When employers talk about problem-solving skills, they are often referring to the ability to handle difficult or unexpected situations in the workplace as well as complex business challenges. Organisations rely on people who can assess both kinds of situations and calmly identify solutions. Problem-solving skills are traits that enable you to do that. While problem-solving skills are valued by employers, they are also highly useful in other areas of life like relationship building and day-to-day decision making.
What are problem-solving skills?
Problem-solving skills help you determine the source of a problem and find an effective solution. Although problem-solving is often identified as its own separate skill, there are other related skills that contribute to this ability. Some key problem-solving skills include:
- Active listening
- Decision Making
Problem-solving skills are important in every career at every level. As a result, effective problem-solving may also require industry or job-specific technical skills. For example, a registered nurse will need active listening and communication skills when interacting with patients but will also need effective technical knowledge related to diseases and medications. In many cases, a nurse will need to know when to consult a doctor regarding a patient’s medical needs as part of the solution.
How to improve your problem-solving skills?
There are several methods you can use to improve your problem-solving skills. Whether you are searching for a job or currently working, improving your problem-solving skills and associated abilities will help make you a strong candidate and employee.
- Acquire more technical knowledge in your field – Depending on your industry, it may be easier to solve problems if you have strong working technical knowledge. You can more technical knowledge through additional coursework, training or practice.
- Seek out opportunities to problem solve – By putting yourself into new situations, you are more likely to be exposed to opportunities to problem solve. You may find there are opportunities to volunteer for new projects in your current role, on another team or outside the workplace for another organisation.
- Do practice problems – Practice and role-play can be useful tools when learning to develop your problem-solving skills. You can find professional practice books for your industry and problem-solving scenarios online. Practice how you might solve those problems and determine if your potential solutions are viable. For example, in customer service you might find a scenario like, “How would you handle an angry customer?” or “How do you respond when a customer asks for a refund?” Practising how you might handle these or other scenarios common in your industry can help you call upon solutions quickly when they arise on the job.
- Observe how others solve problems – You may have colleagues who are skilled problem solvers. Observing how those colleagues solve problems can help you improve your own skills. If possible, ask one of your more experienced colleagues if you can observe their techniques. Asking relevant questions can be helpful in applying them in your own career.