Problem Solving Large

Why Problem Solving Skills Matter

January 8, 2020

​Employers need all staff to have problem solving skills. You will have challenges in every job regardless of skill level. Some problems are rather simple (e.g., fixing a jammed printer) others are very challenging (e.g., finding a cure for cancer).

You can use the basic problem solving and decision making approach when you face problems. The basic steps are:

  • Understand the problem. You may understand the problem based on past experience and past research. You may need to conduct your own research such as testing or collecting customer feedback.

  • Construct a plan to solve the problem. It is important to document the plan so that you know the details for replicating or modifying the plan in the future. Be open to using creative thinking and new approaches. In some cases, your plan may be as simple as putting together a list of pros and cons to help you make a decision.

  • Execute the plan. Keep good records as you move forward with the plan. This will help you identify what works and what does not work.

  • Evaluate the results. Use critical thinking skills to determine parts of the plan that worked and possible solutions for the areas that need improvement.

Illinois Essential Employability Skills

Teamwork: Critical Thinking

  • Demonstrates sound decision making.
  • Exhibits problem solving skills.

Teamwork: Effective and Cooperative Work

  • Demonstrates an ability to work effectively with others.
  • Is willing to ask questions and seek clarification or guidance.
  • Uses appropriate strategies and solutions in dealing with conflicts/differences to maintain a smooth workflow.
For more information on Team Work Skills check out the Why Leadership and Teamwork Skills Matter Article here

Foundation Skill Other Examples

Critical & Analytic Thinking

  • Review, analyze, synthesize, compare, and interpret information.

Active Learning

  • Apply a range of learning techniques to acquire new knowledge and skills.
  • Process and retain information.​
  • Identify when it is necessary to acquire new knowledge and skills.

Adaptability & Flexibility

  • Embrace new approaches.
  • Use innovative methods when there are limited resources.
  • Be open to change plans, goals, actions or priorities when situations change.

Creative Thinking

  • Use information and knowledge to generate innovative solutions to problems.
  • Understand the big picture.

Checking, Examining, & Recording

  • Detect and correct errors.
  • Complete appropriate forms accurately.
  • Collect and verify accurate information.
  • Maintain records.

Problem Solving & Decision Making

  • Understand the problem.
  • Construct a plan to solve the problem.
  • Execute the plan.
  • Evaluate results.

Scheduling and Coordinating

  • Coordinate schedules.
  • Make arrangements (e.g., travel, meeting).
  • Inform others of arrangements.
  • Verify and correct arrangements.

Technical Skills

  • Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues, and identify trends and forecast possibilities.

Management Skill Other Examples

Monitoring & Controlling Resources

  • Identify resources.
  • Develop strategic plans for making resources available.
  • Anticipate future resource needs.
  • Identify, track, and prioritize existing resource needs.
  • Have a backup plan to make sure there are adequate resources if there is an unforeseen circumstance.
  • Identify cost efficiencies.

Preparing & Evaluating Budgets

  • Gather information.
  • Prepare cost estimates.
  • Ensure accuracy and completeness.


  • Ensure an appropriate staff level is maintained to meet goals.
  • Identify required skills.
  • Assess qualifications.

Monitoring Work

  • Identify performance criteria.
  • Measure progress.
  • Review work.
  • Get feedback.

Scenario Guides

If you’d like to quickly test yourself on these skills, check out our scenario guides. These guides provide you with a few example situations on the first page, as well as space where you can write your solutions. Once you’ve done this, measure your responses against our answers on the second page.

You can find these guides in the “Documents” section of this article.

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