‘Operations’ Job Titles Explained
Often working behind the scenes, these are jobs for “Can Do” types.
By The Monster Career Coach
Elliot thinks about making things run better everywhere he looks. On the bus to work he wonders how passengers could be boarded and unloaded faster so the bus can stick to its schedule. At the coffee shop he stops at near his office, he pictures ways to get more customers served quicker.
Not surprisingly Elliot works as an Operations Assistant at his job in a medium sized manufacturing company. His role is to find ways to improve workflow, reduce bottlenecks and help make things run smoother in all departments.
What Operations Employees Do
Basically an Operations employee contributes to making an employer’s wheels run less expensively with fewer squeaks and bumps.
Operations employees generally have the following types of responsibilities, depending on the level of job and type of employer:
- Reviewing how various departments within an employer interact, share information, deal with customers, and do things like make joint purchases of supplies or outside services
- Making recommendations on how to increase efficiencies, in order to save money, reduce cycle times, and improve customer satisfaction
- Planning and putting into action projects that do the above
- Working with people at various levels in each department to gather information and see how they do their jobs
- Developing training procedures and guidelines on how to perform duties better
- Keeping management informed of trouble spots in advance before major problems occur, and proposing cost-effective solutions
The measure of a successful Operations person is the employer’s productivity levels. For instance, if Elliot’s employer consistently meets delivery deadlines for the products it makes, if there are fewer breakdowns in the manufacturing process, and departments are banding together to boost their purchasing power for supplies, then Elliot is definitely doing his job well.
Where To Find Operations Jobs
A job like Elliot’s in Operations is commonly found in organizations that have more than 30 or 40 employees in total. That’s the point where it becomes necessary to stay on top of such differing areas as Purchasing, Payments and Collections, Human Resources, IT, Scheduling, and – in companies that manufacture products or deliver services – Quality and Process Control.
Operations positions can be found in almost any type of employer, from airports to restaurant chains, from hotels to automobile plants, from banks and insurance companies to janitorial services, colleges, theme parks...any place that needs to maintain efficient operations has enough employees to justify an Operations specialist aboard.
Skills and Credentials Required
You can imagine that someone in Operations would need a real eye for detail. They have to observe how activities are being performed step by step, and then find ways to make each process more efficient.
Communication skills are also important. Operations employees must report their observations to senior management using language that can be easily understood and acted on.
Project planning is often a big part of an Operations job. You’ll need to produce flowcharts and assign the right resources on projects of all sizes. It may be helpful to consider a PMP (Project Management Professional) designation.
It can be helpful to have a college or university degree in this field. While it may be enough to have a general Business degree, there are specialized diplomas and certificates in such areas as Airport Operations, Hospitality Operations, Tourism Operations and more.
Career Paths in Operations
You can devote an entire career to Operations if you care to. At the entry level are jobs like Operations Assistant and Operations Coordinator. Here you’ll likely be working for a more experienced Operations person where your role will include helping to plan productivity improvement projects, gathering basic information and statistical data, and preparing workflow charts for existing operations.
A step up is Operations Analyst. This role could require you to identifying process improvement opportunities, develop analytical models and support process improvement programs.
Bump ahead to Operations Manager and you find yourself providing product and systems support, distribution chain planning, hiring and training employees, plus managing staff.
At the Operations Director level you will oversee a number of Operations Managers, each overseeing their specific area. You will be making large scale recommendations on creating efficiencies and solving serious production or internal traffic problems.
As a Vice President, Operations, you’ll have earned yourself a seat on your employer’s Executive Committee. You’ll be expected to comment on a wide range of issues affecting your organization. Your boss will likely be at the President level so your wide knowledge of organizational mechanics will be relied upon frequently.
Behind The Scenes Making Things Happen
As an Operations professional, you’ll work hard but not always be seen as a frontline employee. Some people simply won’t understand what you do for a living. Most of your best work will be done quietly, finding its way into project plans and procedure changes. Not exactly the stuff that always gets celebrated publicly.
However Operations specialists can keep an organization running lean and fast. They produce cost savings and smooth out the day to day flows of work in each department. In some ways they are the unsung heroes behind an organization’s ongoing performance. Not a bad way to contribute if you’re a “can do” person, so long as you don’t long for the limelight.