Commercial awareness is the buzzword of the modern day recruiter and HR professional.

Many employers regularly cite it as essential to the employability of a candidate, but all too often candidates have no idea how to demonstrate their commercial awareness.

So if employees can’t demonstrate it, how can you recognise it? And once you have recognised it, how do you hone those skills in your workforce? To understand commercial acumen you must first understand what commercial awareness is...

So, what is commercial awareness?

“Commercial awareness is the ability to understand what makes a business or organisation successful, through either buying or selling products or supplying services to a market.”

This simple definition might summarise commercial awareness but in reality, the concept encompasses a wide range of skills and understanding, most obviously an understanding of the business staff are working in and its market or sector.

Equally, it is necessary to recognise that commercial awareness and commercial skills are not just important for those working, or wanting to work, in the commercial or business sector.

Everyone from those working in journalism, the arts or for charities need to be able to demonstrate that they are commercially aware - in short, staff need to be able to demonstrate that they are good value for money to their employers.

What commercial skills should you be looking out for?

Many people come undone when it comes to demonstrating their commercial awareness. While they might understand the premise, they’re not sure how to ensure employers know they do. Below are the key things to look for in commercially aware employees:


It is important that employees can communicate confidently with colleagues at all levels and, moreover, they can speak with confidence about the business in which they work, the business sector they are in and their target market.

Being perceptive

-Employees who keep a firm eye on the climate of their market and react accordingly are invaluable. It is key to have employees who are flexible, knowledgeable and proactive when it comes to moving with current trends.

Know the competition

 Another part of being commercially aware is knowing what competitors are doing so that employees can offer up suggestions accordingly, be that subtle changes to current activity or deciding to go head to head.


Marrying up priorities between staff your business will go a long way and demonstrates that employees understand fully the goals of the business and are dedicated to helping to reach them.  

Financial awareness 

Understanding the drivers of financial performance in the business and more importantly understanding how an employee can drive performance in their day-to-day activities.

Developing commercial skills

Above are just a few core examples of the types of commercial skills that are key to businesses in every sector. If you're reading this and are struggling to think of any employees who regularly demonstrate these skills, or can see that these skills need to be developed in your staff,

there are a few things you can do. Simple ways to develop commercial skills include encouraging staff to read and follow relevant sector-specific news and publications, equally encouraging staff to regularly brush up on key basic skills such as numeracy can really help when it comes to relaying sales projections and growth figures.

If you want to go one step further we can help to develop the personal commercial skills of your people in their genuine work environment, covering everything from effective business writing, pitching and negotiation through to risk management.