that job is out there and waiting for you,” she said.

Discover more about SNHU's operations management degree: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you'll learn and how to request information about the program.

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location and worker skill.

Steven White is a copywriter and adjunct instructor at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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