Top challenges of problem solving in the workplace

Published by Nick Murphy on

Top challenges of problem solving in the workplace

Table of contents

The workplace can be a challenging place, for both employers and employees. Growth comes with hurdles along the way. Whether individually or culturally, there will always be problems to overcome as the business moves forward. However, it can be difficult to implement real change in the workplace.

First, you need to identify the problem before attempting to resolve it. This step is challenging in itself because most people aren’t necessarily willing to point out their flaws, especially at work. 

Depending on the severity of the problem, you might need to implement company-wide changes to avoid potential future problems. This requires a behaviour change programme, which should engage employees in solving the problem. An effective solution needs the whole company’s buy-in, so communication and collaboration are key.

Research suggests that around 36% of workplaces require complex problem-solving skills as a core skill. Solving problems is one of many critical components at the core of business development. It’s important to ensure that both leaders and employees can address any problems they face throughout their workday, to keep the company on track.

Identifying the problem

This might sound simple. However, identifying the problem is more challenging than just pointing out what you would like to change. You need to understand the individual components, and where the problem stems from. You might think you know what the problem is but, with further investigation, you’ll find there are other factors at play.

Communicating the problem with your teams is one of the first steps to solving the problem, so it’s important to be clear on what you’re hoping to change:-

  • Start by identifying the issue at face value. Then, investigate further, and get to the core of each problem. Communicate with employees and discuss where they think the problem lies. Problem solving in the workplace needs to involve everyone who is affected. 
  • Analyse past data, and identify who is being impacted. Assess your processes to understand where there might be challenges for your employees. This step requires you to really get to know your workplace, and how it operates.

Once everyone has agreed on what needs to change, and the problem is clearly defined, then you can target the problem appropriately. The best strategy starts with a clear purpose.

man solving a problem at work writing on board


Some studies argue that it is impossible to be objective. However, it’s critical to be as unbiased as possible when problem solving in the workplace. Workplace changes based on biases cause other problems. 

Confirmation bias is one example of an opinion bias that can affect the workplace, and the ability to solve problems. Research suggests that people are far more likely to agree with or confirm statements or decisions that suit their own beliefs. This can make it difficult to solve problems, as the problem isn’t being assessed objectively.

One way to combat subjectivity during the problem solving process is to gather as many opinions as possible. Interview and communicate with relevant teams. This will help to provide as many viewpoints as possible.

It’s also important to specify clear measurable metrics, and use these to identify problems and successes. For instance, setting target KPIs allows you to objectively identify when targets haven’t been met, and further investigate the problem. Without clear indicators for progress and problems, opinions can get in the way of problem solving in the workplace.

The status quo

The status quo bias regularly affects our behaviour at work. Once employees are comfortable, they are less likely to stray outside of that comfort zone. Change can be a scary thing, and this fear can impact an employee’s ability to solve everyday problems. 

Employees are more likely to solve problems or make decisions based on what has the least impact on their working lives. This often happens subconsciously. The key is to challenge that status quo.

The best way to encourage engagement with change in your workforce is to be thorough, and communicate. 

Your research throughout the problem-solving process, and your drive for change, should be used to encourage employees to see your reasoning. Give a valid reason to make the change, and help them to see how it benefits them. 

Communicate how staff can help improve the workplace for all. Team meetings are a valuable tool to encourage discussions and drive creative thinking to solve problems. Workplace collaboration is important for maximum engagement and motivation to generate real problem solving in the workplace. The best problem solvers are collaborative workers.

work colleagues sat together discussing problems and sharing solutions

At BAD, we understand the barriers that businesses face when problem solving in the workplace. Employees can naturally avoid change, despite the benefits to the business. Involving your workforce in the problem solving process is key. Our HR tools and digital learning experiences can help you to improve collaboration within your workforce, and make company-wide changes. Get in touch with us today to discuss your training and behavioural change needs.

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