For busy warehouses the world over, warehouse associates are versatile workers that perform a variety of tasks, depending on the needs of the operation. Generally speaking, these associates serve as the strong hands and second set of eyes that keep many functions performing smoothly on a daily basis. They are also the ones who do a fair amount of the heavy lifting, whether manually or with the help of heavy machinery and/or cobot or robot technologies.
In very active warehouses that contain particularly diverse inventories, warehouse associates are the pickers and packers that follow strict and sometimes complex protocols that are put in place to ensure that the fulfillment process is streamlined for speed and accuracy.
Let’s take some time to dive into how these associates serve as the important living, breathing moving parts of the warehouse – and why you might or might not be a good fit for the position.
What Warehouse Associates Are Expected to Do
First things first, let’s take a look at what most warehouse associates are expected to do once they clock-in:
- Perform various warehouse duties, typically in the realms of receiving, inputting, sorting, loading, and unloading
- Track inventory as it moves throughout the warehouse
- Organize and maintain inventory
- Inspect all inventory for damage or defects when received and before shipping
- Fill and inspect customer invoices
- Package and label inventory with accuracy
- Operate heavy machinery, such as forklifts
- Keep daily digital or hand-written logs
- Scan items into the warehouse management system
- Handle the daily cleaning routines for the assigned station(s)
- Perform duties and/or answer key questions for internal and third-party audit interviews
- Communicate any breaches of safety or compliance to the necessary managers
As you can see, the roles of warehouse associates are broad and, in some cases, require flexibility and continued training to be performed safely and properly. Because of the busy and sometimes dangerous environments in the warehousing industry, warehouse managers will only place associates in assignments that the worker can physically and mentally handle. As mentioned above, some departments require more know-how than others, which means that the more difficult roles will either be filled by skilled workers or those who have undergone appropriate in-house training first. For employers, hiring right is key not only for overall operational productivity, but also for employee retention.
Who Fits Best in Warehouse Associate Roles
You might be surprised to hear that not every warehouse associate has the same exact skill set, experience, age range, or physical prowess. When thinking about the role, it’s easy to only consider young, 20-30 something, physically strong men and women, but as warehouse technology evolves, so does the face of the “ideal” warehouse associate.
Here are the assets that most warehouse managers look for first when hiring new warehouse associates:
- High school diploma or GED
- A valid driver’s license (Bonus points if the candidate also holds a heavy machinery license or certification)
- Clean drug test and/or background check
- In good physical condition – the best candidates should be able to sit, stand, squat, and walk at an efficient pace for the duration of their shift
- Able to lift heavy loads safely and independently (usually 50 pounds or more)
- Sufficient verbal and reading skills
- Able to follow and understand changing health and safety regulations
- Works well with others in a sometimes hectic, stressful, and fast-paced environment
- Willing to train in multiple roles and departments
- Great attention to detail
- Intermediate-level computer skills
Naturally, warehouse associate roles vary depending on the aims of the department, which means that aspiring candidates should never pigeon-hole themselves as being just one type of worker. In this job category, versatility is the name of the game – and it’s also the very thing that makes the work so fast-paced and exciting, too.
How to Train for Warehouse Associate Positions
Luckily, being a warehouse associate doesn’t require a whole lot in terms of expensive training, courses, or experience. As a matter of fact, if the candidate is willing to start from the “bottom-up” in a warehouse’s employment structure, they should be met with plenty of opportunities for advancement. This can happen by way of traditional promotions or formal in-house training and testing.
Of course, if the warehouse associate candidate has a particular discipline that they would like to be hired into, it’s important that they bring in working knowledge first. For instance, if the warehouse associate has aspirations to be hired as a heavy machinery operator of some sort, they may need to apply with an existing certification, depending on the scope of the competition.
And, finally, the last and perhaps most intriguing aspect of warehouse associate positions is that a good number of them can be filled on a temporary, on-call basis. This is a particularly promising opportunity for temp or temp-to-hire workers who are looking to gain valuable, real-world experience while making a good wage.