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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

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David Carpenter

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

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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