In the world of business, having analytical skills can give you a definite advantage. Many HR managers and employers look for these skills when hiring new staff. At the same time, employees who already have superb analytical skills tend to excel more in their fields.
But what exactly are analytical skills? Is it possible to acquire these skills and be better at them? How do you enhance your analytical skills? To be able to improve your analytical skills, it is best to clearly understand what these skills cover.
What are analytical skills?
Analytical skills refer to a collection of skills that gives you the ability to gather, organise, visualise, and understand data. Analytical skills allow you to think logically, which then enables you to see trends, formulate new approaches, and find creative solutions to problems using the data gathered.
Analytical thinking can help you succeed in business because you will be able to see gaps in your processes and implement changes to achieve better efficiency. You are able to use facts and data to support your opinion and actions.
The process of analytical thinking is different for everyone but it usually consists of the following:
- Identifying the problem
- Data gathering
- Organising and detecting trends in the data
- Developing ideas and solutions based on the findings and how to implement these
- Testing and assessing whether these new ideas work
Examples of analytical skills
Unlike other types of skills, analytical skills cover a variety of other different skills. This means that to be able to say that you have analytical skills, you have to excel in more than just one of these skills. Here are some examples of analytical skills that are very useful in the workplace.
Compared to many years ago, technology has made it a lot easier to conduct research nowadays. You don’t need to check out dusty library books or sort through faded newspaper clipping because you can now get the information you need with just a quick search on the internet.
However, being good at research is not just about knowing how to use Google. With the massive amount of information available online and offline, having excellent research skills means knowing what to look for and where to look to find useful information in the most efficient manner. It’s not just about copying and pasting hundreds of articles because you need to know how to filter which one is useful or not. Efficient research means being able to find useful information that can solve your problems in the shortest possible time.
Many companies gather tons of data every single day, with the aim of using this data to improve their business. If you don’t know what to do with the data you have, then you are not only wasting a lot of resources but you’re also missing out on a big opportunity. This is where data analysis comes in. It is one of the most important analytical skills to have, if not the most important one.
Data analysis refers to the ability to scrutinise a large amount of data, see patterns and trends, and determine how the information can benefit the company. It’s about knowing which sets of collected information are useful to the different functional areas of business and then transforming the data in a way that can easily be digested and used by stakeholders.
Attention to Detail
Not everyone has the patience to look at the nitty-gritty of things as most people would rather be distracted with the big-picture endgame. However, having attention to detail is a priceless skill that contributes to analytical thinking.
When you have attention to detail, you have the ability to spot things others may have overlooked, which can help you find answers and formulate innovative solutions. This skill also means you can be more accurate and precise in your work. When you commit fewer mistakes, you save time and effort, which makes you more productive.
Problem-solving is one of the most sought-after skills of many employers. This is a no-brainer because if you are the person who creates solutions, instead of making the problems, then you’ll definitely be in-demand. Being a good problem solver means you are able to find answers to resolve issues by rationally and reasonably using the information you have. You don’t solve the problem purely out of sentiment, but you are able to weigh the different aspects logically to come up with the best solution.
Forecasting is a unique yet very useful skill to have. It refers to having the ability to use past and current data to predict future needs and trends. You have to have strong data analysis skills in order to be a good forecaster. In business, the most common things that are forecasted are sales, expenses, profit, and customer demand.
How to improve your analytical skills
Analytical skills are in great demand because they are invaluable in the workplace. When you work on your analytical skills, this can benefit you greatly in your career. Developing these skills can help you improve your job performance, get promoted, and aim for better opportunities. According to studies, engaging in training and development is also a part of what motivates you at work.This means that you can avoid being in a stagnant position. When employees have analytical skills, this contributes to the productivity of the company and to its bottom line.
If you want to improve your analytical skills, there are certain techniques that you can try out.
Read a variety of books, magazines, and online resources
If you are a voracious reader, then that is already a plus point but if you’re not, then adopting a reading habit will greatly help. Sure, many people would now prefer to watch Netflix or YouTube videos, but reading is still a different experience. Reading commands your entire attention, which helps you focus on the little details. When you read a lot, the speed of how you assimilate information also improves.
When reading, don’t just stick to one author or one genre. Try to read a variety of books and articles. Reading some of the best business books, for example, can help you widen your knowledge and learn new techniques. This is useful when you want to generate new ideas and processes.
Socialise and network with colleagues/industry peers
A good analytical thinker has the ability to see multiple aspects, scenarios, or outcomes based on the information gathered. Even if you’re the most brilliant analyst, it will be impossible to be effective if you keep to yourself and you don’t open your mind to different thoughts and opinions. You can’t just have a one-track mind.
Socialising and networking can help you educate yourself on how people think, how people react to different circumstances, engage in intelligent debates or discussions, and other things you won’t find in books. Gaining different insights and perspectives can help you better in processing information. If you have the chance, travelling to other places to meet new people can also help broaden your perspective.
Attend workshops or coaching sessions
As the old adage goes: Practice makes perfect. You don’t want to practice on the real deal because making a mistake can cost the company a lot of money. So, how do you get hands-on training on how to practice your analytical skills?
Attending training, workshops, and seminars is a good idea. Many training sessions would usually have exercises that can help you hone your skills and gain good techniques.
Developing your analytical skills
Analytical skills are acquired skills, not an inborn talent. What this means is that it is never too late to have excellent analytical skills as long as you put in the time and effort to develop yourself.