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10 Warehouse Manager Skills Vital for Career Success

In a warehouse, a woman wearing an orange safety vest over a dark blue shirt stands in the center holding a binder. She is speaking to man on her right, also wearing an orange safety vest. In the background another worker enters data onto a scanner.

Warehouses are hubs of controlled chaos. Multiple things are constantly coming and going, often at the same time. It's a never-ending cycle of new shipments of goods and materials arriving. All of which must be properly logged and accounted for before being sent to storage, right as goods are being pulled from storage and loaded for shipment. 
There are dozens or more workers — forklift operators, technicians, loaders/unloaders, bookkeepers — all working in teams or independently to make the whole warehouse function. 

Managers are the ones responsible for keeping everything and everyone together and on task. It’s a very important role, which is why it often takes some years of experience to be promoted to manager. Here are ten of the most important warehouse managers skills you need to improve and succeed.

What Skills Do You Need to Be a Warehouse Manager?

1. Communication Skills

We mentioned earlier that warehouses are hubs of activity and different employees with different roles. The glue that keeps all those activities and employees in sync is communication. While it’s essential that every employee and team within the warehouse has good communication skills, this is especially true for managers. There are so many things happening at once, good communication is the only way for it to run smoothly. 

Besides letting the jobs happen, good communication is also important for keeping the warehouse running efficiently. So many simple mistakes can set a warehouse behind schedule — for example, sending the latest batch of shipments to the wrong location in the warehouse, or unpacking goods that weren’t supposed to be unpacked — can be prevented with simple communication. Good managers not only clearly communicate the tasks and expectations of their employees, but also encourage their employees to be proactive and communicate too. 


You probably could have guessed this one based on our introduction paragraph —managers need to be good leaders. After all, they’re the ones responsible for their teams completing their tasks and are the ones accountable if issues arise. Good leaders are respectful and appreciate their team and take the time to get to know and understand their team members. Getting to know your team and building a rapport instead of just relaying orders can go a very long way to building trust and respect; when your employees trust and respect you, it’s not only a sign of a great leader but it can also make them more driven and productive employees. 

3.Personnel Supervising

Managers oversee teams as they carry out tasks. Naturally, managers must be observant and supervise their employees. If tasks aren’t being done properly — or even worse, being neglected — it can throw the whole warehouse behind, because many times, teams must collaborate with goods and timing. This is where good personnel supervision comes in. 

Supervising doesn’t just mean watching employees like a hawk. It also means stepping in and offering constructive feedback and mentoring when applicable. Teaching, training and helping employees to become better at their job is part of supervising, and it takes good leadership and communication skills to do. 

4. Inventory Control

You can think of this as “supervising" the goods and materials that flow in and out of the warehouse. Not every manager may be responsible for this — there are often different teams assigned to shipping/receiving, inventory management, etc. But managers overseeing the inventory are responsible for each item that goes in and out. That’s why it’s important to communicate and supervise your inventory employees well. 

Managers will have to be very meticulous with checking the records, and making sure nothing that leaves or enters the building is unaccounted for. This means have well-trained and dependable employees, and being religious and diligent with checking the records or database that your warehouse uses. Remember, if there’s no record of something that’s sitting in the warehouse, you’ll have to account for it sooner rather than later.

5. Technical Knowledge of Warehouse Operations

There’s a lot to warehouses, besides the people and inventory inside it. Warehouses often use a lot of machinery and tools to expedite the work. This includes but is not limited to: forklifts and hydraulic lifts used to move and access goods; robots to assist with moving and retrieving goods; and database software to manage inventory. While each of these requires a good deal of knowledge and training, the more managers know about the equipment and roles under their oversight, the better they can manage their team. 

Again, there’s so much to know about just the three tools we listed above, one manager can’t be expected to know it all. But knowing just a little about each, or one or two quite well, can make a difference in a manager’s understanding of the role and function. This is why employers often mandate a few years of experience or qualification in these tools before promoting them to a managerial role; the experience and familiarity pays off when it comes time to lead people in your former position. 

6. Time Management

This is arguably one of the most important warehouse manager skills. They’ll have more obligations than before, such as leadership and supervisor meetings, employee orientation, and so on. Developing time management skills to balance these new tasks in tandem with their job duties will go a long way to making managers more efficient. This is where familiarity with technical knowledge, and good inventory and supervision skills come into play. Having dependable employees and diligence with inventory can help save time and make budding managers more efficient with those responsibilities, so they can hit the ground running and expedite them while they take on other managerial tasks. 

7. Understanding of Warehouse Layout

In some ways, this is a sub-skill of technical knowledge. Even if you don’t work in a particular department, like inventory and storage, you should still know the warehouse and workspace like the back of your hand. It will help if you ever need to cover for a manager in another department or transition to that job. But besides just being familiar and knowing the lay of the land so you don’t get lost, it’s also important for safety

Managers will be expected to step up and help when alerted to a safety hazard. Knowing where the warehouses’ safety equipment, fire and emergency exits, and emergency devices are located is imperative to create a safe working environment.  their employees to safety. 

8. Supply Chain Management

The warehouse is one link — albeit a very important one — in the middle of the supply chain. Just like within the warehouse, lots of different teams must coordinate together in the supply chain to make the whole thing run. Good supply chain management requires technical knowledge, communication, and leadership skills. Because when you’re working in supply chain management, you’ll be communicating with the manufacturers, distribution centers, and receiving vendors to make sure the goods flow smoothly down the chain. 

You’ll have to coordinate with all other links of the chain and relay any news or changes to your own team, or whomever it impacts further down the supply chain. This is why communicating at the basic level is so important, because developing good communication skills when you first start out as a manager will pay dividends when you’re responsible for more teams or interfacing with other links in the supply chain. 

9. Analytical Skills

This is a refinement of inventory and supervising skills. Managers in all departments of the warehouse will be responsible for troubleshooting and improvement in their teams. Being analytical means paying attention to trends or changes in data, like employee productivity, and coming up with potential explanations and solutions. Having developed analytical skills is the sign of a seasoned, strong manager, because it’s one of the later skills they develop but is one that makes their careers very successful. 

10. Forklift Experience

We mentioned this in technical knowledge, but it bears repeating because forklifts are used almost everywhere in the warehouse. They’re used to move goods and packages from receiving to storage and back out for shipping when they’re ready. Because of this, it’s important to have forklift experience as a warehouse manager — you might be asked to fill in and operate one, or train and orient new employees to them. It may be less important to grow, but it’s one of the good warehouse manager skills to have, nonetheless. 

Diving Deeper: Shipping and Receiving Skills

Shipping and receiving are the interfaces with other links in the supply chain. It’s where the warehouse “imports” products from the manufacturer and suppliers, and then where they’re “exported” to the vendor, distributor, or other next step in the supply chain. Having good shipping and receiving skills requires good communication and inventory skills, since these are the bulk of the job.

Employees and managers must make each other aware of and record what’s coming into/out of the warehouse and be certain to note and log it in the system. Errors here can throw the warehouse off — or even locations further down the supply chain — if shipping and receiving doesn’t account for product, or the wrong product leaves the warehouse.

Beyond the Warehouse: Interdisciplinary Skills for Warehouse Managers

We’ve touched on the importance of having technical skills like operating a forklift, knowing the warehouse layout, and more. They’re helpful for a manager to know, but other skills can also be important to know at the managerial level. This includes human resources skills, like recruitment and interviewing, or business skills like negotiating. Each managerial role has different expectations, but bringing new skills to the table can always help.

The Journey Forward: Advancing in the Warehouse Manager Career Path

You might have noticed that some of these skills build on each other. You can’t develop supervisor skills without first having solid communication and leadership skills, for example. And then the knowledge compounds to build analytical and supply chain management skills as you grow into the manager role and run your team more effectively and efficiently. 

Warehouse managers can continue to advance their career as they master these skills. Instead of overseeing a team, they may one day oversee an entire department, or even the whole warehouse if that’s their goal. No matter your rank in the warehouse management chain, you’ll continue to utilize these ten management skills we’ve outlined here, so start applying them early to begin advancing your career today.

When you’re ready to find a warehouse manager job in your area, search our job board