12 Essential Warehouse Operative Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 19 October 2022

Published 19 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Warehouse operative skills are often specific to physical jobs in a warehouse, like stamina, organisation or operating heavy machinery. You can develop and hone these skills from past warehouse roles or other work experience. Knowing more about warehouse skills can help you develop professional capabilities employers look for or determine if it's a career path you want to pursue. In this article, we discuss what warehouse skills are and explore the top 12 skills you need to work in a warehouse with practical tips on how to improve them to help you grow in your career as a warehouse operative.

What are warehouse operative skills?

Warehouse operative skills are the talents and capabilities that help you complete your work in a safe and effective manner when working in a warehouse environment. Since warehouse positions can be physical, many technical skills involve your ability to operate equipment safely. Some warehouse operative skills are also soft skills that can transfer across different jobs, like communication and motivation.

Most warehouse professionals develop their skills through on-the-job training and practice. Previous work experience in a warehouse setting might help in a job search, though practical skills can also come from other backgrounds. Some skills can come from specialised training or schooling, especially for high-level positions like logistical engineering and supply chain management. Some jobs that can help you gain experience in a warehouse setting can include:

  • Forklift and counterbalance drivers

  • Delivery drives

  • Picker packers

  • Administrators

  • Managers

  • Logistics personnel

Related: Warehouse Job Cover Letter: Tips and Examples

What are some examples of warehouse skills?

Here are 12 examples of warehouse operative skills you can develop or hone if you want to work in the industry:

1. Organisation

Being organised and detail-focused is essential as a warehouse operative. Organisation can help a warehouse run efficiently by helping you keep accurate inventory, a safe operation and a positive work environment. To maintain your organisational skills, you can work to keep your area organised and clean during your shift and help other colleagues do the same.

2. Literacy

Literacy and numeracy can be especially important when you work as a warehouse operative. From reading packing slips, order quantities and instructions, your ability to read and understand information and numbers is crucial. You can often improve your literacy skills in reading picking sheets and warehouse documentation by asking colleagues and leaders for advice, garnering tips and techniques to improve your performance.

3. Computer proficiency

While not all warehouse operative positions use computers, computer proficiency skills can help you stand apart from other job candidates. As more aspects of a warehouse integrate technology and implement automated processes, having computer skills can help you stay up-to-date with the daily functions of a warehouse operation. Computer proficiency often includes basic skills like word processing, file storage and email or messenger use.

Read more: Computer Skills: Definitions and Examples

4. Dexterity

Strong hand-eye coordination is important when working in a warehouse. For example, you might read packaging orders and labels, operate machine controls or do manual counts for inventory. In these cases, dexterity and good eyesight can help to minimise errors and increase overall productivity.

5. Speed and accuracy

As a warehouse operative, you may have daily quotas or strict deadlines. Your ability to work at a consistent pace with accuracy is typically important in a warehouse. You might also want to stay mindful of safety and quality. A rapid level of performance can contribute to reaching individual and company targets.

6. Self-motivation

Since most work as a warehouse operative is unsupervised, self-motivation can be essential. Holding yourself accountable to targets, finishing tasks on time and doing quality work with pride can help you potentially earn higher wages, receive positive employee reviews and secure strong customer satisfaction scores.

7. Problem-solving

You might encounter challenges while working in a warehouse, like a conveyor machinery malfunction on the packaging line or an item that's out of stock. Effective problem-solving can help your work as a warehouse operative because much of your work is unsupervised. For example, it can be helpful to know how to turn off the conveyor belt or place an out-of-stock notice in the box with the rest of the order. Being able to handle technical issues can also increase your value as an employee, especially if you're the only one at your company who has these capabilities.

Read more: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

8. Teamwork

Your ability to work as part of a team is essential for a warehouse position, regardless of how small or large a task may be. Teamwork might include picker packer colleagues meeting a quota on the same shift or collaboration to generate process improvements to save money and increase packing rates, for example. Working with others is a strong skill to develop and hone for any warehouse role.

9. Communication

Effective oral and written communication can also be important when working in a warehouse because everyone typically needs to stay informed about what their coworkers are doing to maintain safety. Some other common instances where you can benefit from having excellent communication skills in a warehouse are:

  • Sharing operational updates

  • Explaining changes to processes or policies

  • Giving directions on how to operate new machinery

  • Discussing productivity goals or safety procedures

Read more: How To Improve Your Communication Skills

10. Flexibility

Being flexible and adapting to situations in a fast-paced warehouse environment can help you find new opportunities or help others when tasks need to be completed. For example, an unplanned absence might mean you move from your scheduled assignment to assist on another team or handle duties outside of your normal responsibilities. Taking on such challenges and keeping a positive outlook can show employers you're a flexible, dependable and adaptable employee.

11. Stamina

Stamina and endurance are important when working in a warehouse. You may experience long shifts, often being on your feet for several hours at a time. For example, some responsibilities in a warehouse that might require stamina include operating a packing conveyor belt or loading boxes into delivery trucks for your entire shift. In one shift, you might bend, stoop, reach, lift and stretch, so a good range of motion can help reduce the physical strain on your body. Good general fitness and mobility can help ensure you stay safe and handle your job with ease.

12. Willingness to learn

Nearly all jobs have something to improve upon, and many see new technologies and methods developed. Your ability to learn continuously and to adapt and gain more skills can help you stay competitive in your job field and potentially garner respect and appreciation from leaders. To show your willingness to learn, you might consider asking about professional development opportunities at work or volunteer for upcoming projects or training events.

Tips to improve warehouse skills

You can improve your warehouse operative skills to try to become a more qualified candidate or potentially advance your career. Here are some tips for improving your warehouse skills:

  • Learn from colleagues. Consider asking experienced coworkers for their guidance on how to perform well as a warehouse operative, especially if you are new to the industry. Colleagues often enjoy sharing their knowledge, and you can promote a collaborative environment by seeking advice and encouragement.

  • Get more experience. Working in a warehouse is often the fastest way to develop relevant skills. Whether through an internship or part-time work, being employed in a warehouse setting can allow you to grow your skills quickly.

  • Volunteer for other responsibilities. You can develop new skills by taking on tasks outside of your normal responsibilities or comfort level. For example, you might volunteer to cover for a coworker from another department's vacation week or consider applying for lateral positions that offer you a chance to grow a certain skill.

  • Consider cross-training opportunities. You can often train in more than one department when working in a warehouse because it helps employers with productivity, labour shortages and employee morale. Becoming a cross-trained employee might lead to additional wages, overtime opportunities or advancement.

  • Ask for feedback. You can ask supervisors or colleagues for feedback on how well you perform your job and what areas of improvement to focus on, which can help you know what skills to strengthen. This can be during a formal performance review or asked as a casual question.

  • Take training courses. Consider enrolling in training classes provided by your employer or attending seminars or sessions to learn a new skill or strengthen an existing one. For example, communication or management courses might help you in your current role and prepare you for a future position.

  • Put your skills into practice. Putting your warehouse skills into practise can improve them. The more you repeat a task, the more likely you might be to develop ways to complete it faster or more efficiently.


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