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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

13 Ways Analytical Skills Help You Succeed At Work

13 Ways Analytical Skills Help You Succeed At Work

Have you ever been in a job interview and were asked a question like,

“Tell me about a problem you encountered and how you overcame it”?

Did you ever wonder why these types of questions are even asked? It’s because the employer is evaluating your analytical skills.

Employers value employees with good analytical skills because they are seen as problem solvers. So, let’s look at what analytical skills are, why they’re important and the 13 most important analytical skills that will help you succeed at work.

What Are Analytical Skills?

Notice that hey are called analytical skills, not analytical talents. This is a very important distinction, as talent refers to a natural ability. A skill is something that can be learned or acquired.

And just like any skill, analytical skills get better with time, repetition and practice. But what exactly are analytical skill?

For our purposes analytical skills include the ability to:

Recognize and Pinpoint Problems

It’s not enough just to recognize that a 20% return rate for a product is a problem. You need to pinpoint a reason for the problem by….

Researching and Collecting Data

This is not always as easy as it seems. There can be a lot of data out there. You need to be able to separate what’s relevant from what’s noise.

Analyze the Data Collected

This is part of separating what data is relevant and what’s not. But it also involves being able to weight all of the relevant factors. For example, that 20% return rate could be due to a combination of manufacturing defects, poor customer education and shipping delays. But how much weight do each of these things carry?

Problem Solving/Critical Thinking

Once you have gone through the first three steps, you can now identify the steps needed to solve the problem. You should be able to propose solutions that have a high probability of a positive outcome.

Now, in addition to these analytical skills, there are secondary skills that are just as important to your success. These include:

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Communication

You could have the best analysis and recommendations in the world. But in order for it to be useful, you need to be able to communicate it effectively to a team, management or shareholders.

Implementation

It’s important to have a plan to implement the solutions you are proposing. Just saying that the solution to a 20% return rate is to lower the number of manufacturing defects isn’t really helpful.

But saying that one hinge is causing the majority of the returns and here’s a replacement. Now that’s helpful.

Creativity

Sometimes pinpointing the problem is easy, but it’s coming up with the solution that’s difficult. Being able to look at the data and think “outside the box” is a skill that will really make you stand out.

As an example, I once had a company that sold small fryers to bowling alleys, movie theaters and the like. They could make small batches of fries, chicken wings or mozzarella sticks for their customers. The problem was that the price tag was more than a lot of them could afford.

Our solution was to partner up with a food distributor. We would give the fryers away for free, but they had to buy all of the food from our distributor. We then received a commission from the distributor for every chicken wing and mozzarella stick they sold. It was a win, win, win for everyone.

All the analytical skills mentioned above are important and sought after by employers. They are part of a well-rounded workforce. So, how can you take these skills and make them work for you, your company and your career?

13 Analytical Skills That Will Help You Succeed at Work

1. Budgeting

Owners, managers and department heads all need to be able to create budgets for their departments, teams and projects.

A good manager will use analytical skills to gather, analyze and interpret prior data in order to accurately forecast future budgetary requirements.

2. Making Your Ideas and Suggestions Stand Out

So, let’s say that your boss has tasked you and three other department heads to come up with ways to increase efficiency. It’s tempting to rely on your knowledge and experience to come up 3-4 ways to achieve the goal.

Someone might suggest a bonus for completing assignments on time. Someone else may suggest a way to reschedule how a project gets assigned. But if you can be the one that comes in with concrete solutions backed up by verifiable research and data. You’ve immediately set yourself and our ideas apart for the rest.

3. Estimating and Bidding Projects

Whether you’re a contractor going out and bidding million-dollar construction projects, or a web developer building websites, being able to accurately estimate and bid jobs is crucial. And it’s only through analytical skills and experience that will keep you from losing money.

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4. Collaboration

When working within groups or team, it’s important that everyone has a clear understanding of four things:

  • What the problem is
  • What part of the solution they are responsible for
  • The time frame they have to solve it
  • What an acceptable outcome looks like.

This is the analytical approach to project management.

5. Comparison

There is no such thing as the “perfect” solution. And many times, a problem has more than one solution. Analytical skills allow you to evaluate the pros and cons of various scenarios in order to maximize the pros and minimize the cons.

6. Recognizing Correlations and Causations

We’ve all heard the phrase “correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.” And it’s true.

Did you know that an increase in ice cream consumption correlates to an increase in violent street crime? It’s absolutely true, but ice cream consumption does not cause street crime. They are correlated because both increase in the summer, when it’s hot and more people are outside.

But you wouldn’t want to address the problem of street crime by banning ice cream.

7. Proper Diagnosis

Having a good analytical skill set allows you to properly diagnosis problem or inefficiencies within the organization. The data may show that there is a problem in the manufacturing process, but it’s the analysis of the data that points to the problem. Is the cause of the problem a design flaw, supplier issue, human error or quality control?

8. Human Resource Management

By using analytical skills, a manager or team leader can assess each individuals’ strengths and weaknesses, thereby assigning tasks according to skill sets. It is also helpful in pointing out areas where additional or remedial training is needed.

9. Project Planning

Analytical skills allow us to break down a large project into its individual parts. Then, coordinate a synergistic corresponding timeline for the completion of the project. This, is the very definition of an analytical skill that can help you succeed at work.

10. Prioritizing

Whether it’s taking on a new project or identifying problems or inefficiencies in a system, there is rarely a single issue involved.

Most of the time, there are several steps in the process that need to be addressed. It’s through analytical thinking that you can prioritize the problems you have identified.

For example, you determine that your 20% return rate breaks down this way. 50% manufacturing defects, 25% from damage during shipping, 15% from poor customer education and 10% from from the design. We now can address these issues accordingly.

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11. Recognizing Biases

Everyone has biases, and there is no way to eliminate them in discussions and decision making. The best you can do is to be aware of them in both yourself others and others. This is a skill that takes both self-discipline and self-awareness to master.

There is a funny scene in the television show “The Office” where the boss Michael Scott has a surplus in his budget at the end of the year. Half of his staff want him to spend it on a new copier, and the other half wants him to buy new chairs for the office. Michael is torn, until he discovers that if he returns the surplus to corporate, he’ll get a bonus of 25% of the surplus. Suddenly his self-interest has created a bias.

12. Process Analysis

This is especially helpful when there are systemic issues that are causing a problem. All too often we only see and address a problem by the result.

The customer didn’t like the way the website was built so we assume that it’s a communication issue between our programmer and the customer. That’s easy, but through process analysis, we may find that we assigned a retail website to a programmer who specializes in B2B websites. So, the real answer is to fix the process of assigning projects.

13. Reporting, Both Verbal and Written

Everyone in business has a boss, from the janitor all the way up to the chairman of the board. And reporting to those bosses is an ongoing process.

From written status reports to individual and group meetings, supplying information to your superiors is a never-ending cycle. So, unless you are asked for a personal opinion, it’s always best to have your thoughts and suggestions backed up by empirical evidence.

Your opinions, suggestions and recommendations are going to be taken more seriously if you have the data to back them up.

How to Develop and Sharpen Your Analytical Skills

So, we’ve talked a lot about analytical skills, what they are and why they are valued by employers. But how do you learn these skills, how do you discern the pertinent data from the irrelevant?

The answer is through a combination of education and experience. We’ll start with education as a foundation, and then talk about how to get real life experience.

Education

Community colleges are a great place to start. Almost all community colleges.[1] have courses in business, business administration and statics. But in reality, you don’t even need to go that far. With the advent of the internet, there are low cost accredited online courses that you can take in your spare time.

YouTube is another great place for free educational videos on analytical skills and thinking. There are a wealth of videos on what analytical skills are, as well as practical ways to develop them.

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Finally, take advantage of professional training and courses offered through your place of work or trade organizations. These can be especially helpful as these programs are normally designed to be industry specific.

Experience

We’ve all heard the old saying that experience is the best teacher, and that’s certainly true with learning analytical skills. There really is no substitute to putting in the 10,000 hours of repetition and practice to become an expert. But there are some things that you can do to start sharpening your skill immediately.

Start playing brain games. There are a lot of them out there and you can start to train you mind to think analytically just by playing them just 15 minutes a day. A few of the more popular ones include, Wizard, Elevate and Brain Trainer Special,[2] but there are many more. But, if you’re not into apps or computer games, then chess and Sudoku are excellent choices too.

Take notice and start questioning everything. When you get your morning coffee, notice how the place is set up. Where the customer places their order, where the workstations are, how the order moves through the system.

Can you understand why the store is set up that way? Is it an efficient setup or can you see bottlenecks that reduce efficiency? What kind of solutions can you come up with to fix any problems? After a while, thinking like this will become second nature.

Find a mentor. We said upfront that experience is the best teacher, but experience takes time. Finding a mentor who has the experience is the next best thing. In fact, having a mentor for your professional life can literally mean the difference between mediocrity and greatness. Having great mentors means that you are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Conclusion

Analytical skills can help you with every phase of your career, from helping you stand out from the crowd in the hiring process to advancing your career within an industry. And just like a good salesperson, having good analytical skills means that you’ll always be in demand.

But the key to improving your analytical skills lies in your desire to succeed. Developing and honing your skills can be done a variety of way as we discussed earlier. But it’s up to you to make the decision and commitment to put the time and effort into developing analytical skills.

You can start by giving yourself a basic foundation through courses, videos and industry training. Then practice, practice, practice. Soon, the whole process will become second nature to you and your value within the industry will skyrocket.

More Essential Skills to Develop

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.

Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.

Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.

Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.

Effective vs Efficient

Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”[1]

A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.

Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.

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The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.

Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.

When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.

Effectiveness in Success and Productivity

Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect[2]. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.

The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.

If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.

When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:

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  • Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
  • What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
  • Does the cost balance out with the benefit?

Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.

Efficiency in Success and Productivity

Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.

When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways[3]. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.

Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.

The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.

If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.

Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.

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The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.

Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity

Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.

If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.

It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.

Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.

Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.

Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.

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By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.

It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.

Bottom Line

Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:

  • Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
  • Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
  • Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.

And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.

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Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: effective and efficient
[2] Mind Tools: Being Effective at Work
[3] Inc.: 8 Things Really Efficient People Do

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