Commercial awareness is a core skill, which is highly sought-after by potential employers.

Consisting of an individual’s accumulated knowledge of the business world, and paired with a critical understanding of how organisations function, being able to demonstrate a good level of commercial awareness can help secure employability, while also being a contributing factor in the progression of your career. 

Despite this, commercial awareness is a skill that very few can display well. A 2018 report published by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found that 23% of graduates failed to show appropriate levels of commercial awareness in the workplace. So, to help you understand what commercial awareness is, and the part it will play in your working life, read on!

What is commercial awareness?

Commercial awareness is a developed knowledge of specific objectives, such as how a business works and the impact of broader external factors on operations.

Employees should have an assured knowledge of the company they work for, immediate competitors, and other relevant bodies. This knowledge can assist the employee in making sound business decisions that act in the best interest of the company.

Why is commercial awareness important?

In any sector or industry, you are expected to have a clear understanding of how changes within the wider business world would potentially affect the business. Being able to demonstrate this understanding can immediately position you above other employees, and reassure your employer that you are the right fit for the company. 

The vital thing to remember about commercial awareness is that it is a mindset. It’s less about being able to regurgitate facts and figures, but rather demonstrating an active interest in your sector. After all, the events happening in the wider industry could potentially play a part in the future of your role and organisation. 

Who needs commercial awareness?

To put it simply, everyone - regardless of who they are, their position within the company, and what sector or industry they work in - should be able to develop an adequate level of commercial awareness in the workplace. 

With increasing levels of competition within all industries, and a rapidly-evolving working world, every employer is looking for potential employees who are up-to-date with the latest industry news and trends. After all, being able to keep up with these updates could result in an adverse decision from an employee, which could reflect poorly on the company. 

Thankfully, as with all workplace skills, you can hone your commercial awareness skills with time and effort. 

5 easy ways of improving your commercial awareness 

Getting into the habit of being business savvy now will stand you in good stead throughout your working life. As we’ve said in the past, many can demonstrate being commercially aware without realising it - but upskilling can benefit you exponentially. 

The below infographic details five simple activities that can help you boost your commercial awareness:

5 easy ways to improve your commercial awareness infographic

In more detail...

1. Read the business pages of newspapers/websites

Dedicating time every day to familiarising yourself with the current worldwide financial and economic situation can help develop your commercial awareness. Magazines such as The Economist are readily available to read online, and can provide you with the grounding you need to understand what’s going on. 

2. Watch the news

Watching the news is one of the easiest ways to develop your awareness. Many large broadcasters have programmes dedicated to business news, which can help you understand more about the wider business world, as well as remaining up-to-date in your relevant industry or sector. 

3. Refresh your existing skills

As someone who is new to the working world, it’s understandable if some elements of your new job seem overwhelming. That being said, you also don’t want to be stumped by a graph or some maths you haven’t thought about since leaving school. Take the time to refresh your numeracy and statistics skills, if you can - which will also put you in good stead with your future employer! 

4. Take on a new voluntary role

Is a local group looking for a role, such as a treasurer? Taking on a new voluntary role will help improve your commercial awareness, as you’ll be gaining a better understanding of how organisations make money, and how objectives can influence how well a business is doing. 

5. Reflect on your previous jobs and experiences  

Think about any previous positions you’ve held. Are there any generalisations you can take from that role, and apply to your new job? Take into consideration the customers, industry, sector, and wider company news.

For example, if you worked at a fast-food restaurant, you will have known which products were bestsellers, and when to anticipate busy periods. In its simplest form, this is commercial awareness

Improving commercial awareness within the workplace

The modern workplace has evolved rapidly in recent years, without the addition of COVID-19. For employers wanting to boost the commercial awareness of their team, implementing a face-to-face workshop would have been sufficient to help employees learn in the past - but this simply isn’t the case anymore. 

Here at MDA Training, we can work with employers to host virtual training sessions, in the form of commercial awareness webinars, that can help support employees develop their skills. We can tweak our offering to suit any budget and team size, while still assisting employees to bolster their knowledge, and give the business an additional competitive edge. 

To summarise… 

We know the impact of commercial decisions has never been more crucial. Whether it’s related to finances or internal processes, being able to display a good level of awareness could be the difference between success and failure at an organisational scale.

Our commercial awareness programmes can be delivered virtually, via Zoom or Webex, and are designed to help employees develop key financial skills. For more information about these applications, contact MDA Training today.