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What does an Operations Executive do?

By Arwen Taylor
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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The main job of an operations executive is to oversee a business’ day-to-day functions and look for ways of promoting efficiency and improving profit and net worth. It can be difficult to nail down exactly what this person does since the job necessarily varies a lot depending on the type of business at issue. The operations executive, who may also be called a chief operating officer or chief operations officer (COO), is a member of a corporation’s executive leadership team, though, which means that many of the core duties are consistent no matter how different the work settings may be. In general this person helps to develop and manage systems to improve efficiency. This often includes overseeing the hiring and employee retention process, and assessing general business functioning across sectors is part of it, too. The job can be a fluid one and often requires expertise across a number of different areas.

Broad Duties

The general focus of the job is to develop and manage systems and resources within the company that help the business achieve its stated goals. These executives typically report to the chief executive officer (CEO), and depending on the specifics they may also have junior executives that handle some of their job duties; in these cases, delegation and management are big parts of the work. COOs are usually responsible for creating policies and procedures that help the company function optimally. In some businesses, the operations executive is groomed to take over the position of the chief executive officer if the CEO retires, is terminated, or leaves the company for some other reason.

Role in Hiring and Personnel

In most businesses, the majority of the work needed for success is completed by teams of employees led by a select number of managers. The corporate structure usually looks like an inverted triangle, with only a few people at the top but many near the bottom. In most cases the work of those filling out the lower tiers usually does more to influence the success of the entire enterprise than anything those at the top could do alone, which makes selecting the right people for those jobs really important.

The COO often plays an influential role in hiring and personnel management, and as such the human resources department generally falls under his or her purview. Key responsibilities may include maintaining proper staffing levels and ensuring that positions are filled with qualified personnel; providing training opportunities for human resources staff is also usually included.

Oversight and Assessment

This executive is also usually responsible for overseeing operations more broadly, which often requires assessments of various teams and departments. Officers will hold meetings, commission reports, and often even make trips to observe different parts of the business as they work. This will of course look different in different settings, but the overarching goal is to give the COO a hands-on feel for what specifically is being achieved. Knowledge of this sort is often required in order to make valuable suggestions for new ways forward, and is an important part of corporate planning.

General Demands and Requirements

Operations executives are found in businesses of all sizes in both the public and private sectors. It is usually an office job, but depending on the nature of the company and the extent of its business the position might require extensive travel. This is especially true for an executive whose company has offices in multiple locations. Although he or she often has a flexible schedule when it comes to time off, the job often requires long hours and weekend duty.

Training and Education

Corporate executive officers are usually considered somewhat elite, but they also tend to have a lot of stresses and job pressures when it comes to leading overall business performance and ensuring that the company achieves its goals. The most common traits held by people in this position include the ability to communicate effectively, analyze large amounts of data, and exhibit sound business judgment. People in this position also need the ability to lead others, must be self-motivated, and need to be able to make quick decisions.

The specific educational requirements tend to vary by industry, but university training is almost always essential. Many executives also hold graduate degrees in business or fields related to their company’s core area. It’s also usually the case that people need some experience working at lower levels of the corporate ladder before they can assume executive duties. Some companies hire relatively young employees for executive positions, but more often the people best suited for these roles have many years of managerial experience behind them.

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