Job titles on an L&D team can vary widely. From Chief Learning Officer to L&D Assistant, today’s learning teams encompass a range of skillsets, experience levels, and professional designations. Further, depending on the size of the organization—and oftentimes, depending on the task at hand—an L&D professional may hold several roles and perform several tasks regardless of their job title.
A new title cropping up in L&D teams is Learning Operations Manager. As its name implies, it’s an individual tasked with managing or overseeing learning operations. Sounds simple enough, but it’s not yet a widely known or utilized job title.
To begin, it might be instructive to first review the concept of learning operations—itself a growing but important function within an organization.
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What is Learning Operations?
Learning operations, also known as LearnOps, is a newer discipline aimed at streamlining training development with the goal of improving learning outcomes.
LearnOps captures insights and seeks efficiencies so that the right resources can be assigned to the right projects at the right time. Leveraging data from several platforms and tools used by L&D teams, LearnOps reduces friction between project stakeholders, speeds course development, increases visibility, and reduces budgets.
Learning operations seeks to analyze all of the processes, technologies, administration, documentation, budgeting, communications, and reporting related to learning activities across the organization.
This is a lot to oversee! Naturally, an individual or team of individuals is needed to manage the learning operations, and hence, the Learning Operations Manager job title was born.
Benefits of Learning Operations
The concept of LearnOps is similar to DevOps, which unites the efforts of IT and engineering for tighter management of software development and delivery across the enterprise, or RevOps, which seeks efficiencies across the teams responsible for the generation and maintenance of the organization’s revenue.
Benefits of learning operations include:
- Reduced costs, such as by uncovering redundancies and cancelling needless software licenses
- Increased value, including asking vendors to provide additional deliverables or features for a service
- Faster course development, by uncovering templates and models that have shown success in the past
- Happier team members, as learning operations can demonstrate each employee’s contribution to a project and the bottom line
- Higher productivity, as more engaged team members can deliver additional, higher quality work faster
Getting Started with Learning Operations
One way for organizations to start with LearnOps is by conducting an operational audit of L&D. It can start from a functional perspective, by first having a look at the tech stack in use by L&D team members. Evaluating the tools used by the team, such as those used for collaboration, training intake, authoring, and deployment, can be a good first step in trying to unlock inefficiencies. Perhaps multiple licenses are in place, some of which aren’t even used, so money can be saved. Or, the reverse: some team members are using spreadsheets and email when they could be automating certain processes and saving time.
After evaluating the technology stack, a Learning Operations Manager can move on to evaluating L&D’s processes, then finally, the team’s strategy, to see where there might be inefficiencies to be addressed.
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Who Does the Learning Operations Manager Report to?
The answer: it depends.
There is no expected reporting structure in place as this role begins to proliferate across learning organizations and becomes sought after due to its importance and potential strategic influence.
It depends on how the L&D team is organized, but for starters, a Learning Operations Manager will need to interact with all levels and arms of the department in addition to business partners who request and greenlight budgets for training.
The Learning Operations Manager will not only need to analyze the processes and outcomes related to training in development in the L&D department but also that which is delivered independently of L&D. This can include situations such as when a business manager authorizes team members to take continuing education credits through an industry trade association or when external compliance trainers are brought in for an emergency training following a security or legal incident.
The Learning Operations Manager might report to the Chief Learning Officer or might ultimately report to the Chief Financial Officer, as so much of the role is associated with seeking efficiencies and analyzing budgets.
What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Learning Operations Manager?
A Learning Operations Manager is very much as its name implies: an operations manager. Within the context of L&D, this means capturing a deep understanding of anything and everything related to the training function within the organization.
Below is just a handful of potential functions that a learning operations manager might oversee.
Reviewing the spending on contractors, software seat licenses, audio/visual equipment, and other components of the L&D function is central to the Learning Operations Manager’s role. Seeking efficiencies is important—i.e., canceling what is not being used or what is simply not needed—but the learning operations manager might do the opposite and actually suggest spending on processes that hadn’t been considered. This could be on software and tools to maximize productivity and speed course delivery.
Technologies and vendors
As cited above, gathering information on the costs of all premium vendors is important, but the Learning Operations Manager can also wear an IT hat and go deeper to determine whether, costs aside, is the software the best-in-class solution for the organization’s needs? Is it doing its job?
The Learning Operations Manager might need to bring in additional resources to see if a replacement technology would be a better solution than the incumbent one, and how the introduction of a new solution or platform might disrupt the current L&D workflow and what a potential short-term hit to productivity might look like.
For this, the learning operations manager will need to have a look at the data of the learners upon completing a course. Beyond simply analyzing course completion rates and assessment scores, the learning operations manager will want to know whether the training had a measurable impact on that employee’s day-to-day work.
For this, the learning operations manager will need to seek and leverage data from the employee’s manager. This will need to be done at scale: data from all of the employees who participated in that training to determine whether the outcomes justified the resource inputs to develop and deliver that training.
L&D has shifted from a nice to have to a need to have, as companies are focused on upskilling and reskilling their employees to hold on to talent and stay competitive. A manager with a strong operational background could join L&D and—using their analytical skills previously applied to other departments—truly reshape an organization. Thanks to data, they can prove the value of their efforts.
While the job title of Learning Operations Manager, or even Training Operations Manager, might not be commonplace, this is expected to change moving forward as companies seek the most complete picture of their operations.
Thanks to the ability to capture data from a multitude of sources, and utilize APIs, connectors, and visualization platforms to better understand that data, companies have an ability to look inside their training operations to a depth they hadn’t been able to previously.
As such, they need professionals fluent in operational tools who can jump right into the learning function and uncover efficiencies that might have been invisible.
Learning Operations Managers shouldn’t be viewed exclusively as the people whose job is to find problems. They are also problem solvers and are focused on solutions that not only fix the problem but make a situation even better than it was before.
Learning operations managers might also find surprises, too, in the form of efficiencies or ways of doing things that can be shared beyond L&D and into other departments, for greater efficiency overall.
A quick search on a job board reveals that Amazon, Walmart, Ford, Meta (née Facebook), and Chewy are among the companies currently seeking Learning Operations Managers. The role might not be widely known right now, but give it time.
Right now, L&D teams are facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Learn more about leveraging and overcoming them in this free guide:
The Complete Guide to L&D Trends and Challenges in 2022