Commercial drive - Lesson 1: your reflections

Welcome to the online community learning space for the lesson: Getting started with commercial drive. Use this forum to discuss the community reflective activity in the lesson. Read the contributions of others, ‘liking’ those you find helpful and add your unique reflections to the conversation by replying to this post. Click here to return to the lesson page at any time.

Community reflective activity: 
How do you ensure you build the skills to have commercial drive and how do you demonstrate it in your practice?


  • I was struck by this example being in an obviously commercial environment, where the HR team put forward a 'traditional' strategy based on steady state. Yes, they then listened and put forward a revised strategy that seemed to show a better understanding of the precarious business environment the company was facing. I don't think it went far enough as it did not address how to quickly equip staff with future skills. I think it did show a potential disconnect that can happen in any sector, including public and not for profit. To build commercial skills, it is essential to listen, to ask questions, to get into the meetings and conversations about the organisation's strategy, to read the P&L statements, to network in the sector and to read widely (on line or paper.) If you get your HR response or offer wrong - well first find out how misaligned it is? In order to build future credibility, it is necessary to get the balance right between taking feedback constructively and offering challenge if, when you can demonstrate you do understand the commercial situation, you can evidence that your HR offer does meet business needs. In other words, take it on the chin if you get it wrong but don't be afraid to speak up if you firmly believe from the evidence available that you are offering what is required to move the business strategy forward / achieve its goals. Then make sure that you clearly and visibly demonstrate what you are doing to build future and ongoing HR credibility.
  • Hi, first amazing course. I am on my second unit 5CHR doing my Level 5 Diploma in HR and L&D. This course will hopefully help me solidify and get deeper into the commercial drive and understand meaning of it and how it affects HR activities within an organisation. I a receiving my People Management copy for the past 5 years and it is great resource of current HR and business topics: issues, solutions, etc. Only recently I started watching the Dragons den and it is amazing how much I could learn from such a program, and how easily I would put my mindset into “dragon’s” shoes and think or discuss businesses and their issues before the dragons themselves. I am keen news reader and my previous career (1st love) I had an opportunity to work for a daily newspaper and in business and economy pages. I now continue reading The Economist but I am keen to expand and include BBC business and economy pages and Financial Times when available. I am also readying many academic resources which helped me so far with my education towards next level diploma.
    In few occasions I was able to point out the HR issues at my workplace and it’s business context. One of the latest occasions was IR35 and how it will affect our business as ltd when working with Sole Trade or limited registered contractors. As a R&D company that often uses outside company contractors self or personally ltd company employed, we had an obligation to review our policies and understand where does our company and contracts are within this regulation. Moreover, we had L&D strategy made to educate and prepare operations and finance director, as well as Finance controller for once it becomes active.

  • Hi all as one of the Learning Community Champions I'm really looking forward to sharing our learning on commercial drive and getting to hear about your experiences and learning.
    So looking at the first reflective activity I started off by thinking about how I build the skills to have commercial drive. I can most relate to the blog in the curated content about how you have to get outside of HR to really learn commercial drive. For me that means spending as much time as I can with leaders and managers in the business to ascertain what they do and how they contribute to the business. I work quite closely with Finance as a key partner and I have found that I needed to learn to speak their language too - I needed to be able to understand and produce a budget sheet as well as understand revenue and cost lines.

    I'm keen to hear how you develop your commercial drive and look forward to hearing from you.

    What did you think about the view that by the time you are in your 30's you have probably worked in two or three industries and have made your choice about the type of industry you want to work in and how this enables you to learn commercial drive for that industry? I'd never thought of that before, I've worked in a variety of industries so I'm interested to hear your views.

    So how can I demonstrate commercial drive in practice - well I would not put forward any HR strategy or initiatives without firstly showing how it will benefit the business strategy, and how it fits in with the plans within other departments and teams. I found the video interesting that HR were wanting to increase graduate recruitment and bring in an MBA when the business was losing revenue and clients. My initial thought was that my HR Strategy should be looking at how to make sure we have the right skills and people in the business at the right cost and location and looking to see what skills we are missing that perhaps our new competitors have and how we can tap into that talent.

    What were your views? What would you have done?

    I'm keen to hear your views and look forward to any questions you may have that I can help you with.
  • In reply to Marija:

    Hi Marija Thank you for sharing. I can hear from what I have read that you are making lots of opportunities to see things from different perspectives. I have recently read Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed who emphasises that further. If we dont have cognitive diversity as a team and ourselves we will increase our bias. He refers to echo chambers. What he means by that is that we tend to build ideas, options and values based on those around us. The dangers of that is that it makes us feel safe. Although on the outset being safe feels great it means it is hard to really understand other perspectives and view points. I really like The Economist, FT and also try and push myself into reading and going to conferences that push me out of my comfort zone. It would be great to understand what you are drawn to when you read. Is it always the same topic, same author / journalist? In the same way in your business, how can you optimise the strengths in the business to build your own knowledge rather than go to the 'same people'. When I say 'you' this can be applied to everyone. As Annette says in an earlier conversation keep asking the questions, invite yourself into meetings so you can learn and bring all aspects of the business into your decision making. HR has the responsibility to give leaders an understanding of the choices and risks associated with them. Not just a rule book. Keep up the great learning!
  • In reply to Annette:

    Great points Annette. Thank you for sharing. I echo much of what you are saying. Understanding the rhythm of the business is key. Commercial awareness is not just about your area of responsibility or business. It is the wider context like the economy, the industry, skills levels (apprenticeship etc), government policy and changes plus things like presidential leaders / Brexit. This brings a number of questions for me. The example you shared seemed on the outset a more short term piece. However as you brilliantly point out, skills could be more mid term. Questions come at varies levels. You could be quite linear with questions like how does it fit with our strategy and budget. However the brilliance often comes from a multiple of angles from multiple departments. You only have the opportunity for this when you know the business. When you have built relationships across the business. Trust has been formed. Trust has been built through credibility. Genuine curiosity, building from your learning and managing risks are fundamental. I like the breadth and depth piece you bring up with reading. Sometimes we can get channelled in this too. So my offering to that would be go beyond. So if you work in tech read something like Wired magazine, seek out the technical people in the business and see how and where they learn. Thank you for sharing Annette.
  • In reply to Lizzie Rhodes James:

    Hi Lizzie, I apologise for the delayed response. I’ve been busy with the assignment deadline.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and giving some good reading and thinking material. I like to read about the contemporary issues at work and how HR can get or is involved in developing the strategies to help business resolve them in the way that is championing  for the people in the organisation.

    I recently got very much into reading Urlich’s work in publications and online, e.g. LinkedIn. I purchased his book Reinventing the Organisation, I believe it will help me understand the fast paced environmental changes and how to use strategic models to get the best valuable and accurate data to help HR strategy. I would like to improve my analytical skills and become more data-driven HR manager that can confidentially influence and help the leaders.

    It is very good advice “to invite myself to the meetings” and “keep asking the questions”. I think I am lacking that confidence to get more involved and put myself out there in front of CEOs and other execs or leaders. It is something I am working on very much as I do want to build an image of a strong and knowledgable HR manager.

    Thank you again for the support.

  • In reply to Marija:

    Hi Marija If it is any consolation to you. All leaders have to balance fear and courage. You will find your way. Think about everything as baby steps on a journey. Look forward to hearing about your new meets and questioning :-)
  • In reply to Marija:

    Sounds like you've added good value to the organisation by being proactive with your approach to IR35. Best of luck with your studies.
  • Hello, I'm also one of the Learning Community Champions and I look forward to contributing and listening to other opinions on this forum. I work in the CIPD employer solutions team, and part of my role is to gain an understanding the vision organisations. Where they are heading, the challenges they envisage and the plans they have to overcome those barriers. The first thing that struck me with this case study is they have provided a solution without truly understanding the challenges, therefore their initial proposal was not well received. The people function needs to engage with the organisation to understand the different viewpoints and gain insight from different parties to understand how the impact of actions in one area can effect other areas of the business.
  • In reply to Annette:

    Well done on your analysis. Finding a sponsor or advocate or champion (senior or board management perhaps) for HR and the contribution to business outcomes may provide the inside running for HR to know the business and business drivers to deliver on organisation goals. Perhaps effectiveness is about the business knowing what HR can do complemented by what HR knows will contribute to business outcomes.

  • In reply to Helene:

    Hi Helene for me its considering all the different systems we impact starting with ourselves. Then utilising my curiosity to support learning and understanding in each one.
  • Remembering the core aim of the business & not getting too blinkered by the specific function you play is key to ensuring you're sensitive to its needs & challenges, & how best you can serve it. Frequent communication with other departments ensures a better global view, & some first-hand experience elsewhere within the business may be useful if feasible. A collective approach to business challenges often leads to better outcomes, being open to direction in times of crises can be an advantage; being a good follower can be as valuable as being a good leader - that's not to say backing yourself & persevering when you believe & can demonstrate your own ideas have value & could help the business if implemented
  • The seven statements in the foundation level of COMMERCIAL DRIVE in the new profession map is a wonderful guide to ensure my-self about the level of my Commercial drive. 

    I would demonstrate my commercial drive by:

    • Knowing more about my organization vision, mission and objectives. Compare the organizational objectives to performance KPIs.
    • Study the financial statements and understand the trends
    • Know the Job Scope of my superiors and discuss the issue which interest me and to know how they are adding value to organization.
    • Identify the activities which can contribute for adding value to organization from my scope or perspective work. 
    • when issues arise, try to understand from others point of view and by un-zooming to see a larger picture.
    • Show commitment to take part in larger changes happening in the organization.  
    • Question my-self how I am contributing to the larger goal of organization in terms of commercial output. 
  • In reply to Annette:

    The 'steady state' HR observation stuck a chord with me. I came into a business where this was quite evident. The business wasn't growing (and neither was it shrinking) and the HR structure, roles and skills were very much aligned to a benign operating environment. It became apparent that when we were challenged on our costs as well as the need for growth that the HR function was found to be lacking in the required skills, and arguably desire, to support this. Neither did it react or adapt quickly enough and as a result some poor people decisions were made. The resultant outcome for HR was a re-structure as well as a change of personalities; thankfully the latter was more so by choice. Interestingly if we were to go back to steady state then many of the people I now have in place would be the wrong people as they would not have the challenge needed to keep them motivated, so a key lesson I have learned is the need for HR be agile and not afraid to change it's operational model and outlook and people when needed - they key is anticipating this and acting in advance.
  • Hello My Dears,

    I am delighted to read your valuable thoughts and reflections about commercial drive.

    I believe it is a driver for success for any individual in a workplace, even for the people who want to be business owners. The commercial drive is like the stream in a desert for all of us. Getting the knowledge and awareness of it makes the one more valid to the business and more focused in his job.

    One thing I want to add I didn't notice it in my reading. The effect of commercial drive and its relation with the ethics and value. Where I believe that the commercial drive should be a part of the values in organisations. "Fully aware with of Organization Commercial Drive(s)" is a value and it should be spread from higher management to the bottom line.

    Here is the organization role to seed its drives in respectful employees.    

    Thank you all for your enlightened comments where I do benefit from them.