The workforce is rapidly evolving. According to research by McKinsey, automation and artificial intelligence will transform the workplace over the next 10 to 15 years, impacting the skills professionals need to stay competitive in their fields.

Beyond an increasing demand for those with technological know-how, the changing job market is driving a need for workers who are adept at decision-making, complex information processing, critical thinking, communication, and leadership.

For employees seeking to advance their careers, learning business fundamentals can be a way to acquire those skills and achieve professional growth.

If you want to equip yourself with the skills needed to thrive in your present role—and in the future—here are five business fundamentals you should know.

Business Fundamentals Every Professional Should Know

1. Business Analytics


The demand for professionals with a keen understanding of business analytics is on the rise. A recent report by the Business-Higher Education Forum and PwC found that 69 percent of US executives will prefer job candidates with data skills by 2021.

In addition, top companies, such as Uber, Microsoft, and Blue Apron, leverage data and analytics in their organizational processes to improve operations and drive performance.

Knowing how to develop and test hypotheses, perform a cost-benefit analysis, and visualize data can not only bolster your resume, but lead to more informed decision-making that can benefit your organization.

2. Financial Accounting


The value of accounting knowledge isn’t limited to just numbers-focused roles. No matter your profession, understanding the meaning behind the numbers on financial statements can be a boon to your career.

For instance, learning how to prepare a balance sheet can help you unlock critical insights into your organization’s performance and become an indispensable member of your team.

For Isha Khambra, an engineer and former participant in our Credential of Readiness (CORe) program, gaining fundamental accounting skills enabled her to add value to her company and make better decisions in the workplace.

“Learning financial accounting helped me decipher the balance sheet and quarterly profit and loss statements of my assigned project and make more informed decisions that reduced its overall operational cost,” Khambra says.

3. Economics


Beyond an in-depth knowledge of your industry’s market demands, studying economics can equip you with the necessary skills to craft successful a business strategy and help your firm succeed against competitors.

In the case of Pankaj Prashant, an engineer who took CORe to learn business fundamentals, the lessons he learned in Economics for Managers led to a deeper understanding of how pricing works in his field.

“The mining industry experiences cyclical price fluctuation every few years, and now I understand the reasons and factors that dictate these changes and how supply and demand affect commodity pricing,” Prashant says.

Credential of Readiness (CORe) - Master the fundamentals of business. Learn more.

4. Leadership


The ability to lead and mobilize others is vital for all professionals. According to a recent report by the World Economic Forum, leadership is projected to be among the top 10 most in-demand skills through 2022.

Taking the time to develop your personal leadership style can cultivate greater emotional intelligence, enabling you to be a more effective collaborator and improve how you communicate and share feedback with colleagues.

Research shows emotional intelligence can be more important than IQ and previous relevant experience when it comes to workplace success, underscoring why it’s important for you to sharpen your ability to understand and manage your emotions, as well as recognize and influence the feelings of those around you.

5. Negotiation


Developing negotiation skills can have a significant payoff in any field. Knowledge of effective bargaining tactics can help you resolve conflicts that are otherwise deadlocked, and equip you with the skills needed to maximize value in agreements.

In addition to benefitting your company, being a strong deal-maker can lead to greater success when negotiating a starting salary or asking for a raise.

Whether you’re someone who jumps at the chance to engage in deals or shies away from the bargaining table, honing your negotiation skills can greatly benefit both your organization and career.

Learning Business Fundamentals

Furthering your knowledge of business fundamentals can help you achieve career success, no matter your industry.

Developing business skills through such avenues as an online course, like CORe, can not only help you grow in your current role but prepare for the next step in your professional journey.

Do you want to take your career to the next level by mastering business fundamentals? Explore our three-course online CORe program, and discover how you can develop business intuition through real-world, case-based learning.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in North Carolina, where he held roles in content writing and social media. He has a background in video production, and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, cycling, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.