Almost half a million Australians are employed in the administrative and support services sector. Their average age is 41, and they represent 3.5% of the entire workforce. Many have an eye to the future and are considering moving into the field of business operations.
The difference between operations and administration is slight, but administration focuses on a specific area of running a business, which are the supporting administrative tasks in budgeting, spreadsheet and document creation, office projects and tasks, customer service responsibilities, filing, running administrative software systems and more. Professionals in operations have ‘umbrella management’ where they look after and are closely involved with the administrative functions of a business, but are also involved in bringing other department’s activities to align with business goals, both short and long-term. This means being across the activities of finance, sales, customer service or front-facing departments, marketing and others.
In many ways, it’s a natural career progression since both roles require similar competencies. An operations manager with a background in administration will rely upon management, communication, and leadership experience. They need to bring to the operations role an ability to think ‘outside the square’ to solve both technical and broader problems.
What do you do in business operations?
A business operations manager’s workplace can be just about anywhere, from office buildings to hospitals to warehouses or restaurants. Creating cost-effective solutions and ensuring that production and distribution processes are as smooth as possible are day-to-day responsibilities. However, operations managers also need to keep an eye on the bigger picture, such as implementing and managing quality assurance programs and overseeing organisational change, such as implementing new computer systems.
Other tasks include setting budgets, recruiting and managing staff, ensuring OHS policies are adhered to, and constantly analysing all processes. In a nutshell, efficiency and product management are at the core of a successful operations managers’ job description. Of course, excellent communication skills are needed to deal with and manage staff in multiple locations and divisions. Critically, the right qualifications will help open the door to this varied and exciting career.
How do I get into business operations?
A recent global survey found 77% of CEOs were focused on operational efficiencies as the main driver of future revenue growth. Therefore, the operations manager in charge of ensuring these efficiencies is highly valued, in demand, and likely to attract a good salary. The question is, where to start on a career path to operational management?
Certainly, broadening your workplace experience helps, as an operations manager can also be known as a ‘jack of all trades’. An administration background is very advantageous, but equally so is knowledge relating to how different departments within a business work. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of as many departments or divisions as possible is important in driving efficiencies. Core management skills are increasingly necessary as a global marketplace becomes more complex. The modern-day operations manager must balance both technical and business-specific factors when performing their role. Exposure to different aspects of a business will serve well in this kind of role.
How can business operations benefit my career?
A diverse business background is an ideal platform for a career in operations management. Once you have a role in business operations, you will gain valuable skills to prepare you to continue climbing the career ladder if that is what you want. Exposure to different aspects of a business will help you understand the processes and find solutions to make the business productive and cost-competitive. These skills are interchangeable across organisations and sectors. From health care to manufacturing to hospitality and tourism, all companies and sectors seek managers with solid business experience.
If you are interested in starting a business of your own, then a background in business operations will prepare you with realistic expectations of the work involved. A solid skillset of administrative and operational skills will give you a leg up for business success.
What are the best industries for operations managers?
While we’ve established that virtually any business can benefit from good operations, some are even better suited, particularly due to changes demanded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Five of these industries are:
The sudden impact of the pandemic on eCommerce was staggering in its’ scale. Smart business owners quickly transitioned from shop front to online models, creating a need for experts to develop solutions for everything from software and production and staff to logistics.
The multi-faceted nature of balancing the needs of students, teachers/lecturers, supplies and even landscaping is the perfect fit for an operations managers’ adaptable and problem-solving approach.
Retail is the perfect environment for someone with good operations management skills. Responsibilities include production source management, ensuring supply chains are working and keeping the customer happy.
Health care workplaces can feature thousands of staff, complex health delivery models and large scale supply chains where the smallest efficiencies can save millions of dollars. For many, this is an operations managers’ dream job.
Driving efficiencies in the cut-throat hospitality industry can mean the difference between success and failure. A good operations manager will seamlessly integrate suppliers with stock levels and staff with software to ensure everyone can do their job quickly and efficiently, leading to high levels of customer satisfaction.
How to make a start in business operations
Of course, planning your career transition is key to its’ success. Here are a few ways to start:
- Put your hand up for operations scenarios in your current role, which might catch the eye of anybody recruiting for an operations manager, either within or outside your current workplace.
- In your next performance review, highlight what extra value you bring to your administration role, whether it’s an ability to problem-solve or a track record of willingness to expand your skills.
- Use your networks, and make your ambitions known.
- Most importantly, ensure you get the right qualifications, so a potential employer understands the seriousness with which you’re considering a career change. Completing a Diploma of Business (Operations) (BSB50120) will give you the knowledge, skills and confidence you need to get the career you want in the long term.