The importance of problem solving skills in the workplace can't be overstated. Every business and every job role has its problems. From entry-level hires to senior staffers, every one of your employees will face challenges that don’t can't be answered by a quick Google search.
That's why it's critical for employers to hire people with problem solving skills, especially for roles that require dealing with complex business challenges, tight deadlines, and changing variables.
But what are problem solving skills? And how do they come into play in the workplace? Most importantly, how can you evaluate candidates’ skills before you hire them.
What are problem solving skills?
To fully comprehend the importance of problem solving skills in the workplace, it's important first to understand the broad skillset they are comprised of. Generally, problem solving refers to a person’s ability to successfully manage and find solutions for complex and unexpected situations.
Candidates with great problem solving skills have a combination of both analytical and creative thinking. They’re comfortable with making decisions and confident enough to rise to challenges in the workplace.
These candidates possess a combination of analytical, creative, critical thinking skills and a high level of attention to detail. As a result, they will quickly identify problems when they arise and identify the most effective solutions. They’ll also identify the factors and forces that might have caused the problem and instigate changes to mitigate future challenges.
There are six key problem solving skills that you should look for when assessing job candidates:
1. Listening skills
Active listeners are generally great problem solvers. They are able to listen to those around them to gather the information needed to solve the problem at hand. They recognize the importance of valuing others’ opinions and experiences to help understand why the problem occurred and the best course of action to remedy it.
2. Analytical thinking skills
Analytical thinkers are able to identify the logical reasons why a problem occurred, what the long-term effects of the issue could be, and identify how effective different solutions might be in order to select the most practical one.
3. Creative thinking skills
Creative thinkers are able to balance their analytical skills with creative solutions. Creative thinking skills allow individuals to uncover innovative and progressive solutions to problems. They’re able to provide new perspectives, and provide imaginative and experimental solutions to all kinds of problems.
4. Communication skills
Problem solvers should also possess great communication skills. The ability to effectively relay complex information thoroughly yet succinctly is a huge benefit for employers working in fast-paced environments.
5. Decision-making skills
Those with problem solving skills will also possess the ability to make decisions and be confident in them. This is important, as most problem solving steps involve making firm decisions to provide a successful outcome.
Although problem solvers need to be independent thinkers, it’s also vital for them to work well as part of a team. Determining the best solution often requires collaboration, so it’s important that candidates can demonstrate how they can motivate others to come up with the best solutions and work with them to help develop and implement solutions.
Why are problem solving skills important?
Problem solving skills allow you to find candidates who are cognitively equipped to handle anything their jobs throw at them.
Problem solvers can observe, judge, and act quickly when difficulties arise when they inevitably do. Moreover, they are not afraid of the unknown, which is invaluable to employers who rely on their employees to identify and solve problems.
There are several important benefits of problem solving skills in the workplace. Below, we’ll go through five of the most significant traits that all problem solvers can bring to their roles and workplaces.
1. Ability to organize their time intelligently
Time management skills can often be underlooked as one of the benefits of problem solving skills in the workplace. However, those with problem solving abilities also typically possess stellar time-management skills. The ability to manage their time wisely and laser-focus on what’s important to the business will lead to better decision-making and business impact.
2. Ability to prioritize, plan, and execute strategies
Problem solvers have no issue with carefully assessing customer and client needs and how to prioritize, plan, and execute strategies for how to meet them. They can manage all moving parts, since they can strategize how best to meet multiple unique demands.
3. Ability to think outside the box
Problem solvers can often identify opportunities in problems. Thinking outside of the box is an important problem solving skill in the workplace, since it can often lead to better outcomes than had been expected originally.
4. Ability to work under pressure
This is often one of the most important benefits of problem solving skills in the workplace. Problem solvers often have personalities that respond well under pressure, including accelerated deadlines and changing project parameters.
Depending on your workplace culture, you might prefer someone who can deliver quick solutions or someone who takes their time to identify the next steps -- both are valid problem solving qualities.
5. Ability to address risk
Planning ahead is an important problem solving skill. Problem solvers are not just equipped to deal with the problem at hand, but are also able to anticipate problems that will arise in the future based on trends, patterns, experience, and current events.
How to assess problem solving skills
Many organizations use problem solving interview questions to identify the right candidates for their job openings. However, the most effective way to assess problem solving skills is with pre-employment skills tests.
That's because skills tests provide an objective way to quantify a candidate's problem solving skills in a way that isn't possible during an interview.
How problem solving skills tests work
Tests like TestGorilla’s problem solving skills test. assist organizations in finding candidates who quickly identify the key elements of the problem and work through the problem at speed without making mistakes. By presenting candidates with a wide range of questions related to typical problem solving scenarios, hiring teams are able to rank their candidates based on an intensive assessment of each candidate's skill level.
The test specifically evaluates whether a candidate can perform problem solving tasks like:
- creating and adjust schedules
- prioritizing items based on a given set of rules
- interpreting data and applying logic to make decisions
- analyzing textual and numerical information to draw conclusions
As you can see, even the best interviewer would have trouble assessing each of these skill areas while still covering other questions that need to be asked in an interview.
Hire candidates who can think for themselves
If you're convinced of the importance of problem solving skills in the workplace and want to build a team of employees that can think independently and solve their own problems without needing constant supervision, assess problem solving skills during the hiring process. Using a problem solving assessment is an easy way to evaluate your candidates' overall analytical skills so that you can benefit from this essential skillset.