The Importance of Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace |

The ability to solve problems, both simple and complex, is valuable in all workplaces. More than 60% of employers look for evidence of problem-solving ability when evaluating candidates for roles in their organization. Problem-solving in the workplace draws on many different skills, often in collaboration, from analytical thinking and creativity to confident decision-making in critical situations. Modern employees who know how to problem solve and don’t panic when a problem arises can be trusted to work independently and contribute towards an organization’s success.

Some people are natural problem solvers - they see a challenge and they start to suggest solutions without even blinking. For others, problem-solving in the workplace doesn’t come as naturally, but they can develop skills and strategies to help them in the long term.

The role of problem-solving in the workplace 

Let’s take a more specific look at problem-solving in the workplace and start to understand just why it’s such a valuable trait.

To begin with, good problem solvers tend to be good decision-makers. When solving a problem, people may be required to make several smaller decisions to reach a complete solution so an ability to quickly make decisions is essential for fast and effective outcomes. If your team lacks this capability, then any challenges thrown their way will cause them to stall and fall behind. They may even make poor decisions if their ability to problem solve isn’t well-rounded and well-informed.

Strong problem-solving skills also contribute to innovation. This is useful for providing our organizations with a competitive edge but also for finding creative solutions to obstacles. Good problem-solving relies upon the ability to find a solution to the issue as it exists here and now, and not rely on using an approach that worked previously. This is why innovation as a facet of problem-solving in the workplace is key.

Problem-solving in the workplace often involves a lot of teamwork. Collaborating on a problem is a great way for a team to bond and learn more about each other’s strengths. In this way, problem-solving contributes towards team unity and purpose. There are even games you can present to your team to have fun and bond while improving their ability to problem solve.

Identifying problem-solving skills in employees

Many people may answer yes when asked if they’re good problem solvers, but we don’t have to rely on self-reporting (although it’s a useful measure). Instead, we can look out for certain behaviors and traits that indicate someone is good at solving problems. Key indicators of problem-solving capability include taking a proactive approach to challenges and asking insightful questions, as this shows both an understanding of a situation and the ability to think further outside it.

Hiring Managers often need to assess an applicant’s problem-solving abilities during the recruitment process. They can do this by asking situational questions about hypothetical problems and scenarios, and assessing how they would draw upon their skills and experience to tackle a problem. Recruiters can also use abstract reasoning tests to get an understanding of someone’s problem-solving abilities, seeing how they combine logic, fluid intelligence, and lateral thinking to find solutions.

HR teams and managers may also want to assess the problem-solving skills of their existing team members. They can do this with performance reviews, discussing examples that have occurred in the workplace and how the individual tackled an issue, and with feedback sessions utilizing 360-degree feedback from fellow employees. Managers can also consciously observe how their employees solve problems on a day-to-day basis, reviewing whether someone attempts to take on challenges independently or turns to others for help.

Developing problem-solving skills in your team 

Just because someone struggles to solve problems now doesn’t mean they can’t be coached to take a more confident approach in the future. Training and development programs focused on critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and decision-making strategies provide people with the skills and confidence to take on problems by giving them practice scenarios and examples to work from. This can be done at an individual and team level - it’s useful for a team that works closely together to understand how they can divide tasks and decision-making when it comes to problem-solving, and team bonding games provide a light-hearted way to learn this.

It’s easier to suggest solutions to problems in the workplace when you know it’s ok to experiment and make mistakes. If they want to benefit from problem-solving employees, leadership teams and managers should foster a supportive work environment where employees are encouraged to propose and test new ideas without fear of failure. They can do this through their approach to problem-solving in the workplace, and by being empathetic should errors occur in attempts to tackle problems.

Team leaders should also recognize the value of diverse perspectives when it comes to problem-solving. They shouldn’t always turn to the same people when a new problem presents itself but should encourage input from all parties. Varied viewpoints can lead to more innovative solutions or improvements on pre-existing solutions.

Leveraging Thomas’ expertise

For extra support in understanding your employees’ problem-solving abilities, you can turn to Thomas. Our assessments can help identify individuals with strong problem-solving capabilities or areas where employees need development. We can also provide tailored development solutions based on your assessment results with workshops designed to enhance problem-solving skills at a leadership and employee level.

The impact of strong problem-solving skills on business success 

Businesses made up of individuals with strong problem-solving skills set themselves up for success. When we recruit problem solvers and develop the problem-solving skills of our existing employees, we contribute to organizational growth by fostering innovation and improving how our teams collaborate.

There’s a very real return on investment to be made when companies spend time and effort on developing these skills. They create more agile, innovative individuals who give their organizations a competitive advantage versus organizations who overlook this crucial area.

Problem-solving in the workplace shouldn't be overlooked. Speak to an expert at Thomas today and see how we can enhance the problem-solving capabilities of your teams and set them up for success.