How to improve your problem-solving skills at work

How to improve your problem-solving skills at work

When we run into problems in the workplace, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and eventually become discouraged. In fact, a report from Ipsos found that 51% of Australians have reported feeling stressed at their organisation in the past year. However, utilising problem-solving skills effectively can help relieve some of this workplace stress. This includes determining why an issue is occurring and what steps need to be taken as a result — which can make problems at work feel less daunting. These skills are critical for every team member on the corporate ladder, but they may be even more important for us as business leaders and people managers.

In the workplace, being able to find solutions to complex problems, and subsequently, evaluate their effectiveness, gives companies confidence that you will be able to handle anything the job throws at you. Every role within an organisation will eventually run into issues, but problem solvers can observe, judge and act quickly when these hardships arise. The true importance of these skills is exemplified by a report from Firsthand which found the number one attribute employers are looking for in new hires is problem-solving ability — with over 91% of employers characterising this trait as desirable.

Keep in mind from entry-level candidates to senior-level roles, these problem-solving and critical thinking skills can be improved over time. As these abilities continue to be a key element in the workplace, here are critical steps in an effective problem-solving process.

1. Identifying and understanding the problem
The most essential step in the problem-solving process is to not only recognise the issue at hand but also define the problem as clearly as possible. A situation might involve multiple issues which means it's necessary to identify each, as well as the cause. A few best practices include separating facts from opinions, recognising organisational policies and procedures and having discussions with other team members involved to gather information.

2. Brainstorming a range of solutions
When it comes to finding a solution, the best approach includes determining your desired outcome and exploring how you can reach it. Not only can you consider all of the ways to solve the issue, but you can employ the help of others who are being affected by the problem or have had a similar experience in the past.

A businesswoman writes on a whiteboard at workHow to improve your problem-solving skills at work

3. Determining the proper solution
After brainstorming potential solutions you can evaluate your options and select the best option. Evaluation should take time, taking into consideration the positive and negative consequences of each alternative and any resources needed for adequate implementation. Following the evaluation process, you should feel prepared to make an informed and effective decision on the best solution moving forward.

4. Outlining plans for implementation
While understanding the problem and determining the right solution are integral features of the problem-solving process, a carefully crafted implementation plan is critical to achieving success. Implementation might include developing an action plan, defining timelines, communicating with those involved and developing feedback channels for evaluation.

After your solution is in place, it's vital to continuously monitor the situation and how it progresses as a result. This can help you recognise when adjustments need to be made for continued success.

Overall, problem-solving skills are an essential part of the workplace — for every team member. But, not everyone is well-adept at adequately or effectively employing these skills at work. However, with practice and the right training, this critical workplace skill can be significantly improved.

When it comes to elevating problem-solving skills at work, ICML can help. Contact us to discuss training options or learn more about our creative problem-solving course.


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