How to Conduct a Problem-Solving Session with Human Resources?

How to Conduct a Feedback Session with Operations

In any organization, human resources (HR) plays a vital role in resolving conflicts and finding effective solutions to problems that arise. Problem-solving sessions with HR are crucial for maintaining a harmonious work environment and promoting employee satisfaction. In this article, we will explore the steps involved in conducting a problem-solving session with human resources and how to ensure its success.

Understanding the Importance of Problem-Solving in HR

Effective problem-solving is a key responsibility of HR professionals. They are the mediators and facilitators in conflict resolution within the organization. HR professionals are trained to address various issues that arise among employees and between employees and management. By proactively managing conflicts, HR can create a positive work environment, leading to increased employee satisfaction and improved overall productivity.

HR professionals play a crucial role in maintaining harmony and resolving conflicts within the workplace. They possess the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate through complex interpersonal dynamics and find solutions that are fair and satisfactory to all parties involved. Through their expertise, HR professionals ensure that conflicts are addressed promptly and effectively, preventing them from escalating and causing further disruptions in the workplace.

The Role of HR in Conflict Resolution

HR professionals act as impartial third parties when conflicts arise. They listen to the concerns of all parties involved and work towards finding a fair and satisfactory resolution. By maintaining confidentiality and trust, HR professionals can create an open and safe space for employees to express their grievances. They also ensure that all parties are treated fairly and that any resolutions align with company policies and regulations.

When conflicts arise, HR professionals employ various conflict resolution techniques such as mediation, negotiation, and arbitration. They facilitate constructive dialogue between conflicting parties, encouraging them to express their perspectives and concerns. Through active listening and effective communication, HR professionals help parties understand each other’s viewpoints, leading to a greater likelihood of finding common ground and resolving the conflict amicably.

Furthermore, HR professionals play a crucial role in preventing conflicts from arising in the first place. They proactively identify potential sources of conflict within the organization and implement strategies to address them. By fostering a culture of open communication and promoting positive relationships among employees, HR professionals create an environment where conflicts are less likely to occur.

The Impact of Effective Problem-Solving on Employee Satisfaction

When conflicts and problems are effectively resolved through problem-solving sessions, employees feel heard and valued. This leads to increased job satisfaction, engagement, and commitment towards their work and the organization. Moreover, it fosters a culture of open communication, collaboration, and teamwork, which are essential for success within any organization.

Employees who witness effective problem-solving in action are more likely to trust the HR department and have confidence in its ability to handle conflicts. This, in turn, enhances employee morale and creates a positive work environment where individuals feel supported and empowered. When employees know that their concerns will be taken seriously and addressed promptly, they are more likely to be proactive in addressing issues and working towards their resolution.

Furthermore, effective problem-solving in HR contributes to the overall organizational success. By resolving conflicts and addressing underlying issues, HR professionals create a harmonious work environment where employees can focus on their tasks and responsibilities. This leads to improved productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness across the organization, ultimately contributing to its growth and success.

Preparing for a Problem-Solving Session

Before conducting a problem-solving session, certain preparatory steps should be taken to ensure its effectiveness. These steps involve careful planning and thorough preparation to address the specific issues at hand.

Identifying the Issues

The first step in preparing for a problem-solving session is identifying the specific issues that need to be addressed. This involves gathering information from various sources, such as employee feedback, performance reviews, and incident reports. By clearly defining the problems, HR professionals can focus the session and avoid wasting time on unrelated matters.

During the process of identifying the issues, it is important to consider the root causes behind them. This requires a comprehensive analysis of the situation, taking into account both internal and external factors that may contribute to the problems. By understanding the underlying causes, HR professionals can develop effective strategies to address and resolve the issues.

Gathering Relevant Information

Once the issues are identified, it is crucial to gather all relevant information related to the problems. This may include reviewing relevant policies, procedures, and documentation, as well as interviewing the individuals involved to gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation. Collecting sufficient data ensures that the problem-solving session is based on accurate information and facilitates informed decision-making.

In addition to gathering information, it is also important to consider the perspectives of all stakeholders involved. This includes not only the employees directly affected by the issues but also managers, supervisors, and other relevant parties. By taking into account different viewpoints, HR professionals can gain a more holistic understanding of the problems and develop solutions that address the needs and concerns of all parties involved.

Setting Clear Objectives for the Session

Before commencing the problem-solving session, HR professionals should establish clear objectives. These objectives define the desired outcomes of the session, such as resolving conflicts, improving communication, or reaching consensus on a particular issue. Clear objectives help keep the session focused and guide the discussions towards achieving the desired results.

Setting clear objectives also involves prioritizing the issues to be addressed. Not all problems may require immediate attention, and some may be more critical than others. By prioritizing the issues, HR professionals can allocate the necessary time and resources to each problem, ensuring that the most pressing matters are adequately addressed during the session.

In addition to setting objectives, it is also important to establish a timeline for the problem-solving session. This helps create a sense of urgency and ensures that the session does not drag on indefinitely. By setting a timeline, HR professionals can effectively manage the session and ensure that all necessary discussions and activities are completed within the allocated time.

Conducting the Problem-Solving Session

During the problem-solving session, HR professionals need to follow certain guidelines to ensure its effectiveness. This involves establishing ground rules, encouraging open communication, and implementing effective problem-solving techniques.

Establishing Ground Rules

At the beginning of the session, it is important to establish ground rules that promote respectful and constructive communication. Ground rules may include active listening, speaking without interruptions, and maintaining confidentiality. These rules create a safe environment for participants to express their thoughts and concerns without fear of judgment or reprisal.

Additionally, HR professionals can emphasize the importance of respecting diverse perspectives and fostering an inclusive atmosphere. By setting clear expectations for behavior and interaction, participants can feel more comfortable sharing their ideas and engaging in meaningful dialogue.

Encouraging Open Communication

HR professionals should encourage open and honest communication throughout the problem-solving session. This involves actively listening to all parties involved, asking clarifying questions, and ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to express their viewpoints.

Furthermore, HR professionals can facilitate effective communication by creating a non-judgmental space where individuals feel heard and understood. They can encourage participants to actively engage in dialogue, share their experiences, and provide constructive feedback. By fostering an environment of trust and respect, HR professionals can help participants overcome communication barriers and build stronger relationships.

Implementing Effective Problem-Solving Techniques

During the session, HR professionals can utilize various problem-solving techniques to facilitate discussions and reach resolutions. These techniques may include brainstorming, mediation, negotiation, or consensus-building.

Brainstorming allows participants to generate a wide range of ideas and potential solutions. By encouraging creativity and suspending judgment, HR professionals can help participants explore innovative approaches to problem-solving.

Mediation techniques can be employed when conflicts arise during the session. HR professionals can act as neutral facilitators, guiding participants towards finding common ground and resolving differences. Through active listening and reframing, they can help parties understand each other’s perspectives and work towards mutually beneficial outcomes.

Negotiation skills are crucial in problem-solving sessions, as they enable HR professionals to find compromises and trade-offs that satisfy the needs of all parties involved. By focusing on interests rather than positions, HR professionals can help participants identify shared goals and reach mutually agreeable solutions.

Consensus-building involves fostering collaboration and reaching a collective decision. HR professionals can facilitate discussions that allow participants to explore different viewpoints, analyze potential consequences, and ultimately arrive at a consensus that best addresses the identified problems.

In conclusion, conducting an effective problem-solving session requires HR professionals to establish ground rules, encourage open communication, and implement various problem-solving techniques. By creating a safe and inclusive environment, facilitating meaningful dialogue, and guiding participants towards collaborative solutions, HR professionals can help organizations address challenges and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Post-Session Actions and Follow-ups

Once the problem-solving session has concluded, there are important steps to take to ensure the agreed-upon solutions are implemented and progress is monitored.

Evaluating the Outcome of the Session

HR professionals should evaluate the outcomes of the problem-solving session to assess its effectiveness. This involves considering whether the identified issues were adequately addressed, if all parties are satisfied with the resolution, and if any follow-up actions are necessary. Evaluation helps identify areas for improvement and allows HR professionals to refine their problem-solving skills for future sessions.

Implementing Agreed Upon Solutions

After the session, it is essential to implement the agreed-upon solutions. HR professionals should communicate the resolutions to all relevant individuals and ensure that appropriate actions are taken promptly. Clear communication and follow-through on the agreed solutions demonstrate the commitment of the organization towards resolving conflicts and improving the work environment.

Monitoring Progress and Providing Feedback

Regularly monitoring progress and providing feedback is crucial to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the solutions. HR professionals should follow up with the individuals involved to determine if the agreed-upon solutions are being implemented and if they are achieving the desired outcomes. Ongoing communication and support from HR demonstrate the organization’s commitment to continuous improvement and employee satisfaction.

Conducting problem-solving sessions with human resources is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and productive work environment. By understanding the importance of problem-solving, adequately preparing for the session, conducting it effectively, and following up on agreed solutions, HR professionals can create a positive and collaborative workplace culture. Ultimately, this leads to increased employee satisfaction, improved productivity, and the overall success of the organization.

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When Your Go-To Problem-Solving Approach Fails

  • Cheryl Strauss Einhorn

problem solving techniques within an hr context

Eight steps to help you assess what’s not working — and why.

We make decisions all day, every day. The way we make decisions depends largely on context and our own unique problem-solving style. But, sometimes a tough workplace situation turns our usual problem-solving style on its head. Situationality is the culmination of many factors including location, life stage, decision ownership, and team dynamics. To make effective choices in the workplace, we often need to put our well-worn decision-making habits to the side and carefully ponder all aspects of the situation at hand.

Have you ever noticed that when you go home to your parents’ house, no matter what age you are, you make decisions differently than when you’re at work or out with a group of friends? For many of us, this is a familiar and sometimes frustrating experience — for example, allowing our parent to serve us more food than we want to eat. We feel like adults in our day-to-day lives, but when we step into our childhood homes we revert.

problem solving techniques within an hr context

  • Cheryl Strauss Einhorn is the founder and CEO of Decisive, a decision sciences company using her AREA Method decision-making system for individuals, companies, and nonprofits looking to solve complex problems. Decisive offers digital tools and in-person training, workshops, coaching and consulting. Cheryl is a long-time educator teaching at Columbia Business School and Cornell and has won several journalism awards for her investigative news stories. She’s authored two books on complex problem solving, Problem Solved for personal and professional decisions, and Investing In Financial Research about business, financial, and investment decisions. Her new book, Problem Solver, is about the psychology of personal decision-making and Problem Solver Profiles. For more information please watch Cheryl’s TED talk and visit .

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Problem Solving

Identifies problems and uses logic, judgment, and data to evaluate alternatives and recommend solutions to achieve the desired organizational goal or outcome.

  • Identifies and evaluates problems and possible causes to determine root causes and impacts.
  • Generates solutions, taking into consideration political, organizational and individual realities.
  • Identifies options for solving a problem and evaluates the relative strengths and weaknesses of each option.
  • Uses a logical method for organizing and analyzing information.
  • Coordinates with others within his/her network, subject-matter experts and /or additional senior staff to interpret administrative policies, offer advice and solve related problems.
  • Uses expertise in policies and procedures to identify problems, and makes recommendations for addressing these via communication, job aids, training, etc.
  • Researches issues thoroughly. Does not jump to quick conclusions or formulate opinions based on incorrect assumptions, or inaccurate/incomplete information.

Developmental opportunities for this competency are available from the NIH Training Center .

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6 Common HR Issues and How to Solve Them Visually

Updated on: 13 July 2023

If you are part of an HR team, you must have tried one thousand and one ways to solve common HR challenges and HR issues.

But here’s a twist.

Solving them visually could be easier.

Following are easy visual techniques that you can use to effectively deal with common challenges of human resource management .

Whether it is to complement the existing staff or to replace those who have left the company, recruiting top talent could bring about several HR challenges. Here are a few visual techniques to help you effectively deal with them.

Use Process Maps to Improve the Process

Does your hiring process take up too much time, money and resources? But produce no results? Maybe it needs a revamp.

A comprehensive  process map that maps the entire process can point out exactly where you need to make improvements .

Tip: Make sure that the recruitment process flowchart can be accessed by everyone involved in it, so they won’t get confused about the steps they are responsible for.

Recruitment process flowchart template

Use Flowcharts to Visualize the Interview Process

You can add a flowchart visualizing the interview process to the interview invitation email. Highlight the time period it may take on the flowchart as well. This will help the candidate come prepared.

       Here are four ways managers can use flowcharts to be more efficient .

It would look something like this,

Interview Process Map

Use SWOT Analysis to Choose the Right People

Do a SWOT analysis of each of the shortlisted candidates. Identify what strengths and weaknesses they possess and what opportunities and threats they would cause if you hire them permanently. Match the SWOT analysis data against your selection criteria to decide the ideal person for the job.

Here’s a free editable SWOT analysis template to help you get started.

SWOT Analysis Template

Click the template to edit it online

Onboarding and Welcoming New Employees

Increasing the engagement and the retention of new employees depends on how successful your onboarding process is. Following is what you can do to improve this visually.

Use Flowcharts to Enhance the Onboarding Process

  • The employee onboarding process includes most departments of the company, from the HR department to the facilities team that arrange the furniture. You can use a flowchart to c larify the steps carried out by each team .  This will help prevent confusions and delays.

Tip: Attach it to the welcome-onboard email of the new guy and it can double as a first-day-at-work program that will help him come prepared.

  • Or you can design a separate orientation process flowchart highlighting all the key events the new hire will be participating on the first day or in the first week . Add swim lanes to mark dates and time to create a timeline as well.

   Here’s a swim lane flowchart template you can use for this,

Swimlane Flowchart Template

Use Org Charts to Clarify Roles and Responsibilities

Hand your new hires a comprehensive org chart of the company or their department. This will help them get an idea of their role within and help them adjust quickly . You can highlight the responsibilities on the charts as well. And arranging it hierarchically will emphasize the reporting structure.

Here’s a list of organizational chart types you can use.

Training/ Talent Development/ Skills Evaluation

To get the best from your workforce, you need to train and develop their skills. Here’s how to go about doing this using visual techniques.

Use Flowcharts to Standardize Training Processes and Develop Strategies

  • After measuring the current capacity of the talent pool at your company, you can use a flowchart to create a talent development strategy. Use swim lanes to separate different stages, such as search for applicants, selection, hiring and training.
  • During the training period, a new hire would go through many training programs, from induction training to fire alarm training. It might become difficult to keep track of the steps in all of these programs. Use flowcharts to create official records of them. Don’t forget to share them with everyone.

Use Org Charts to Create a Skills Inventory

An org chart, carrying details , like the job role, responsibilities, years of experience and the expertise of the employees can work as a skills inventory . This could come in handy when you are planning a talent development strategy and need to know which departments need development .

Here’s an org chart template you can edit and expand with the details of your own organization

Org chart template

Use SWOT Analysis to Evaluate Skills

Just like the SWOT analysis helped you pick the right person for the job, you can use it again to evaluate the skills of your current staff. You can even get your team to do a personal SWOT analysis of themselves.

Allocating Resources

A project needs a lot of resources; from people to equipment and material.

That’s a lot of resources to allocate.

When it comes to allocating the right people, you can make things smoother by using an org chart .

Use Org Charts to Identify the Right People

When planning projects, you need to allocate resources. A comprehensive org chart can tell you, who in the team/ department is apt for the job and which projects he/ she is currently working on.

Tip: Maintain an org chart that is always updated and can easily be accessed by all employees. This way they can mark their availability on the chart themselves.

Problem Solving

A successful HR professional should be great at solving problems. Here’s a visual trick you can use to solve problems easily.

Use Fishbone Diagrams to Identify Root Causes

Fishbone diagrams are a great way to identify the root causes of a certain problem . Say you need to know why the employee productivity levels are dropping; you can gather around a team and use a fishbone diagram to capture the points thrown around during the brainstorming session.

Analyze the fishbone diagram thoroughly, and you’ll find the root cause of your problem easily.

Here’s a free fishbone diagram template to start right away.

Fishbone Diagram Template

Human Resource Planning

Whether it’s hiring, onboarding, or training, human resource planning can be challenging.

But not if you…

Use Mind Maps to Plan Your Work

Mind maps are a great planning tool. Use mind maps to foster the free flow of ideas during a brainstorming session and to structure information visually in such a way that would give you a quick overview of what you are planning.

Mind map template

Click the template to edit online

What Methods Do You Use to Solve Common HR challenges

The HR team comes across all sorts of hr challenges every day, and the key to resolving them efficiently in most cases is the same; proper organization of and easy access to relevant data.

The visualization techniques we have discussed above can help you do both these, effectively. Use them to streamline common tasks and improve the efficiency of your HR department.

And don’t forget to share with us what other common HR challenges you have faced and how you solved them.

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Problem solving, introduction, who's this steve litt guy, the most general problem solving process, universal troubleshooting process, theory of constraints, root cause analysis, method of kepner and tregoe, cars and tanks, deciding on training.

  • Conflict resolution problems
  • Legal problems
  • Money problems
  • Math problems
  • Science problems
  • Mechanical/electrical/computer problems (Technical troubleshooting)
  • Sales problems
  • Personal problems
  • Factory throughput problems
  • Business decision problems
  • Analyze the problem state
  • Analyze the solved state
  • Analyze how to make the transition
  • What don't I like about the current situation?
  • What would I like the situation to be instead?
  • How can I go from what is to what I want?
  • The bottleneck is that component or subsystem that constrains the throughput of the entire system.
  • Speed up the bottleneck and you speed up the system.
  • Offload work from the bottleneck and you speed up the system.
  • Speeding up a non-bottleneck does not speed up the system.
  • Slowing a non-bottleneck doesn't slow the system, unless you slow the non-bottleneck to an extent that it becomes a bottleneck.
  • The bottleneck is not necessarily bad. It can be used to you control the throughput of the system. The gas pedal on your car is an intentional bottleneck to control the speed of your car.
  • Bottlenecks leave clues. On the factory floor, the bottleneck machine will probably have a large pile of work, to be processed, in front of it. Machines, downstream from the bottleneck, that use parts from the bottleneck machine, will be starved for incoming work.
  • The sales department can be the bottleneck.
  • It is impossible to run the factory at 100% capacity, and if you try, the factory's overall productivity slows to a crawl.
  • Significant event occurs
  • Problem definition and initial data collection
  • Task analysis
  • Change analysis
  • Control barrier analysis
  • Begin the event causal factor chart
  • Conduct interviews
  • Determine root causes
  • Recommend corrective actions
  • Report conclusions
  • Analyze the transition
  • Analyze how to prevent future problems and find future opportunities
  • Where is the problem occurring, and where is it definitely not?
  • When did it start occurring, and when did it definitely not?
  • Who has this problem, and who definitely does not?

By Steve Litt, reprinted with permission from the December 2000 Troubleshooting Professional Magazine .

Imagine driving to work in a M1A1 Main Battle Tank, also called an Abrams tank. It has tracks instead of wheels, and it can go absolutely anywhere. It can roll over obstacles 42 inches high. It can cross trenches 9 feet wide. It can go up a 60 degree slope. And due to its almost impenetrable armor, its 120mm main gun, and three auxiliary machine guns, it can traverse the most hostile environments. An M1A1 main battle tank can go almost anywhere on land, including the freeway. So why use a car to go to work, when cars accommodate only a small subset of terrains?

One reason is that the M1A1 gets less than 1 mile per gallon of gas. Working only 10 miles from home, you'd pay $300/week in fuel alone. On those rare occasions when the freeway travels full speed, the M1A1's 45 mph maximum speed is a liability. At a length of 32 feet, one inch, a height of 9.5 feet, and a width of 9.5 feet, parking is a problem.

There's no doubt the M1A1 can get you to work. But your friends driving Ford Focuses get there faster, cheaper and more conveniently. Yes, the M1A1 can go anywhere, but that ability is costly indeed.

Reminds me of companies selling general problem solving training to those requiring electronic, mechanical or computer Troubleshooting.

Mechanical, electronic and computer troubleshooting is a subset of problem solving. Machines and automated systems are well defined systems . By that I mean they have a documented and well defined state and behavior. Fixing them requires only returning them to their as-designed state and behavior . You needn't analyze the solved state, with its heavy design and creative thinking requirements. You needn't ask how you want the machine to perform after repair -- you already know that. It must perform as designed. You needn't ask if there's some better way you can do it. All that's necessary is to get it back to its as-designed state and behavior.

Some training vendors are all too happy to sell you a generic problem solving course for your technical people to use on machine/computer/software problems. Such generic problem solving methodologies contain several time consuming steps necessary only to design the solved state (which degenerates into the as designed state and behavior for machine, computer and software problems). The vendor might justify this by mentioning that the generic problem solving methodology can solve all problems, including those of machines, computers and software. They're telling the truth, and it's about as practical as trading in your car for an Abrams tank.

If you want to win, you go to war in a tank and the office in a car. If you want to win, you fix fuzzily defined problems with a generic problem solving methodology, and technical problems with a Troubleshooting Process optimized for technical problems. If a person solves both types of problems, train him in both methodologies.

So the question you need to ask is this: How would it affect my business if my competitors used more optimized Troubleshooting methodologies than my company?

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The Best Techniques for Tackling the Worst HR Problems

The Best Techniques for Tackling the Worst HR Problems

While not every organization has a dedicated, in-house human resources (HR) team, you can bet that every company has problems that need to be addressed from an HR standpoint. Even the smallest startups can have problems that, if not corrected, can have a significant impact on operations, productivity, and the bottom line.

Whether you outsource your HR, or you handle it for your company, you need to be ready to tackle common and not-so-common issues in the workplace. Here are some of the worst HR problems you may encounter, and how they can be addressed.

1. The Negative Employee

Virtually every organization will deal with a negative employee at one point or another. It’s almost like a rite of passage for leadership and HR teams and something that shapes them professionally.

Negative employees can take a lot of forms, from those who are generally just difficult to deal with to those who develop a negative attitude as a result of some other influence or factor. Sometimes you have an employee who may be an excellent worker, but seems to have a personality clash with every other individual they work with – including leadership.

What’s unfortunate about this type of employee is that regardless of the cause of their behavior, or the form it takes, their attitude is almost always toxic to the workplace . They require greater time and energy to handle, ultimately keeping management hostage. They also make the workplace uncomfortable for those around them.

“When talking to your employees, let them know that the negative attitude is a performance issue,” writes Megan Moran, senior HR specialist for Insperity. “When they are disrupting the team, not contributing, and affecting productivity, it’s as if they’re not performing their job responsibilities. Discuss how their behavior affects the team, the company, and their relationships. Be very clear about what’s expected – and outlined in your company policies – and make sure they understand what will happen if the behavior continues.”

How to Handle Negative Employees:

  • Listen to them. Keep an open mind, despite the negative attitude. You may uncover an issue and be able to provide guidance to a solution.
  • Give clear feedback that focuses on behavior and how it impacts the workplace.
  • Document issues revolving around negative feedback.
  • Address negative behavior consistently so your team knows that it is not okay, regardless of the reason.
  • For organizations without clear guidelines for this type of scenario, set consequences if behavior doesn’t change – and stick to them.
  • Don’t let self-talk and judgement poison the well . Keep personal opinions separate when working with a negative employee.

Working through negative feelings and emotions is critical to leveling off the atmosphere of the workplace. A paper by Wharton Management Professor Sigal Barsade studied the effects of mood on the workplace and found that virtually all moods can be contagious – including subtle displays like anger and negativity through frowning.

2. Employees Who Won’t Follow Direction

Having an employee who refuses to follow instructions can be a massive headache for HR and leadership. Insubordination not only undermines leadership’s ability to effectively manage the team, but it also interferes with typical processes that must remain efficient for business to go on as usual.

But, there’s a difference between employees who refuse to follow instructions (insubordinate) and those who want to handle the process on their own (independent).

It can be easy to get the two confused, especially for a manager who expects their team to toe the line without question and get the job done. Before trying to address employee behavior, it’s important to understand what kind of behavior you’re dealing with and make the distinction between the two.

How to Handle Employees Who Won’t Follow Directions:

Once you identify the type of behavior you’re dealing with, you can address it accordingly. For example, an insubordinate employee can be more easily dealt with by following procedures for addressing the behavior, coaching, and setting expectations — then taking disciplinary action if need be.

An independent employee, on the other hand, one who is both productive and talented, yet somewhat insubordinate in trying to manage themselves, requires a different approach.

Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz spoke about the different approaches to dealing with unique individuals in a piece for Business Insider . He referenced the relationship between NBA coach Phil Jackson and Dennis Rodman. Jackson was once asked during an interview, “Since Dennis Rodman is allowed to miss practice, does this mean other star players like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen can miss practice too?”

Jackson replied, “Of course not. There is only room for one Dennis Rodman on this team. In fact, you really can only have a very few Dennis Rodman’s in society as a whole; otherwise, we would degenerate into anarchy.”

In short, independence should be welcomed to a point. Encourage employees to take initiative and be independent, but set limits. When independence crosses the line into disruption of the workplace and clear insubordination, it must be addressed.

3. Employee Conflicts

“While conflict is a normal part of any social and organizational setting, the challenge of conflict lies in how one chooses to deal with it,” writes Mike Myatt, author of Hacking Leadership. “Concealed, avoided, or otherwise ignored, conflict will likely fester only to grow into resentment, create withdrawal, or cause factional infighting within an organization.”

Conflict is not unusual in a workplace . One study conducted across Europe, the United States, and Brazil found that 85% of employees, at all levels within an organization, experience some measure of conflict. In addition,

Leadership and even some HR teams may choose to let some conflict slide if it seems insignificant, but this is a bad approach. What may seem insignificant is not only causing stress for the employees involved, it’s also costing the company money.

In the same study, it was found that 25% of employees call in sick or stay away from work to avoid conflict.

As many as 10% reported that conflicts led to failure in projects or the loss of talent, when someone left a company.

Here's How to Handle Conflicts Among Employees:

  • Meet with the parties involved to address the situation. Try to do it in a neutral space for everyone’s comfort.
  • Establish ground rules for the parties so everyone is respected – this includes listening objectively to the position of others.
  • Ask each employee to state their perspective on the conflict with “I” statements. Focus on specific issues rather than other employees.
  • Summarize the conflict and confirm with the parties involved.
  • Work together to identify key solutions , including brainstorming together so all parties are involved in the resolution process.
  • Summarize the solutions and work with employees to find the best solution for everyone.
  • Set a plan of action with goals , including follow up with leadership and the employees involved.

Not all conflict is handled easily, and you may need to seek outside assistance. This is especially true if there are legal issues involved (discrimination, harassment, violence) or if conflict escalates and leads to other abusive behavior.

4. Problematic Management

There have been numerous studies over the years that have sought to determine the primary cause of unhappiness in the workplace. In every case, from a 2012 study cited by the Harvard Business Review to a more recent study from Woohoo, the cause is clear: Bad management is killing morale. Bad management can come in a lot of forms and can impact employees on different levels. Some common employee complaints include:

  • Being micromanaged.
  • Having to report to inexperienced management.
  • Management that talks badly about other employees.
  • Condescension and disrespect from management.
  • Lack of support from leadership.
  • Lack of praise or recognition from management.
  • Fear-based management styles.

Unhappiness can have a serious impact on workplace performance and the bottom line of your organization. In the Woohoo study, 19% of respondents said they had a bad day at work every day or almost every day, while another 29% reported having a bad day more than once a week. Another 16% responded that they had one bad day every week.

That’s almost 65% of employees suffering through bad workdays, in many cases because of strained relationships with management. But what are the root causes of problematic management?

Some managers have developed narcissistic or aggressive tendencies over the course of their careers, which can make them difficult to handle from the beginning. Others begin to manifest these issues over time – they don’t necessarily arrive at your organization that way. It’s sometimes due to the organizational structure and processes.

An employee promoted into a management position, especially with limited to no experience, suddenly has a lot more responsibility. Relationships with employees change and it can strain an inexperienced manager.

How to Handle Problematic Management:

Regardless of the level of leadership, these issues should be approached in a corrective manner, with the recommendation or requirement that the problematic manager take a leadership development program.

U.S. Companies are spending $14 billion annually on leadership development programs, and that’s because they get results. 

But it's important to realize that these programs on their own won't create great leaders. As Andrea Derler, Research Manager at Bersin by Deloitte said, "An exclusive reliance on formal programs as the only means for leadership development is one of the primary reasons for the lack of leadership talent. ” Their recently published leadership research found that there are 17 important practices for building a context for leadership growth. The five most critical of these are: "Communication of the leadership model, Exposure as a learning method, HR and business collaboration, Knowledge-sharing, and Risk-taking.”

5. High Employee Churn

Employees leave for a variety of reasons, and you’ll never be able to completely stop employee turnover. What you can do is understand it and try to reduce it by managing the most common causes in your organization.

According to Louis Efron, author and CEO of Purpose Meets Execution, there are 6 reasons good, talented employees will exit a company:

  • Employees don’t see or share the company’s vision.
  • They have no connection to the big picture or mission of the company.
  • A general lack of empathy from leadership.
  • A lack of effective motivation.
  • No discernible future at a company.
  • A lack of enjoyment.

There are certainly other reasons for employee churn, ranging from compensation concerns to conflict. However, the causes listed above can have company-wide impact if not addressed.

Consider that 30% of companies report that it can take upwards of a year for employees to reach peak performance.

In a survey from Allied Workforce, 25% of companies don’t have any form of training in their onboarding programs. As many as 60% of companies don’t set goals for new hires. That can create growth challenges for new employees that often lead to churn.

Here’s How to Tackle Employee Churn:

Be proactive. Find solutions that address the causes before they become a source of churn in your company.

  • Successful managers take the time to sell employees on their vision , bringing them on board to get them excited about major goals and achievements that are down the road.
  • While strategies might change, the mission of the company does not. According to a Gallup poll, there is a direct correlation between employee retention and employee alignment with the mission of a company .
  • Create a true open-door environment where employees feel they can speak out, share, and be heard. Empathize and encourage engagement, and employees will feel like their presence at the company is valued.
  • Employees want more than compensation. They have intrinsic motivators and want to be recognized for good work. Give more than extrinsic rewards to retain your top talent.
  • Your employees need to know they’re not in a dead-end job. Show them they have a future at the company. Create clear programs and maps for growth, so the employees worth retaining know they can move forward.
  • People want to enjoy coming to work. Find ways to create enjoyable, motivational programs. Invest in employee engagement . Relaxed, happier employees are more productive employees.

Lastly, focus on the onboarding programs in place for new employees. The key to trimming your employee turnover rate starts during the recruiting and hiring process. Audit your onboarding process to measure how new employees are trained and prepped for success.

6. Shifting Company Culture

In an age of accelerated launches and lean startup models, new organizations are springing up and growing at exponential rates. The focus on growth can sometimes lead to a loose organizational structure – one in which employees act and are treated more like family, or buddies. The corporate structure is missing, and while this can create a more relaxed atmosphere in the beginning, it can also create problems as a company grows.

As new employees are added, the rapid growth could lead to a more rigid structure and policies that didn’t exist in the beginning. This cultural shift in the company may be difficult for current employees, giving rise to internal conflict and push-back. Likewise, old behavior and habits that were generally accepted in the smaller startup workspace can now create issues around discrimination , harassment, and feelings of hostility as new employees onboard who may not mesh with the lingering, looser structure.

How to Handle a Changing Culture:

Employees may have difficulty letting go of “how it used to be.” The best approach is to acknowledge their feelings. Any kind of change is difficult for employees, and a cultural change in the workplace can be a significant shock. There really can’t be a transition period, though, especially where the previous culture and behavior would be considered offensive by normal operating standards.

  • Empathize with employees, but make the new policies clear and set expectations.
  • Remind them that it was their hard work that grew the organization , not the behaviors or culture that were permitted, and the success is because of them.
  • Focus on the intrinsic reward and the company’s need to maintain the same momentum with them on board.

7. Finding the Right Talent

A company is only as strong as its employees, but as any HR rep knows, that talent can be difficult to find. Sometimes new openings are posted and virtually no resumes come in. Other times, you may post new career opportunities and get a flood of submissions – but no viable candidates.

With wells running dry but competition climbing, companies are bumping their spending on acquiring talent. A study in 2015 showed that companies have increased their spending on acquiring new talent by 7%, translating to nearly $4,000 per new hire. In many cases, that’s 3x the amount it costs to onboard and train a new employee. 

The same study revealed that, on average, it can take nearly 60 days for a company to fill an open position. This window alone can impact the bottom line of an organization as workloads shift to cover staff shortages and processes slow down.

It’s critical to focus on finding the top talent, and finding it quickly, to limit costs.

Tips for Talent Acquisition:

  • Favor employee referrals over recruiters. Your team knows the culture and the values the company is looking for. Trust them to help you source great talent.
  • Focus on the behavior of candidates , not just on their skills - from handshakes to how they acted when they met the first person at their interview.
  • Establish needs from departments and managers based on processes and current workflows. Don’t just create generic job descriptions. This will help better match candidates to the work that is actually being performed.
  • Promote openings the same way a company broadcasts promotions. Post on specialty job boards, through employee networks, on LinkedIn, social channels, and the company website.
  • Promote the culture of your company and brand it as a great place to work. This can help bring talent knocking before openings are even posted.
  • Build relationships with colleges , which could include the co-creation of a career curriculum. This can help you get first shot at talented new graduates ripe for the picking.
  • Recruiters can be a good investment. Check your network and get referrals to well-performing recruiters with a reputation for locating top talent.

A final tip: “Create a competitive compensation package that reflects your culture,” says Steve Browne, HR director at LaRosa’s Inc. “Then put the dollars in front of candidates at the start and you’ll likely have to negotiate less.”

8. Employees Not Opening up to HR

Companies succeed because of the performance of employees, which is ultimately driven by communication. Teams share information, employees report to leadership, and everyone communicates. At least, that’s how it should be.

But a recent survey from Lupton Fawcett Denison Till revealed that employees may have difficulty with communicating – particularly around issues that would require the attention of HR and leadership.

Among the items discussed in the survey, the greatest concerns were:

  • 42% of respondents were reluctant to discuss pay.
  • 22% were challenged by discussing promotions.
  • 19% were reluctant to talk about inappropriate behavior.
  • 19% were concerned about flexible working requests.
  • 18% were anxious about discussing absences due to illness.

If this reluctance to bring up and broach issues in the workplace is occurring in your organization, there’s a good chance that other, more sensitive topics aren’t being raised either.

How to Address Employee Communication Issues:

A lack of communication is a serious problem for HR . You and your team can only be effective when employees are sharing thoughts and concerns. Otherwise, your team only becomes a one-way channel, doling out policy and disciplinary action.

  • Meet with individual employees as well as departments to investigate if there is a communication barrier.
  • If you feel employees may still be reluctant to discuss these issues directly, solicit anonymous feedback from all workers. Use the data you gather to audit your company’s approach to communication and reporting.
  • Create an environment and processes that are conducive to employee communication and help them find their voice.

Ultimately, this will greatly contribute to reducing employee churn. Problems and employee desires can be addressed before they become bigger issues or spread among employees before reaching HR.

Document Everything

This is only a small list of some of the problems an HR team may come across. No matter what you face, it’s critical that you document every action and point of engagement with employees. Even with an at-will state, you should have accurate documentation that backs up and aligns with your processes for employee discipline and coaching. From a struggling new hire, to a highly difficult and negative employee, documentation is the safeguard to show that your company is making every effort to help employees grow with the organization.

problem solving techniques within an hr context

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5 Problem-Solving Techniques for HR Problem Analysis

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What is a problem analysis?

Problem analysis is the systematic process of examining and understanding a particular issue or challenge to identify its root causes, underlying factors, and potential solutions. It involves breaking down complex problems into manageable components and evaluating their interconnections. Through problem analysis, individuals or teams gain insights into the problem’s nature, enabling them to develop effective strategies and make informed decisions to address the issue at hand.

Reasons why HR could do a problem analysis

HR (Human Resources) could conduct a problem analysis for several reasons:

  • Effective Decision Making: Problem analysis allows HR to make well-informed decisions, leading to better outcomes for the organization and its employees.
  • Identifying Root Causes: Understanding the root causes of issues helps HR implement targeted and long-lasting solutions instead of just addressing symptoms.
  • Improved Employee Relations: By analyzing problems, HR can identify potential conflicts or concerns within the workplace and work towards improving employee relations and overall morale.
  • Enhancing Efficiency: Problem analysis helps HR identify inefficiencies in processes and systems, enabling them to streamline operations and improve productivity.
  • Talent Retention: By addressing underlying issues, HR can create a positive work environment, increasing the likelihood of retaining top talent within the organization.
  • Compliance and Risk Management: Analyzing HR-related problems can help ensure compliance with labor laws and mitigate potential risks associated with employee-related issues.
  • Organizational Development: Understanding challenges allows HR to design tailored training and development programs to enhance employee skills and capabilities.

Overall, conducting problem analysis empowers HR to proactively address issues, fostering a more productive and harmonious work environment.

Five strategies for problem analysis

  • Define the Problem Clearly: Clearly articulate the issue at hand, ensuring everyone involved understands the problem’s scope and impact.
  • Gather Relevant Data: Collect and analyze relevant data and information to gain insights into the problem’s causes and effects.
  • Use Root Cause Analysis: Employ techniques like the 5 Whys or cause-and-effect diagrams to identify the underlying root causes of the problem.
  • Involve Stakeholders: Engage key stakeholders, including employees and subject matter experts, to gain diverse perspectives and valuable input.
  • Prioritize Solutions: Evaluate potential solutions based on feasibility, effectiveness, and impact, and prioritize the most viable options for implementation.

Methods for carrying out an issue analysis

  • Surveys and Questionnaires: Conducting surveys and questionnaires among relevant stakeholders can gather valuable data and opinions related to the issue.
  • Interviews: One-on-one or group interviews with key individuals can provide in-depth insights into the problem and its underlying causes.
  • Data Analysis: Utilize data from various sources, such as sales figures, customer feedback, or performance metrics, to identify patterns and trends related to the issue.
  • Brainstorming Sessions: Organize brainstorming sessions with a diverse group of individuals to generate ideas and potential solutions for the problem.
  • SWOT Analysis: Evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to the issue to understand the broader context and potential impacts.
  • Benchmarking: Compare the organization’s performance and practices with industry standards or competitors to identify areas for improvement.
  • Process Mapping: Visualize and analyze the processes involved in the issue to identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies.
  • Case Studies: Study similar issues or problems faced by other organizations to gain insights into successful strategies for resolution.
  • Focus Groups: Gather a representative group of individuals to engage in guided discussions about the issue to gain qualitative feedback.
  • Expert Consultation: Seek advice and insights from subject matter experts who have experience in dealing with similar problems.

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Effective Problem Solving Techniques

In today’s workplace, the responsibility of problem solving is no longer an exclusive responsibility of the people occupying seats of upper management, rather, a responsibility that everyone in the organization shares. Effective problem solving skills allow employees throughout the organization to examine problems, identify, assess, and evaluate.

The first step to effective problem solving is to first identify and define the problem. This is simply a broad review of the current situation. The employee, or group of employees working on finding a solution to the problem review and discuss the real “pains” of the problem, how widespread the “pains” are, and how quickly the employee, or group of employees should act in order to resolve the problem at hand. This step also allows the employee or employees to determine what happened, why it happened in order to prevent it from happening again in the future. Tools that could potentially be used for this stage of problem solving are interviewing, completing questionnaires to gather information, or brainstorming. One may find that one of these tools may work better to gather more credible, unbiased data, or that all of them may be necessary. Depending on the amount of time that has been determined is needed to solve the problem, there may not be enough time for all of these data gathering techniques. All organizations are different, so each must figure out what works best for their team. Identifying the problem may seem like an obvious place to start, while this is very important in figuring out the correct path to the solution, something else to think about is the employee, or the group of employees you charge with carrying out this problem solving process. These need to be individuals who really understand the organization and will take the initiative to solve the problem as if it were their own.

The second step to effective and efficient problem solving skills is proposing solutions. After the problem is defined and the root cause has been determined, the employee or employees should generally have enough knowledge essential to offer ideas for proposed solutions. This is where the “no idea is a bad idea” comes in to play. The employee or employees should come up with as many proposed solutions as possible. These proposed solutions should always be tied back to the main cause of the problem in order to ensure that the chances of the problem arising again are much lower, or not possible at all. This is not a solution selection step, however, a time to eliminate any solutions that may be overlapping, or solutions that don’t address the initial cause of the problem that was defined in the first step.

The third step that should be included in your problem solving endeavors is to select the solution. This step takes the solutions that have been created in the previous step and delves deeper into the potential pros and cons of each. The employee or employees solving the problem should assess whether the solution is technically feasible, and whether or not it is acceptable to those who will have to implement the solution. This step involves including those who need to be involved in the implementation of the solution in order to increase commitment and the likelihood of a successful implementation. Having the right employees implement the solution encourages trust in order to get the buy-in of other employees. The right employees will be able to help the employees involved in the process to better see how it affects them and the overall operations of the business.

The fourth step is the implementation step of the problem solving process. Everything should be in place at this point to correctly and transparently communicate the implementation efforts. Communication is important in all of the steps of this process, but it is so important in this step as the problem solvers need everyone involved in the solution to understand the whole process. Also, this step requires action as to what will be done, who will do it, when it will be started, assessing when key milestones will be completed, how necessary actions will be carried out, and why are these actions are solution? These are also questions and answers that need to be communicated to the organization as well.

Lastly, after every solution is implemented, evaluation must always take place. This step must be seen as an opportunity to fine-tune the solution for possible shortcomings. Effective problem solvers will plan additional tools for feedback to detect these shortcomings and to make sure that the problem is solved without creating a new issue. Again, effective communication is key in order to ensure the success of the solution in all areas of the organization and that the appropriate follow-up is completed.

These are important steps to follow in order to ensure a successful problem solving process. Again, selecting the correct individuals in order to effectively carry out these steps is important. High-performing employees and an effective process combine to create a problem solving workplace that produces results.

For additional information on this topic, please contacts us a

Written by: Patrick McKenna HR Assistant 07/06/2016


Recent blog posts, utilizing progressive discipline: crafting a culture of continuous improvement, the importance of job descriptions, navigating open enrollment: a guide to streamlining employee benefits (2023), the new form i-9 and what employers need to know, compliance posters: mandatory updates and more, mission statement, affiliations.

problem solving techniques within an hr context

Problem framing is a thinking method used to understand, define, and prioritize difficult business obstacles and issues. In this article, we cover how problem framing can help keep your team in the know and solve inefficiencies.

In today’s complex working environment, it can be hard to come together as a team to solve problems. Lucky for you, there’s never been a better time to discover problem framing.  

Just as the name implies, problem framing helps teams properly understand, articulate, and frame complex business problems across departments. The result? Problem framing helps your team learn how to better comprehend and solve issues through teamwork. 

What is problem framing?

Problem framing is a thinking method used to understand, define, and prioritize difficult business obstacles and issues. In layman’s terms, it’s a way to better comprehend specific problems so that you know how to solve them in real time. 

What is problem framing?

When it comes to projects and processes, it’s common for obstacles to arise. From new stakeholders joining to last-minute changes, unsolved obstacles can turn into larger problems down the road. That’s why building your team’s problem solving skills is such a crucial first step. 

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When should you use the problem framing method?

Problem framing is useful any time obstacles occur during a project or process. This method of thinking helps you solve problems in real time so you can get your team back on track.

Here are a couple of scenarios that you might use problem framing to solve. 

Scenario 1: During a sprint planning meeting, a team member brings up concerns about not having enough help to meet their deadline. To ease stress, you reframe the way the team is thinking about the problem and offer a different perspective. That is, instead of stressing over a lack of resources, you figure out how to reorganize team priorities to ensure deadlines are met. 

Scenario 2: After a new project launch you find out that conversions are lower than anticipated. Instead of calling the project a failure, you reframe the way you’re looking at the problem by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. You realize after analyzing the website that the call to action could be easily missed. You decide to experiment with solutions by testing a new call to action.

While these scenarios are different, each one showcases the need to reframe how you think about a problem in order to find new solutions. 

Framing problem statements

A problem statement is how a problem is communicated to team members. An effective problem statement is framed in a way that provides context and relevance so it’s easy to comprehend. This is the initial step in the problem framing process. The purpose is to introduce the issue to team members to begin ideating potential solutions.

There aren’t always easy solutions to complex business problems. In those cases, it can help to reframe how you look at the problem in order to come up with an innovative solution. That’s where problem framing comes in. The first step in the problem framing lifecycle is knowing how to communicate a problem. 

How to frame a problem statement

When verbally communicating a problem during a team meeting, always include:

Context: The business context of the problem includes background information about when the problem occurred and in which system or process it occurred. For example, inconsistent data is being gathered during the planning stage of the process. 

Issue: The issue details what the problem is and why it’s an issue in the first place. For example, this inconsistent data is creating a discrepancy during the implementation phase .

Relevance: The relevance of the problem details how it is related to a particular system and why it is important to be solved. For example, the discrepancy then requires the team to go back and pinpoint where the issue began, causing deadline delays. 

Objective: The objective states the timeline or priority of when the solution needs to be implemented and the goal of said solution. For example, the team needs to solve the problem before the end of the quarter given it’s a high priority issue.

Including these four components in your problem statement ensures that each stakeholder understands the basic details of the problem and the general plan of action. When everyone is on the same page, you can execute work and achieve results quicker and more efficiently. 

The 4 steps of the problem framing process

When it comes to the problem framing process, there are four key steps to follow once the problem statement is introduced. These can help you better understand and visualize the problem as it relates to larger business needs. 

Using a visual aid to look at a problem can give your team a bigger picture view of the problem you’re trying to solve. By contextualizing, prioritizing, and understanding the details on a deeper level, your team can develop a different point of view when reviewing the problem with stakeholders.

The 4 steps of the problem framing process

From defining the problem to approving the solution, let’s dive into the four steps of the problem framing process. 

1. Define the problem

Analyze your problem in context with the system or process it presents itself in. Ask questions such as, “Where does this problem live within the system?” and, “What is the root cause of the problem?” 

Defining contextual questions helps place the problem within your existing processes and pinpoint what could be causing the issue. 

For example, if you’re working on launching a new marketing initiative and you run into a problem with development, you might define the problem as a lack of development resources.

2. Prioritize the problem

Next, prioritize the pain points based on other issues and project objectives . Questions such as, “Does this problem prevent objectives from being met?” and, “Will this problem deplete necessary resources?” are good ones to get you started.

These questions help rank your problems by importance so you can visualize the potential outcome of solving the problem vs. waiting until a later time. 

3. Understand the problem

To understand the problem, collect information from diverse stakeholders and department leaders. This will ensure you have a wide range of data.

Ask questions and gather details from as many different team members as possible to help diversify your perspective on the problem. In turn, this will lead you to more innovative solutions that serve the majority of team members.

For example, to fully understand why there aren’t enough development resources, it would be helpful to ask the development head to help reprioritize necessary resources. 

4. Approve the solution

Finally, it's time to get your solution approved. Quality assure your solution by testing in one or more internal scenarios. This way you can be sure it works before introducing it to external customers. 

You may also need to get it approved by leadership before it goes live, though this will depend on your unique situation. Once approved, analyze the success of your solution and continue testing new ideas until you reach your desired outcome. 

Problem framing techniques and tips

Since problem framing is a way of shifting your perspective in order to see different results, it can help workplaces thrive. By motivating your team to use this technique, you can build everyone’s problem solving skills as a whole. 

Here are some ways that you can use problem framing to discover innovative solutions in the workplace:

Frame problems using organized statements: While the method of problem framing can be used in almost any situation where a problem exists, there is a right and wrong way when it comes to reframing issues. A problem statement may differ from situation to situation, but each one should follow the basic components outlined above. This includes the context, issue, relevance, and objective. All of which help stakeholders understand how the problem relates back to the project at hand. 

Lead effective brainstorming sessions: Problem framing can be used during brainstorming sessions to encourage different perspectives and new insights. You can use this brainstorming technique by asking stakeholders to frame their ideas using a whiteboard or sticky notes. This way all ideas are supported by data.

Frame the problem with the end in mind : The technique of beginning with the end in mind involves working backward. This way you can shift your team’s mindset and encourage goal-oriented thinking. Not to mention, this technique can help your team members learn to prioritize personal development and strategic thinking. 

By using problem framing initiatives in the workplace, you can ensure that all problems are communicated effectively and solutions come from a place of research. Both of which lead to more effective problem solving. 

Use team collaboration to solve problems

Solving problems isn’t a solo job. The more team members that are involved, the more creative your solutions will be. In a world of complex decision making and ever-evolving projects, using problem framing can be a great way to keep everyone on the same page when it comes to problems worth solving. 

To ensure your team is connected every step of the way, try team collaboration software. From aligned goals to increased productivity, Asana can help. 

35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.

Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .

Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.

So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?

In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.

Let’s get started! 

How do you identify problems?

How do you identify the right solution.

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Complete problem-solving methods

  • Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
  • Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions

Problem-solving warm-up activities

Closing activities for a problem-solving process.

Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve. 

Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward. 

Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.

Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.

Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.

With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.  

Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.

After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!

Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.

Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . A well-structured workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.

In SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.

The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!

problem solving techniques within an hr context

Tips for more effective problem solving

Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.

Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!

Clearly define the problem

Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.

This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.

Don’t jump to conclusions

It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.

The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.  

Try different approaches  

Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.

Don’t take it personally 

Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.

You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.

Get the right people in the room

Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!

If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.

Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.

Document everything

The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!

Bring a facilitator 

Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!

Develop your problem-solving skills

It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.

You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!

Design a great agenda

Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.

Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!

In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.

  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Lightning Decision Jam
  • Problem Definition Process
  • Discovery & Action Dialogue
Design Sprint 2.0
  • Open Space Technology

1. Six Thinking Hats

Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.

Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.

Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.

2. Lightning Decision Jam

Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.

Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.

In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.

From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on. 

By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages. 

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow

3. Problem Definition Process

While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design. 

By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.

Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.

This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!

Problem Definition   #problem solving   #idea generation   #creativity   #online   #remote-friendly   A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.

4. The 5 Whys 

Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges. 

The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results. 

By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.

The 5 Whys   #hyperisland   #innovation   This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.

5. World Cafe

World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.

World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!

Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold. 

World Cafe   #hyperisland   #innovation   #issue analysis   World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.

6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)

One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.

With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!

This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)   #idea generation   #liberating structures   #action   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.

7. Design Sprint 2.0

Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.

Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.

Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.

8. Open space technology

Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.

Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.

Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!

Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.

Open Space Technology   #action plan   #idea generation   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #large group   #online   #remote-friendly   Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation

Techniques to identify and analyze problems

Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.

While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.

We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.

Let’s take a look!

  • The Creativity Dice
  • Fishbone Analysis
  • Problem Tree
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Agreement-Certainty Matrix
  • The Journalistic Six
  • LEGO Challenge
  • What, So What, Now What?
  • Journalists

Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?

Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed. 

Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.  

No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.

Flip It!   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.

10. The Creativity Dice

One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed. 

In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.

Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable. 

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

11. Fishbone Analysis

Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.

Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around. 

Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish. 

Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.

Fishbone Analysis   #problem solving   ##root cause analysis   #decision making   #online facilitation   A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.

12. Problem Tree 

Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them. 

In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.

Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.

Problem tree   #define intentions   #create   #design   #issue analysis   A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.

13. SWOT Analysis

Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.

Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.

Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward. 

SWOT analysis   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   #meeting facilitation   The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.

14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix

Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.

The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results. 

If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process. 

Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.

It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.

SQUID   #gamestorming   #project planning   #issue analysis   #problem solving   When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.

16. Speed Boat

To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.

Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.

In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!   

Speed Boat   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.

17. The Journalistic Six

Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.

Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.

The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How   #idea generation   #issue analysis   #problem solving   #online   #creative thinking   #remote-friendly   A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.

18. LEGO Challenge

Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.

What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO! 

LEGO Challenge   #hyperisland   #team   A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.

19. What, So What, Now What?

If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.

The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems. 

Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.

Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken. 

This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

20. Journalists  

Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.

Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.

In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.

Journalists   #vision   #big picture   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.

Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions 

The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.

Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.

  • Improved Solutions
  • Four-Step Sketch
  • 15% Solutions
  • How-Now-Wow matrix
  • Impact Effort Matrix

21. Mindspin  

Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly. 

With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation. 

This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex. 

MindSpin   #teampedia   #idea generation   #problem solving   #action   A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.

22. Improved Solutions

After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result. 

One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution. 

Improved Solutions   #creativity   #thiagi   #problem solving   #action   #team   You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.

23. Four Step Sketch

Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged. 

By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

24. 15% Solutions

Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change. 

Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.

Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.   

It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change. 

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

25. How-Now-Wow Matrix

The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process. 

When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.

Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud. 

How-Now-Wow Matrix   #gamestorming   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

26. Impact and Effort Matrix

All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice. 

The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.

Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them. 

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

27. Dotmocracy

If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action? 

Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus. 

One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively. 

Dotmocracy   #action   #decision making   #group prioritization   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.

All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.

Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.

  • Check-in/Check-out
  • Doodling Together
  • Show and Tell
  • Constellations
  • Draw a Tree

28. Check-in / Check-out

Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.

Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute. 

If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!

Check-in / Check-out   #team   #opening   #closing   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.

29. Doodling Together  

Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start. 

Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems. 

Doodling Together   #collaboration   #creativity   #teamwork   #fun   #team   #visual methods   #energiser   #icebreaker   #remote-friendly   Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

30. Show and Tell

You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.

Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.

By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team! 

Show and Tell   #gamestorming   #action   #opening   #meeting facilitation   Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.

31. Constellations

Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.

Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible. 

Constellations   #trust   #connection   #opening   #coaching   #patterns   #system   Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.

32. Draw a Tree

Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.

Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic. 

Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.

All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.

Draw a Tree   #thiagi   #opening   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.

Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.

Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.

  • One Breath Feedback
  • Who What When Matrix
  • Response Cards

How do I conclude a problem-solving process?

All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.

At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space. 

The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.

Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.

33. One Breath Feedback

Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round. 

One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them. 

One breath feedback   #closing   #feedback   #action   This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.

34. Who What When Matrix 

Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.

The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward. 

Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved. 

Who/What/When Matrix   #gamestorming   #action   #project planning   With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.

35. Response cards

Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out! 

Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.

Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised. 

Response Cards   #debriefing   #closing   #structured sharing   #questions and answers   #thiagi   #action   It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.

Save time and effort discovering the right solutions

A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?

With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks  to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session  timing   adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.

Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.

Explore  how to use SessionLab  to design effective problem solving workshops or  watch this five minute video  to see the planner in action!

problem solving techniques within an hr context

Over to you

The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.

Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! 

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problem solving techniques within an hr context

Facilitation skills can be applied in a variety of contexts, such as meetings, events, or in the classroom. Arguably, the setting in which facilitation skills shine the most is the design and running of workshops.  Workshops are dedicated spaces for interaction and learning. They are generally very hands-on, including activities such as simulations or games designed to practice specific skills. Leading workshops is an exciting, rewarding experience! In this piece we will go through some of the essential elements of workshop facilitation: What are workshops? Workshops are a time set aside for a group of people to learn new skills, come up with the best ideas, and solve problems together.…

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problem solving techniques within an hr context

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Facilitation skills are the abilities you need in order to master working with a group. In essence, facilitation is about being aware of what happens when people get together to achieve a common goal, and directing their focus and attention in ways that serve the group itself.  When we work together at our best, we can achieve a lot more than anything we might attempt alone. Working with others is not always easy: teamwork is fraught with risks and pitfalls, but skilled facilitation can help navigate them with confidence. With the right approach, facilitation can be a workplace superpower.  Whatever your position, career path, or life story, you probably have…

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problem solving techniques within an hr context

7 common HR problems in companies (and how to solve them)

problem solving techniques within an hr context

If you've ever worked in HR, you know it requires you to juggle many tasks and responsibilities. This can sometimes overwhelm smaller teams or companies with limited resources and manpower.

The good news is that many of companies' most prevalent HR problems are common across industries and companies. As such, there's a wealth of information about how to solve them.

This article will focus on 7 of the most common HR problems in companies and provide a solution for each one.

But first, let's back up to look at what an HR department, or HR Management, actually does.

What does HR Management involve?

HR managers may be responsible for a wide range of activities related to hiring and managing employees at a company.

Responsibilities found under the HR umbrella might include:

  • Job design ( job descriptions , recruitment ads , strategic prioritization)
  • Workforce planning
  • Training and development of existing employees
  • Performance management
  • Compensation and benefits management
  • Navigating legal requirements
  • Health and safety

In the largest organizations, these responsibilities are usually split across an HR organization. Smaller companies, however, often don't have that luxury, and one or two people may have to juggle these priorities.

This lack of resources or manpower is at the core of many HR problems companies face. There are many jobs to be done - all of which are important - but it may not be possible to do all of them with the limited resources available.

The rest of this article will focus on these challenges and offer possible solutions.

Common HR problems in companies and their solutions

HR problems in companies come in many shapes and forms. They also vary in seriousness and complexity, depending on the challenge and where the company is located and operates.

Consider the solutions to these problems to be guidelines. It might be necessary to seek outside help, depending on the resources available to you at your company.

1. Compliance with laws and regulations

The first common HR problem in companies is a big one: ensuring you adhere to all relevant laws in your operation area. This can be a huge challenge for small HR organizations, especially if no one on the team has experience dealing with local labor laws and regulations.

Key challenges that arise include:

  • The tediousness of keeping track of all employment laws in all areas in which the company operates
  • Ensuring that all operations, recruiting, and employment processes adhere to local laws
  • A lack of time and expertise to understand the issues and nuances of the laws

Failure to fully comply with laws and regulations can lead to serious consequences for a small company, including audits, lawsuits, and even bankruptcy.

Potential solutions to this challenge include:

  • Ensuring that at least one person on your management team is in charge of understanding local employment laws and regulations
  • Giving that person the time and resources needed to study and understand those laws and regulations
  • Consulting a legal expert with questions about the laws and regulations
  • Auditing your existing processes to ensure that everything is above board

While these solutions will require more time and money, getting them right is critical to ensure your company's health and future success.

2. Health and safety

Like with laws and regulations, HR organizations often ensure all health and safety requirements are being met at the company.

  • Creating and enforcing health and safety processes at the company
  • Providing employee training and documentation of course completion to prove compliance with health and safety measures
  • Monitoring and adapting to local health and safety laws
  • Tracking instances of workplace injuries or safety violations to protect against potential workplace compensation lawsuits

Like with employment laws and regulations, failure to execute a thorough health and safety program can expose the company to costly lawsuits and injury claims.

  • Designating a health and safety person or committee at your organization
  • Giving them the tools and training needed to study and understand local health and safety laws
  • Empowering them with absolute control over health and safety at the organization, including the power to make changes, upgrades, or even shut down operations temporarily if needed

Health and safety should be a top priority for any company. As such, this challenge should be on your shortlist to tackle as soon as possible.

3. Change management

Managing change can be a big headache for HR departments and their employees. This is especially true for fast-growing organizations experiencing rapid evolution in their processes or onboarding new employees at a high clip. Unfortunately, HR often bears the brunt of this frustration.

  • Adapting HR processes and policies to match the company's growth and ambitions
  • Balancing the needs and wants of legacy employees with those of new employees and management
  • Ensuring open communication before, during, and after changes are made
  • Dealing with negative feedback or frustrations from employees

When done poorly, change management can have an adverse effect on performance, staff engagement , and morale. It often falls on the HR department to find ways to ensure people-centric change doesn't affect productivity and output.

  • Clearly communicating the benefits of change to all employees
  • Implementing a change management process that outlines how, when, and where employees are informed of process changes
  • Encouraging open and honest feedback from employees when a change is made
  • Making it crystal clear why you are making a change and what the benefits are to the company and employees

It's not possible to please everyone all the time. But a few simple change management best practices can make your life much easier when scaling or altering your processes.

4. Compensation management

Compensation and benefits are one issue that no HR organization can get around. This is the core concern for all employees and has an immense impact on everything from performance to engagement to productivity.

  • Knowing how to structure compensation packages to stay competitive in your industry
  • Monitoring the recruitment landscape to see what others are offering
  • Matching compensation demand in the market, especially if you're trying to compete against larger competitors
  • Providing competitive perks, employee benefits , and bonuses that align with what your ideal candidates want

It takes a lot of time and money to ensure that your total compensation packages are appealing and competitive. In reality, small companies will struggle to compete against large corporations and their limitless budgets.

  • Looking for free tools like Payscale and Glassdoor to create benchmark salaries that are based on aggregated real data
  • Shortlisting competitors to watch and analyze what they promote on their careers sites in terms of perks, benefits, and compensation
  • Focusing on employer branding and culture messaging to create intangible benefits for candidates
  • Being creative with compensation to make up for less-than-competitive salaries

The bottom line is that larger companies can and likely will outspend smaller ones to land the best talent. To combat that reality, smaller companies should look to pitch what's unique and appealing about their company.

5. Landing top talent

Like with compensation, smaller HR organizations often get muscled out in the fight for top talent. This is another major HR problem in companies that don't have the resources to aggressively go after the best candidates.

  • Being overtaken by a large amount of competition for top talent in skilled roles
  • Having to spend lots of time, money, and effort to find top talent, all of which are in short supply
  • Devoting the time that's needed to hire top talent while also juggling all of the other requirements of an HR manager
  • Spending lots of resources to court a top candidate, only to have them leave early in their term with you or get scooped up by a competitor during the hiring process

Competition for top talent is fierce. Large organizations use every resource at their disposal to find and hire the best in the industry. Unfortunately, that means smaller organizations are often financially disadvantaged when hiring.

  • Getting creative with how and who you hire
  • Beefing up your employer brand to stand out from other companies
  • Recruiting directly from colleges and universities to give new and hungry employees a chance to shine
  • Leveraging networks and social channels to directly pitch candidates at no cost
  • Hiring the best recruiter possible and letting them do their jobs

Smaller organizations will need to pick and choose their battles when competing for top talent. If budget and resources are limited, then it might make sense to only go after the best candidates for strategically critical roles or ones that will drive long-term success.

6. Retention

Landing top talent is one thing, but retaining them long term comes with a new set of HR challenges for companies.

  • Focussing the bulk of your time and energy on employee retention
  • Balancing the cost of hiring top talent, with the risk of them leaving prematurely
  • Accounting for the variety of factors that might cause retention issues, including:
  • External poaching
  • Lack of engagement
  • Lack of career development
  • Lack of growth opportunities
  • Non-competitive salaries or benefits
  • Monitoring and adapting to issues that are leading to increased employee departures
  • Maintaining productivity levels while balancing all of the above
  • Finding a fine balance between culture, compensation, and incentives that boosts loyalty and retention: this will require some experimentation and lots of honest feedback
  • Continuously monitoring employee sentiment via pulse surveys, 1:1 meetings, anonymous surveys , town halls, etc.
  • Keeping an eye on the market to ensure that your compensation packages are competitive
  • Monitoring employee churn rates and retention rates and adapting to what the data is telling you
  • Addressing red flags before they become major issues

If you break down a month-to-month workload for most HR managers, employee retention is likely one of, if not their most important, priority.

Keeping employees happy and performing at a high level is incredibly important for a company's success and comes with many challenges for HR professionals.

7. Monitoring productivity and performance

Productivity and performance is a shared responsibilities between managers and the HR department. Managers are ultimately responsible for their team's performance, but it will fall on the HR department to make tough decisions if certain departments or teams aren't performing at the level they need to be.

  • Monitoring performance and productivity levels to ensure that the business is operating efficiently and hitting output goals
  • Identifying problems areas and taking necessary actions to turn things around
  • Working cross-functionally to find root causes for low performance and identifying potential solutions
  • Reporting human resource issues back to the executive team, who will then make strategic decisions

Keeping an eye on productivity and performance involves monitoring key indicators, engaging in candid conversations with managers and employees, and generally acting like a detective to find problems. While part of the job, it's a time-consuming responsibility and a common HR problem in companies.

  • Using HR platforms that integrate performance management, goal management, and engagement tracking
  • Looking for teams who are hitting their goals, studying what they do right, and presenting those processes as potential changes to the executive team
  • Keeping clear lines of communication open with all managers to ensure that issues are addressed before they snowball

The HR department is often one of the busiest in most companies. That becomes even more apparent in smaller companies with fewer employees dedicated to these mission-critical tasks. This is a very multifaceted role that brings with it many unique problems and challenges.

Like with most business challenges, focusing on strong communication, technology, processes, and goal tracking can help you overcome these common HR problems in companies.

Brendan is an established writer, content marketer and SEO manager with extensive experience writing about HR tech, information visualization, mind mapping, and all things B2B and SaaS. As a former journalist, he's always looking for new topics and industries to write about and explore.

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5 Strategies for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Business leader resolving workplace conflict

  • 07 Sep 2023

Any scenario in which you live, work, and collaborate with others is susceptible to conflict. Because workplaces are made up of employees with different backgrounds, personalities, opinions, and daily lives, discord is bound to occur. To navigate it, it’s crucial to understand why it arises and your options for resolving it.

Common reasons for workplace conflict include:

  • Misunderstandings or poor communication skills
  • Differing opinions, viewpoints, or personalities
  • Biases or stereotypes
  • Variations in learning or processing styles
  • Perceptions of unfairness

Although conflict is common, many don’t feel comfortable handling it—especially with colleagues. As a business leader, you’ll likely clash with other managers and need to help your team work through disputes.

Here’s why conflict resolution is important and five strategies for approaching it.

Access your free e-book today.

Why Is Addressing Workplace Conflict Important?

Pretending conflict doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Ignoring issues can lead to missed deadlines, festering resentment, and unsuccessful initiatives.

Yet, according to coaching and training firm Bravely , 53 percent of employees handle “toxic” situations by avoiding them. Worse still, averting a difficult conversation can cost an organization $7,500 and more than seven workdays.

That adds up quickly: American businesses lose $359 billion yearly due to the impact of unresolved conflict.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to foster healthy conflict resolution and create a safe, productive work environment for employees.

“Some rights, such as the right to safe working conditions or the right against sexual harassment, are fundamental to the employment relationship,” says Harvard Business School Professor Nien-hê Hsieh in the course Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability . “These rights are things that employees should be entitled to no matter what. They’re often written into the law, but even when they aren’t, they’re central to the ethical treatment of others, which involves respecting the inherent dignity and intrinsic worth of each individual.”

Effectively resolving disputes as they arise benefits your employees’ well-being and your company’s financial health. The first step is learning about five conflict resolution strategies at your disposal.

Related: How to Navigate Difficult Conversations with Employees

While there are several approaches to conflict, some can be more effective than others. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Model —developed by Dr. Kenneth W. Thomas and Dr. Ralph H. Kilmann—outlines five strategies for conflict resolution:

  • Accommodating
  • Compromising
  • Collaborating

These fall on a graph, with assertiveness on the y-axis and cooperativeness on the x-axis. In the Thomas-Kilmann model, “assertiveness” refers to the extent to which you try to reach your own goal, and “cooperativeness” is the extent to which you try to satisfy the other party’s goal.

Alternatively, you can think of these axis labels as the “importance of my goal” and the “importance of this relationship.” If your assertiveness is high, you aim to achieve your own goal. If your cooperativeness is high, you strive to help the other person reach theirs to maintain the relationship.

Here’s a breakdown of the five strategies and when to use each.

1. Avoiding

Avoiding is a strategy best suited for situations in which the relationship’s importance and goal are both low.

While you’re unlikely to encounter these scenarios at work, they may occur in daily life. For instance, imagine you’re on a public bus and the passenger next to you is loudly playing music. You’ll likely never bump into that person again, and your goal of a pleasant bus ride isn’t extremely pressing. Avoiding conflict by ignoring the music is a valid option.

In workplace conflicts—where your goals are typically important and you care about maintaining a lasting relationship with colleagues—avoidance can be detrimental.

Remember: Some situations require avoiding conflict, but you’re unlikely to encounter them in the workplace.

2. Competing

Competing is another strategy that, while not often suited for workplace conflict, can be useful in some situations.

This conflict style is for scenarios in which you place high importance on your goal and low importance on your relationships with others. It’s high in assertiveness and low in cooperation.

You may choose a competing style in a crisis. For instance, if someone is unconscious and people are arguing about what to do, asserting yourself and taking charge can help the person get medical attention quicker.

You can also use it when standing up for yourself and in instances where you feel unsafe. In those cases, asserting yourself and reaching safety is more critical than your relationships with others.

When using a competing style in situations where your relationships do matter (for instance, with a colleague), you risk impeding trust—along with collaboration, creativity, and productivity.

3. Accommodating

The third conflict resolution strategy is accommodation, in which you acquiesce to the other party’s needs. Use accommodating in instances where the relationship matters more than your goal.

For example, if you pitch an idea for a future project in a meeting, and one of your colleagues says they believe it will have a negative impact, you could resolve the conflict by rescinding your original thought.

This is useful if the other person is angry or hostile or you don’t have a strong opinion on the matter. It immediately deescalates conflict by removing your goal from the equation.

While accommodation has its place within organizational settings, question whether you use it to avoid conflict. If someone disagrees with you, simply acquiescing can snuff out opportunities for innovation and creative problem-solving .

As a leader, notice whether your employees frequently fall back on accommodation. If the setting is safe, encouraging healthy debate can lead to greater collaboration.

Related: How to Create a Culture of Ethics and Accountability in the Workplace

4. Compromising

Compromising is a conflict resolution strategy in which you and the other party willingly forfeit some of your needs to reach an agreement. It’s known as a “lose-lose” strategy, since neither of you achieve your full goal.

This strategy works well when your care for your goal and the relationship are both moderate. You value the relationship, but not so much that you abandon your goal, like in accommodation.

For example, maybe you and a peer express interest in leading an upcoming project. You could compromise by co-leading it or deciding one of you leads this one and the other the next one.

Compromising requires big-picture thinking and swallowing your pride, knowing you won’t get all your needs fulfilled. The benefits are that you and the other party value your relationship and make sacrifices to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.

5. Collaborating

Where compromise is a lose-lose strategy, collaboration is a win-win. In instances of collaboration, your goal and the relationship are equally important, motivating both you and the other party to work together to find an outcome that meets all needs.

An example of a situation where collaboration is necessary is if one of your employees isn’t performing well in their role—to the point that they’re negatively impacting the business. While maintaining a strong, positive relationship is important, so is finding a solution to their poor performance. Framing the conflict as a collaboration can open doors to help each other discover its cause and what you can do to improve performance and the business’s health.

Collaboration is ideal for most workplace conflicts. Goals are important, but so is maintaining positive relationships with co-workers. Promote collaboration whenever possible to find creative solutions to problems . If you can’t generate a win-win idea, you can always fall back on compromise.

How to Become a More Effective Leader | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

Considering Your Responsibilities as a Leader

As a leader, not only must you address your own conflicts but help your employees work through theirs. When doing so, remember your responsibilities to your employees—whether ethical, legal, or economic.

Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability groups your ethical responsibilities to employees into five categories:

  • Well-being: What’s ultimately good for the person
  • Rights: Entitlement to receive certain treatment
  • Duties: A moral obligation to behave in a specific way
  • Best practices: Aspirational standards not required by law or cultural norms
  • Fairness: Impartial and just treatment

In the course, Hsieh outlines three types of fairness you can use when helping employees solve conflicts:

  • Legitimate expectations: Employees reasonably expect certain practices or behaviors to continue based on experiences with the organization and explicit promises.
  • Procedural fairness: Managers must resolve issues impartially and consistently.
  • Distributive fairness: Your company equitably allocates opportunities, benefits, and burdens.

Particularly with procedural fairness, ensure you don’t take sides when mediating conflict. Treat both parties equally, allowing them time to speak and share their perspectives. Guide your team toward collaboration or compromise, and work toward a solution that achieves the goal while maintaining—and even strengthening—relationships.

Are you interested in learning how to navigate difficult decisions as a leader? Explore Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability —one of our online leadership and management courses —and download our free guide to becoming a more effective leader.

problem solving techniques within an hr context

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26 Good Examples of Problem Solving (Interview Answers)

By Biron Clark

Published: November 15, 2023

Employers like to hire people who can solve problems and work well under pressure. A job rarely goes 100% according to plan, so hiring managers will be more likely to hire you if you seem like you can handle unexpected challenges while staying calm and logical in your approach.

But how do they measure this?

They’re going to ask you interview questions about these problem solving skills, and they might also look for examples of problem solving on your resume and cover letter. So coming up, I’m going to share a list of examples of problem solving, whether you’re an experienced job seeker or recent graduate.

Then I’ll share sample interview answers to, “Give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem?”

Problem-Solving Defined

It is the ability to identify the problem, prioritize based on gravity and urgency, analyze the root cause, gather relevant information, develop and evaluate viable solutions, decide on the most effective and logical solution, and plan and execute implementation. 

Problem-solving also involves critical thinking, communication , listening, creativity, research, data gathering, risk assessment, continuous learning, decision-making, and other soft and technical skills.

Solving problems not only prevent losses or damages but also boosts self-confidence and reputation when you successfully execute it. The spotlight shines on you when people see you handle issues with ease and savvy despite the challenges. Your ability and potential to be a future leader that can take on more significant roles and tackle bigger setbacks shine through. Problem-solving is a skill you can master by learning from others and acquiring wisdom from their and your own experiences. 

It takes a village to come up with solutions, but a good problem solver can steer the team towards the best choice and implement it to achieve the desired result.

Watch: 26 Good Examples of Problem Solving

Examples of problem solving scenarios in the workplace.

  • Correcting a mistake at work, whether it was made by you or someone else
  • Overcoming a delay at work through problem solving and communication
  • Resolving an issue with a difficult or upset customer
  • Overcoming issues related to a limited budget, and still delivering good work through the use of creative problem solving
  • Overcoming a scheduling/staffing shortage in the department to still deliver excellent work
  • Troubleshooting and resolving technical issues
  • Handling and resolving a conflict with a coworker
  • Solving any problems related to money, customer billing, accounting and bookkeeping, etc.
  • Taking initiative when another team member overlooked or missed something important
  • Taking initiative to meet with your superior to discuss a problem before it became potentially worse
  • Solving a safety issue at work or reporting the issue to those who could solve it
  • Using problem solving abilities to reduce/eliminate a company expense
  • Finding a way to make the company more profitable through new service or product offerings, new pricing ideas, promotion and sale ideas, etc.
  • Changing how a process, team, or task is organized to make it more efficient
  • Using creative thinking to come up with a solution that the company hasn’t used before
  • Performing research to collect data and information to find a new solution to a problem
  • Boosting a company or team’s performance by improving some aspect of communication among employees
  • Finding a new piece of data that can guide a company’s decisions or strategy better in a certain area

Problem Solving Examples for Recent Grads/Entry Level Job Seekers

  • Coordinating work between team members in a class project
  • Reassigning a missing team member’s work to other group members in a class project
  • Adjusting your workflow on a project to accommodate a tight deadline
  • Speaking to your professor to get help when you were struggling or unsure about a project
  • Asking classmates, peers, or professors for help in an area of struggle
  • Talking to your academic advisor to brainstorm solutions to a problem you were facing
  • Researching solutions to an academic problem online, via Google or other methods
  • Using problem solving and creative thinking to obtain an internship or other work opportunity during school after struggling at first

You can share all of the examples above when you’re asked questions about problem solving in your interview. As you can see, even if you have no professional work experience, it’s possible to think back to problems and unexpected challenges that you faced in your studies and discuss how you solved them.

Interview Answers to “Give an Example of an Occasion When You Used Logic to Solve a Problem”

Now, let’s look at some sample interview answers to, “Give me an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem,” since you’re likely to hear this interview question in all sorts of industries.

Example Answer 1:

At my current job, I recently solved a problem where a client was upset about our software pricing. They had misunderstood the sales representative who explained pricing originally, and when their package renewed for its second month, they called to complain about the invoice. I apologized for the confusion and then spoke to our billing team to see what type of solution we could come up with. We decided that the best course of action was to offer a long-term pricing package that would provide a discount. This not only solved the problem but got the customer to agree to a longer-term contract, which means we’ll keep their business for at least one year now, and they’re happy with the pricing. I feel I got the best possible outcome and the way I chose to solve the problem was effective.

Example Answer 2:

In my last job, I had to do quite a bit of problem solving related to our shift scheduling. We had four people quit within a week and the department was severely understaffed. I coordinated a ramp-up of our hiring efforts, I got approval from the department head to offer bonuses for overtime work, and then I found eight employees who were willing to do overtime this month. I think the key problem solving skills here were taking initiative, communicating clearly, and reacting quickly to solve this problem before it became an even bigger issue.

Example Answer 3:

In my current marketing role, my manager asked me to come up with a solution to our declining social media engagement. I assessed our current strategy and recent results, analyzed what some of our top competitors were doing, and then came up with an exact blueprint we could follow this year to emulate our best competitors but also stand out and develop a unique voice as a brand. I feel this is a good example of using logic to solve a problem because it was based on analysis and observation of competitors, rather than guessing or quickly reacting to the situation without reliable data. I always use logic and data to solve problems when possible. The project turned out to be a success and we increased our social media engagement by an average of 82% by the end of the year.

Answering Questions About Problem Solving with the STAR Method

When you answer interview questions about problem solving scenarios, or if you decide to demonstrate your problem solving skills in a cover letter (which is a good idea any time the job description mention problem solving as a necessary skill), I recommend using the STAR method to tell your story.

STAR stands for:

It’s a simple way of walking the listener or reader through the story in a way that will make sense to them. So before jumping in and talking about the problem that needed solving, make sure to describe the general situation. What job/company were you working at? When was this? Then, you can describe the task at hand and the problem that needed solving. After this, describe the course of action you chose and why. Ideally, show that you evaluated all the information you could given the time you had, and made a decision based on logic and fact.

Finally, describe a positive result you got.

Whether you’re answering interview questions about problem solving or writing a cover letter, you should only choose examples where you got a positive result and successfully solved the issue.

Example answer:

Situation : We had an irate client who was a social media influencer and had impossible delivery time demands we could not meet. She spoke negatively about us in her vlog and asked her followers to boycott our products. (Task : To develop an official statement to explain our company’s side, clarify the issue, and prevent it from getting out of hand). Action : I drafted a statement that balanced empathy, understanding, and utmost customer service with facts, logic, and fairness. It was direct, simple, succinct, and phrased to highlight our brand values while addressing the issue in a logical yet sensitive way.   We also tapped our influencer partners to subtly and indirectly share their positive experiences with our brand so we could counter the negative content being shared online.  Result : We got the results we worked for through proper communication and a positive and strategic campaign. The irate client agreed to have a dialogue with us. She apologized to us, and we reaffirmed our commitment to delivering quality service to all. We assured her that she can reach out to us anytime regarding her purchases and that we’d gladly accommodate her requests whenever possible. She also retracted her negative statements in her vlog and urged her followers to keep supporting our brand.

What Are Good Outcomes of Problem Solving?

Whenever you answer interview questions about problem solving or share examples of problem solving in a cover letter, you want to be sure you’re sharing a positive outcome.

Below are good outcomes of problem solving:

  • Saving the company time or money
  • Making the company money
  • Pleasing/keeping a customer
  • Obtaining new customers
  • Solving a safety issue
  • Solving a staffing/scheduling issue
  • Solving a logistical issue
  • Solving a company hiring issue
  • Solving a technical/software issue
  • Making a process more efficient and faster for the company
  • Creating a new business process to make the company more profitable
  • Improving the company’s brand/image/reputation
  • Getting the company positive reviews from customers/clients

Every employer wants to make more money, save money, and save time. If you can assess your problem solving experience and think about how you’ve helped past employers in those three areas, then that’s a great start. That’s where I recommend you begin looking for stories of times you had to solve problems.

Tips to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

Throughout your career, you’re going to get hired for better jobs and earn more money if you can show employers that you’re a problem solver. So to improve your problem solving skills, I recommend always analyzing a problem and situation before acting. When discussing problem solving with employers, you never want to sound like you rush or make impulsive decisions. They want to see fact-based or data-based decisions when you solve problems.

Next, to get better at solving problems, analyze the outcomes of past solutions you came up with. You can recognize what works and what doesn’t. Think about how you can get better at researching and analyzing a situation, but also how you can get better at communicating, deciding the right people in the organization to talk to and “pull in” to help you if needed, etc.

Finally, practice staying calm even in stressful situations. Take a few minutes to walk outside if needed. Step away from your phone and computer to clear your head. A work problem is rarely so urgent that you cannot take five minutes to think (with the possible exception of safety problems), and you’ll get better outcomes if you solve problems by acting logically instead of rushing to react in a panic.

You can use all of the ideas above to describe your problem solving skills when asked interview questions about the topic. If you say that you do the things above, employers will be impressed when they assess your problem solving ability.

If you practice the tips above, you’ll be ready to share detailed, impressive stories and problem solving examples that will make hiring managers want to offer you the job. Every employer appreciates a problem solver, whether solving problems is a requirement listed on the job description or not. And you never know which hiring manager or interviewer will ask you about a time you solved a problem, so you should always be ready to discuss this when applying for a job.

Related interview questions & answers:

  • How do you handle stress?
  • How do you handle conflict?
  • Tell me about a time when you failed

Biron Clark

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