With the unemployment rate remaining stubbornly high and job growth remaining dismally low, job seekers face a highly competitive market. With so few jobs and so many candidates, it’s tough to make the cut and get ahead. Not surprisingly, many organizations face a similar dilemma: fighting an uphill battle to increase revenue and find a competitive edge.

In a recent Forbes article that focused on the top 10 most critical job skills to parlay in a job search, the top three included:

-          Critical thinking

-          Complex problem solving

-          Judgment and decision making

In fact, all three skills are so in demand that they are key characteristics sought in 9 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs of 2013.  These skills are not only important for a job seeker, but are also critical to achieving success once hired. 

Businesses are increasingly benefitting from incorporating these skills into their employees’ capability development regiment as well.  By developing their issue resolution and critical thinking skills, employees are better equipped to solve a company’s most complex problems and make impactful decisions.  When you enable employees to tackle the organization’s most pressing needs, you increase their engagement.  And when you increase engagement, you positively affect your company’s bottom line.  Here’s proof.

Several studies have recently proven a direct relationship between employee engagement and financial returns.  According to a study by Kenex, the most engaged companies had five times higher total shareholder return over a five year period than the least engaged; and a 2011 study by Towers Perrin found that companies with engaged employees had six percent higher net-profit margins.

Perhaps Daniel Pink, best-selling author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, puts it more directly: “Forty years of research tells us that if we provide more autonomy, allow people to work towards mastery and plug people into a purpose, people will perform at a higher level.”

The bottom line is this: effectively developing your employees’ critical thinking skills will have significant impact on a key driver of engagement—intrinsic motivation.  When employees feel ownership in how work is accomplished and believe that their thinking is making a difference, they are much more likely to engage beyond the call of duty.   

So, the benefit of investing in your employees’ ability to think critically not only benefits them, but is a smart investment in your company’s future.