How to become a warehouse operative and the skills you need

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 13 September 2022

Published 3 January 2022

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.

From making sure that goods are at the right place and at the right time, to dealing with inventory management, effective warehouse operatives keep a company running from behind the scenes and are key in avoiding logistical disasters. This means that becoming a warehouse operative is rarely a simple task. In this article, we explore more about becoming a warehouse operative, go over some of the skills that you need and list the steps you can take to begin a career in the warehouse.

How to become a warehouse operative

If you've ever wondered how to become a warehouse operative, the process is likely significantly easier than you may expect. Although becoming a warehouse operative is simple, knowing the process step by step can offer an extra level of insight that can be vital to securing the job that you want. Below are some of the key steps in becoming a warehouse operative and how each step can help you to land the role:

1. Complete your education

Although you don't need any degree-level qualifications to be a warehouse operative, it's advisable to attain at least your GCSE qualifications. A pass or above in Maths, English and a selection of other subjects not only demonstrates that you have proficiency in all of those skills, but shows that you can successfully complete set tasks and meet goals. Some people leave school and assume they can walk into a manual labour job, but this is far from the case and severely damages their long term career prospects.

2. Complete additional related courses

Employers are always looking to hire people that don't need training any more than what's necessary. That's why looking to complete related courses in the same field can give you the upper hand over your competition. For example, getting your forklift drivers' licence is a significant advantage, as this is a cost that the company would no longer need to pay. Furthermore, it demonstrates that you are not a liability in the workplace and can uphold the high working standards they expect. Although it won't guarantee success, making yourself a more employable prospect is always advisable.

3. Get an apprenticeship

For anyone looking to break into a certain industry or role, apprenticeships are always a good route forwards. It's the first step towards permanent employment that offers you practical work experience whilst receiving pay for the job that you're doing. Additionally, the vast majority of apprenticeships have a rigorous structure in place in order to guide you through the workplace in a gradual manner. You learn in a structured, step by step manner, so you're not thrown in the deep end when dealing with tasks independently.

4. Apply for jobs

Once you have the qualifications and work experience, look to apply for warehouse operative jobs. Ensure that on any forms and your CV you highlight the experience you have in warehouses, as employers see this as beneficial for any application. By listing all of your past experience, any relevant qualifications and the skills you have that make you well suited for the role, you have the best possible chance of succeeding in securing an interview.

Related: How to write a warehouse operative CV

5. Attend interviews

Once you have an interview, the next step is to make an impression on the hiring manager. Interviews are excellent opportunities to make a personal impact, as up to this point your prospective employer has only seen a representation of you on a sheet of paper. By presenting yourself well in an interview you become a much more employable prospect and you are far more likely to receive a job offer at the end of the process.

Related: Time-management skills: definition, examples and tips for improvement

What is a warehouse operative?

A warehouse operative is responsible for making sure that all of the stock in a warehouse is where it needs to be at the right times, along with keeping track of paperwork and stock. A warehouse operative completing their job to a high standard allows the rest of the business to operate efficiently. Here are some of the key responsibilities of a warehouse operative and why they are so important to the day to day function of a warehouse:

Perform safety checks

One of the key responsibilities of a warehouse worker is to be aware of the safety regulations surrounding their role and ensure that the warehouse is in line with legislation. Not only is this beneficial for the long term safety of warehouse operatives, but by having a warehouse that aligns with all of the relevant rules and regulations, your company doesn't have to risk failing an inspection. Failed inspections can lead to anything from your company getting a fine to a shut down of the warehouse, while a safe warehouse passes any and all inspections.

Operate heavy machinery

When in a warehouse, operatives are responsible for operating large machinery such as forklifts. Depending on the nature of the warehouse in question it can be difficult to move a lot of goods around by hand, either due to the size of the goods or their weight. This is where heavy machinery comes in. By having thorough training with lifting equipment such as forklifts and cranes, warehouse operatives become far more efficient in their roles and can make the entire goods handling process more efficient.

Complete paperwork and documentation

Warehouse operatives also need to complete a significant amount of paperwork and documentation in their roles. This is due to the stock tracking requirements of a warehouse. Companies must keep a close eye on the amount of each product they have in stock, or they run the risk of not being able to fulfil orders. By thoroughly completing all of the relevant forms and paperwork, a warehouse can keep accurate track of its levels of stock without needing to deal with the surprise of being under supplied at any point.

What skills do warehouse operatives need?

In order to complete the above responsibilities, warehouse operatives need a wide range of skills. These are both physical and mental skills, and you can learn the majority of these over time. Below are the most common skills you need to be a warehouse operative and why each of these skills is necessary:

Related:12 essential warehouse operative skills

Physical strength

Amongst the skills needed by a warehouse operative, physical strength is one of the most important. Even when using equipment to support you in your work, warehouse operatives carry a lot of heavy boxes full of products and raw materials, lifting them from shelf to shelf. Although building physical strength is inevitable in this role, having a good level of physical strength, to begin with allows you to pass the first real barrier to entry to warehouse operative work.

Communication

Also key to working successfully in a warehouse is a strong level of communication skills. Warehouse operatives work in a team environment in which everybody operates closely in tandem. Being able to explain your ideas, your processes and why you follow them is key to building understanding in the team and working more effectively together.

Technical ability

Working with heavy machinery is key to any warehouse environment, so employees holding a higher degree of technical ability tend to thrive. This is primarily seen with efficiency in specialised types of equipment or machinery such as forklifts, used in order to relocate heavier and more cumbersome goods from shelf to shelf. Having the ability to quickly adapt to new pieces of technology and equipment gives prospective employees an advantage as it severely reduces training time, allowing you to get to work quickly.

Time management

Strong time management skills are integral to effective warehouse work. This is because companies often have targets to reach, certain goods that need dispatching by a set time or stock numbers to achieve. Being in possession of good time management skills assists you in this. Time management skills facilitate the creation of timetables for you to work within and offer a foundation on which you build effective working practices that allow you to work to tight deadlines.

Related:

  • Warehouse operative CV tips and guidance (with examples)

  • How to Write a Warehouse Operative Cover Letter (With Examples)

  • What does a warehouse operator do? (with primary duties)

  • How To Become an Assembly Operative: a Useful Guide

  • Warehouse safety: a guide to minimising risks at work


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