HR is undergoing a massive transformation. “Previously tasked with compensation, compliance, and benefits,” says Cara Brennan Allamano, SVP of People + Places at Udemy, “today’s HR functions are charged with supporting every aspect of the success and well-being of a company’s greatest asset: its employees.”

As an HR professional, how can you handle this significant evolution in your role? Keep reading to discover six fundamental skills that will help you thrive.

1. Make a lasting impact by mentoring others

Today’s career paths are far from linear. Instead of climbing from one rung of the ladder to the next, employees follow a zig-zagging path through a career jungle gym. As an HR professional, you can help them along this journey by developing your own mentoring skills.

Your ability to mentor and coach others makes employees much more likely to stick around. One mentorship study found employee retention rates jumped to 69% for mentors and 72% for mentees. Employees who didn’t participate had only a 49% retention rate.

“To become a great mentor, it’s essential to start with the right mindset,” says Udemy instructor and leadership coach JeanAnn Nichols. Great mentors genuinely care about their mentees’ success.

2. Take disruption in stride by boosting your change agility

The events of 2020 taught us how quickly the world could change. And HR professionals are the ones who must adapt and guide their organizations through uncertainty. No one expects you to predict the future, but they do want you to be adaptable and decisive even in tough circumstances. 

If change makes you feel uneasy, you’re not alone. Change is not something the human brain naturally enjoys, says Hilary Scarlett in her book Neuroscience for Organizational Change. When our brains encounter a change they can’t control, they enter a fight-or-flight state to keep us safe. But you can overcome this physical reaction by developing your situational and self-awareness. These skills help you give yourself a calm space to reflect, understand your feelings, and move on productively. 

3. Fuel growth by accepting and giving feedback graciously

As an HR professional, you better believe your employees have opinions about your work. Whether it’s your PTO policy or performance management software, they have thoughts about what’s working well (and what’s not). Developing your ability to accept feedback will fuel your growth.

Your ability to give feedback is the key to helping those around you to grow and develop. If feedback is only offered during formal reviews, it can cause a lot of anxiety. Udemy’s learning and development (L&D) team recommend making feedback an everyday practice. When feedback is an integral part of your weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one conversations, you show that it’s normal and nothing to be afraid of.

4. Remove the awkwardness from difficult conversations

You can’t shy away from conversations about people’s performance, mental and physical health, or harassment claims. These are all topics that you’re likely to encounter as an HR professional. But it’s not just about your own ability to handle these tricky topics — your employees might need extra support in this area. According to Harvard Business Review, 68% of managers said that they’re often uncomfortable communicating with employees.

“It’s very common to have fear and anxiety leading up to a difficult conversation,” says business coach and Udemy instructor Andrea Wedell. If you or your employees are feeling any resistance toward difficult conversations, Andrea recommends working through the fears and worries. This can involve developing self-awareness of what triggers certain responses. You can then do different exercises to counterbalance or reframe anxious thinking.

5. Turn numbers into insights by bolstering your data literacy

HR professionals now have access to more data than ever before. For insight into recruiting, you might look at pipeline data to understand where your team is sourcing candidates and how they move through your hiring process. You may have employee engagement data that shows how employees feel about your company, their manager, and their likelihood of seeking a new role. Or you might be monitoring learning activity and progress to keep tabs on your learning goals.

A solid internal data culture can help companies adapt to business disruptions and stay resilient, according to IDC’s 2021 survey. Companies can handle uncertainties and pivot strategies when employees use data to monitor the business’s health and make informed decisions. This is why data literacy is a growing imperative for organizations and HR professionals in particular.

6. Make your work matter by understanding business strategy

The expanded role of HR means it’s not just about making sure employees get paid on time. HR must now create an environment where employees can do their best work. And to make a case for your programs and initiatives, you need to be able to tie your work into tangible benefits for your business. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) connects meaning in work and employee engagement. SHRM recommends looking for opportunities to help employees see how their work relates to the company’s larger purpose. This is where strategic thinking comes in.

Strategic thinking is about creating a line of sight from your job to the most important things your organization is working on. “Employees at any level can — and should — take the initiative to make the connections between their company’s strategy and their own work to make sure they’re prioritizing their work, time, and skills accordingly,” writes Ron Carucci, managing partner at Navalent and Udemy instructor.

Learning must be part of your job description

The key to success in HR is making an ongoing commitment to developing new skills. HR professionals are getting the memo. There was a 406% increase in consumption of HR content on Udemy from 2019 to 2020.

Wondering how you can help yourself and the rest of your HR team stay ahead of the curve? Check out The Skills That Will Define the Future of HR eBook. You’ll get insights, inspiration, and actionable tips to make sure learning is an essential part of your job description.