As the HR profession matures, companies need their HR leaders to be true business partners – to be able to align their people strategy with broader company objectives. Unfortunately, HR often falls short.

As one CEO put it, the skills gap in HR “is around business acumen. I look for solutions to be broader than HR specialism; [they] need to bridge across different functions. They bring to the table solutions that are very ‘siloed’ in their domain.”

Here’s our three-step plan for building the commercial awareness that businesses need.

  1. Read widely

Whether it’s Freakonomics, Getting to Yes or a biography of Steve Jobs, add business books to your bedtime reading list.

Use your commute or lunch break to peruse publications like The Economist or Financial Times. Ask yourself: what trends are developing, and how might they affect HR and my company?

        2. Use SWOT and PEST

Analyse your company using common business analysis frameworks.

  • SWOT: evaluate its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

  • PEST: identify political, economic social and technological hurdles it might need to overcome.

Think about the potential effects of each issue you’ve identified. How might they influence recruitment and retention, and how can you adapt? How will they impact on other departments, and what solutions could you offer?

       3. Learn from the experts around you

Use your SWOT and PEST analysis to identify gaps in your knowledge, and seek out colleagues, managers and mentors who can help you fill them.

Be upfront about wanting to expand your commercial awareness. You’ll rise in their estimation, and the insights you’ll glean will make you into the HR pro CEOs want on their team.  


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