Commercial awareness is a key skill that is highly sought after by employers. It revolves around the fundamental understanding of the company and relevant industry or sector from the employee.

Employees should have an assured knowledge of the company they work for, including a broader knowledge about the industry that the company is situated in, immediate competitors and any other relevant authoritative bodies. Industry news should be readily available and shared around the workplace, and accessible by all employees - including any negative issues.

Who needs commercial awareness?

In the modern workplace, everyone - from public sectors to volunteers and charity workers - needs to be able to demonstrate commercial awareness, due to the continually changing nature of most industries. It is essential that employees are up to date with the latest industry news, legislation changes and evolving trends in consumerism and the markets. Being unable to keep up with these updates could result in mistakes from employees, which have the potential to reflect poorly on the company and attract negative attention.

Why is commercial awareness such a sought-after skill?

Commercial awareness is a skill that increases employability, and being able to demonstrate this skill is highly desirable to employers. With many companies facing increasingly fierce competition and saturation of degree-educated workers entering the industry, being able to show commercial awareness can set a candidate apart from their counterparts.

How would an employee display that they have commercial awareness?

It is likely that an employee will demonstrate commercial awareness without realising. Knowing the company is a key indicator of this, as is being able to understand the positioning of the company within the industry, the performance of relevant competitors and the behaviour of markets and consumers. In addition to this, an employee with commercial awareness will also be able to demonstrate some level of financial awareness: understanding the value of money and how companies need to make money to succeed.

An employee that has commercial awareness will ask questions about the company, clients and the industry (and will continue to do so throughout their time at the company) - and will therefore be able to demonstrate that they understand how the business works. They will also be able to make suggestions based on specific unique selling points or key performance indicators that are in-line with the company’s core values or brand personality. They may also suggest ideas that are in-line with a cost-saving initiative, thus demonstrating their financial awareness.

What can an employee do to increase their commercial awareness?

There are a number of steps that an employee can take to improve their commercial awareness. As an employer, you could encourage employees to dedicate some time daily to looking at various local and national news sites. Many news sites, including The Insider, can be filtered by region - giving employees the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the relevant business and industry information.

Similarly, many organisations opt to implement workshops or webinar, created by an external training provider, that can support employees develop these skills. There is a range of options available, that can be adjusted to accommodate any budget and can result in employees elevating their knowledge and offering the business an added competitive edge.