Why is problem solving an important workplace skill?

October 26, 2022
Mikaella McInerney
Why is problem solving an important workplace skill?

The course of work never did run smooth. From time to time, we all run into trouble in our workplace, coming across challenges which can’t be solved with a quick Google. That’s why it’s important to hire people who have good problem solving skills, with the ability to think creatively and strategically about any unexpected issue that comes their way.

In this article, we’ll break down what’s meant by the umbrella term “problem solving skills”. We’ll give you examples of problem solving skills and talk about why problem solving is so important in the workplace. Creating the best environment for team problem solving requires hiring skilled candidates, so read on for everything you need to know about problem solving skills and how to find them in the recruiting world!

What are problem solving skills?

The definition of problem solving skills is the ability to first identify problems, then strategically brainstorm and implement solutions. As you can see, problem solving skills are basically a three step process:

  1. Spot the problem
  2. Analyze and brainstorm answers
  3. Execute the solution

Problem solving skills therefore are an umbrella term for a lot of smaller and equally important skills which go together to create a whole. As a recruiter, you’ll be looking for candidates who display great analytical and creative thinking, as well as the ability to take the initiative and launch themselves into solving a problem without being explicitly directed that way. Attention to detail is another skill that complements problem solving, as someone paying close attention to every tiny element of work is likely to spot problems sooner than others.

What are some examples of problem solving skills?

Because problem solving skills are such a broad field, it’s useful to look at examples of specific types of problem solving skills and how they enhance the workplace.

Listening skills

Problem-solvers are independent, but not solitary. Rather, they recognize how important other people’s input is, and there’s no better place to showcase this than in their active listening skills. People with good problem solving skills listen actively to their colleagues, take onboard other people’s opinions and ideas and listen to everyone around them to get a full picture of the scenario. That means that they have a good sense of the entire context surrounding an issue before they start coming up with solutions, ensuring they have no blind spots.

Analytical thinking

Someone with good problem solving skills will analyze each issue in order to design a specific and effective solution for the problem. They use analytical thinking to identify the reasons why a problem occurred and what the problem’s long-term effects might be. They apply the same analytical thinking to brainstorming a solution, considering how different solutions might be effective and selecting the most practical one.

Creative thinking

Often, solving a problem means thinking outside the box. Creative thinkers don’t rely on pure analysis or how problems have been solved in the past: they are ready to embrace new ideas, try new techniques and come up with unexpected solutions to typical problems. A creative thinker values innovative and progressive solutions that will be useful in more ways than one. Imaginative and experimental answers make them great problem solvers!

Communication skills

Because no employee is an island, someone with good problem solving skills also has great communication skills to back them up. They’ll be able to explain the problem and the solution to their colleagues, coordinate a team response, and make sure that no one is left out of the loop. They’ll be able to break down a complex problem and solution into a succinct explanation that everyone can understand and implement.

Decision-making skills

A good problem solver tends to be confident and bold in their decision making. Solving the problem often means taking the initiative, acting independently and implementing solutions quickly, so you want someone with smart and assured decision-making skills who is ready to make a call when needed.


A lot of problem-solving requires independent work and taking the initiative. But it’s crucial that someone with good problem solving skills also works well as part of a team, to ensure that the solution is fitting for the entire organization and that it’s communicated well. Creating the best solution often requires collaboration and you need a candidate who recognizes that.

Why is problem solving important in the workplace?

These problem solving examples show all the different ways problem solving can help a workplace. But more than that, a candidate with good problem solving skills can handle anything their jobs throw at them. They can spot flaws, help you optimize your organization and adapt as your organization changes over the years. They observe, judge and act quickly when you need them to. And most of the time, they will do this without direct supervision, making them an asset to every team!

Let’s look at some examples of why problem solving is so important in the workplace.

The gift of time

People with good problem solving skills organize their time intelligently and have great time-management skills, making them a gift to any company. They organize their priorities and focus on the most important problems in a workplace. And they also save the time and capacity of other people around them, because good problem solvers don’t go running to their manager with every little issue.

High-level strategies, day-to-day detail

People with good problem solving skills keep an overview of both the day-to-day problems and tasks coming their way and of the higher level strategy and direction of the company. They are able to easily assess customer, client and colleague’s needs as well as planning, prioritizing and executing strategies to meet them. They are the ideal mix of a high-level thinker who keeps on top of everyday tasks!

Creative thinking under pressure

A problem solver thinks outside the box, always, in order to come up with unexpected and imaginative solutions to long-term problems. But they’re also skilled at working under pressure and to meet deadlines, ensuring that your company’s workflows are both efficient and thorough.

Risk-takers, risk-thinkers

Any business venture has a certain amount of risk built into it. People with good problem solving skills embrace this risk. They expect problems, so they’re not phased by issues coming their way, but then they work hard to solve them, sometimes in unexpected and innovative ways. That means they are people accustomed to both taking and thinking through risks, ensuring that every move they make is calculated, bold and strategic.

How do I assess problem solving skills?

Now that we understand why problem solving skills are so important, it’s time to consider how to assess them. Lots of organizations use problem-solving interview questions to assess a candidate’s problem solving skills. But often, the most effective way of assessing this skillset is via a pre-employment problem-solving skills test. These problem-solving skills tests give you the best idea of a candidate’s existing skills and are one of the most important indications of how well a candidate will perform in the future.

Assess problem solving skills and more with HiPeople’s smart hiring technology to ensure you hire the right candidate, every time. Book a free demo today.