I contend that now is the perfect time for great HR all over the world to use their collective and specialized expertise to help people and companies rise to their best performance. HR is at a crossroad in its evolution.

Technology advancements, big data, analytics, and automation has transformed the business landscape. The landscape changes supported the first wave of evolution. The first wave for HR was to embrace technology and then collect, analyze and provide meaningful “people” data to our business stakeholders. Many HR practitioners have embraced the rising demand and are deliver relevant data to their customers. The second wave will combine technology, predictive analytics, and HR’s unique strengths. Integrating these three pillars will strengthen business strategy and actions concerning talent and culture. HR is in a prime position to become the hub of a company’s workforce intelligence.

Data and technology provide concrete facts and information. So what’s next? What do we do with all this information? This is where astute HR practitioners will rise to the next level and differentiate themselves.

The next level will produce a competitive market advantage when well-designed “people” strategies and, more importantly, the execution of these strategies are achieved. Smart HR leaders recognize this and know it is their time to shine. This growth will be furthered by talented HR professionals who possess these powerful capabilities not often found in abundance in other areas of an organization.

Up, down and across organizational knowledge – Unlike other functions, visibility and connection to the workforce allow HR to be deeply attuned to the workforce. Organizational knowledge uncovers many components that are indicators of a company’s health. Components such as employee engagement, productivity, knowledge management, change management, recruitment and retention, leadership effectiveness, succession planning, and total rewards are a few that impact both short-term and long-term business success. Intelligent HR practices can influence all of these.

Likewise, understanding organizational behavior is the cornerstone to develop, maintain or change company culture and to decern the changing needs of employees. Wide visibility and deep organizational knowledge place HR professionals in a pivotal position to make a significant impact.

Nonpartisan strategist and advisor – Perhaps more than other functions within a company, HR leaders are tasked to ensure that the entire workforce is successful. When HR’s intent and actions are viewed as fair, insightful and business intelligent, they become respected internal advisors. HR leaders must establish a foundation of credibility and trust. After this foundation is formed, HR will draw on their professional expertise to guide internal customers on the best “people” strategies and actions.

Change Navigator and enabler – Change is the norm for most organizations. Change can be an incremental change like modifying a work procedure or a strategic change such as an organizational restructure or even a radical transformational change. Good HR leaders are Change Navigators who ascertain change readiness and become or help other change agents move forward to meet their objectives.

Perspective-taking and empathy – Competent HR professionals are skilled at perspective taking. Perspective-taking is the ability to see various sides of an argument or another person’s alternative views. Diversity of thought, ideas and opinions are the foundation of innovation and effective decisions. Good HR leaders will take an unbiased, investigative approach to daily address people matters. Perspective-taking is an important element of emotional intelligence, effective leadership, negotiation, and inclusion initiatives. HR has a unique opportunity to display and coach others the positive ability of perspective-taking.

Dr. Annie McKee’s insightful HBR article talks about empathy, she states, “People want to feel loved and appreciated at work – and if you’re not giving them that, you’re not succeeding as a leader.” Effective leadership can tap into empathy. Empathy is different than perspective-taking. Whereas perspective-taking is the process of seeing another point of view, empathy is the emotional understanding and feeling for others. The concept of “employee experience” continues to rise. The foundation for a great employee experience is to be seen, heard, valued and understood. Empathy.

Individualized, tactful, meaningful communication – Good HR practitioners listen and talk to people every day. They constantly use their communication skills to influence and persuade. It is often a good HR professional that holds that courageous, tough discussion or coaches the manager how to do it.

Marketing experts are skilled communicators; however, they are rarely required to tailor their message to tell an employee or leader that their performance is less than acceptable or not respected. An experienced HR practitioner does this well and with expertise, tact, and empathy. Meaningful, individualized communication strategies are another area where HR can “move the needle” inside their companies.

It’s a new day for HR expertise to dramatically and positively impact organizations and people. A few years ago, a brilliant (and slightly arrogant) IT department head said to me, “Technology is all you need to run a business.”  My response to him was, “Technology is important and you still need people to develop technology, run businesses, buy products and services, and lead people.” He paused, then agreed.