Siew Wah Yong, Kepner-Tregoe

There is little room for argument that the business world is evolving quickly and the skills needed from tomorrow’s workforce will be drastically different than the skills of today. HR Professionals, Business Leaders and Educators are always seeking to get ahead of the changes that are taking place to ensure that the supply of relevant skills is available to meet the demand when it arrives. The challenge is knowing what the needed skills will be with enough lead time to respond. What if there was a universal skill that these workforce professionals could focus their attention on – something that is known today and will grow in importance in the future instead of becoming obsolete? But there is… Problem Solving Skills!!

Problem solving skills have existed throughout human history and have led to every innovation, technological advancement, and entrepreneurial success ever made. From small businesses to global enterprises across all industries, companies rely on the problem solving skills of their employees every day to respond to challenges and opportunities – unlocking new ideas, new products and new markets. Technology becomes obsolete, differentiated products become commodities, and competition erodes market potential. Skills centered around these areas have a limited useful life and often are already on the decline when most workers learn them. The skill that doesn’t follow this pattern is problem solving. 

There is a never-ending supply of problems to be solved in almost every company. As soon as one is resolved, another more challenging problem will replace it. The easy problems get solved first (as the low hanging fruit is harvested) leaving a next set of problems that is far more difficult.This is the nature of progress. With problems taking on increasing degrees of complexity and difficulty, the skills that workers employ to address them must become more and more sophisticated as well.

As the speed of business change accelerates through technology advancement and the free flow of global information, problems not only become more complex, but they also take on a heightened time sensitivity. For opportunities, the window of time to harvest benefit from the solution to a problem may be very short (as competitors mimic changes). For problems that are challenges or risks, the impact of delayed resolution can be devastating to a business’s financial performance.

Fortunately for HR professionals, business leaders and educators, problem solving skills are fairly universal and can be transferred across industries. This is important as technical skills become obsolete and the need arises to re-train workers for new jobs and new industries. For educators, primarily concerned with training the workforce with the skills they will need to be successful, problem solving methodologies are easily taught at all educational levels across languages and cultures. For HR professionals, demonstrated proficiency in solving complex problems using structured methodologies represents a core competency that can be used to evaluate a candidate’s potential for success in a new role (even if the role is outside of their area of past experience). For business leaders, problem solving skills can be a tremendous way to up-level the existing workforce and identify employees with high potential for future contribution to the company.

Kepner-Tregoe has been providing problem solving training and consulting to companies across a variety of industries for over 50 years.  Are you interested in leveraging this universal skill to up-level your workforce? If so, the problem-solving experts at Kepner-Tregoe are here to help.

()