Can You Train Employees on Problem-Solving Skills?


Soft skills are highly valuable in today’s workforce. But can they be taught? Some employees may have a natural talent for skills such as problem solving, but there are ways to teach these skills as well. And if your team is lacking in problem-solving skills, it is vital you train them on problem-solving methods. This skill helps them be more independent and productive, working through roadblocks as they come up in their individual jobs.

How to Teach Problem Solving

Mathematician George Pólya summarized the problem-solving process with four steps:

  1. Make sure you understand the problem
  2. Make a plan for solving the problem
  3. Carry out the plan
  4. Review your work and ask, “How could it be better?”

The problem many employees have with this process is step number one. When a problem comes up, the instinct is often to jump straight to finding a solution. Teach your employees to ask questions, work from known to unknown, and do research when necessary to fully understand the problem.

Some managers have difficulty letting their employees handle problems on their own. As a manager, you may find yourself jumping in as soon as you see a problem on the horizon. While this is admirable, it does not allow your employees to utilize and grow their own problem-solving abilities. Give your employees the authority and freedom to work out their own problems. That being said, don’t hesitate to step in when problems are negatively affecting other employees or company clients. But whenever possible, encourage your employees to look for solutions to problems as they come up, rather than immediately giving them an answer.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Another important facet of problem solving is keeping a level head. Help your employees understand the need to keep calm and be confident when problems come up. Encourage them to take a quick break if they need to gain composure before attempting to brainstorm solutions. If it is not an urgent problem, suggest they move on to another task for a while, and then come back to the problem when they are feeling calmer.

The best way to ensure your staff have adequate problem-solving skills is to hire based, at least in part, on soft skills. But if your current employees need work, don’t despair; you can train them to be expert problem solvers. Follow us on Twitter for more great Oregon Staffing Solutions.


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