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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

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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 January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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