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The Most Important Soft Skill You Might Not Be Developing

Written by Miranda Pennington

The most important skill people attempting to address the “skills gap” tend to miss is actually problem solving!

Employees: Improve Your Skills!

As many as 77%  of employers are determining their new hires based on soft skills like problem solving, communication, and ethics. They know that without these kinds of skills, on-the-job training is more difficult for managers and colleagues alike.

If you are good at problem-solving, then you know how to learn independently—you’ll improve and develop as an employee no matter what context you’re working in. When you get frustrated, you turn that into motivation to find the answer instead of giving up. You know how to maintain your problem-solving “muscles” so that they that kick in whenever the going gets tough.

In order to improve your abilities, Tim Murphy, founder of ApplyMate, recommends exercise books that give you brainteasers or word problems to solve—these are low stakes opportunities to build your skill set.

Employers: Find and Nurture this Important Skill

As an employer, Pomeroy recommends developing screening protocols for job applicants, like tests that ask prospective hires to solve real problems they’re likely to face on the job. Hiring managers could even build in a collaborative component by asking them to talk through issues with current employees.

If you’re looking at your current employees and noticing crucial deficits, consider offering employee training with personal coaches or monthly professional development presentations. You can give your employees agency to identify and address their own areas for improvement. In addition, allowing them to give presentations in groups or alone will build their sense of self-sufficiency. Prioritize problem solving, and you’ll cultivate a workforce that knows how to work together and independently; eventually they’ll solve problems before they happen.

How to Identify and Train the Skill That Matters Most

Read More at TalentCulture World of Work

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.