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13 HR Books to Read in 2021

April 30, 2021
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Every year, shifting circumstances inside and outside the workplace force HR teams to adapt and reevaluate their People strategies. Human Resources books offer those professionals a path for staying current, improving skills, and learning the ins and outs of their field.

Whether you’re early in your career, leading your organization’s People strategy, or starting your own business, reading about HR is a great way to develop a fresh and informed perspective on the world of work.

For anyone interested in expanding their HR knowledge, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite books below:

HR Strategy

People Strategy: How to Invest in People and Make Culture Your Competitive Advantage

Author(s): Jack Altman
Audience:
HR leaders, managers, and executives

A Wall Street Journal Bestseller, People Strategy provides a unique framework for executives, HR teams, and people leaders to build effective and authentic company cultures, increase employee motivation, and drive high-performing teams. By outlining a step-by-step plan for supporting employee growth and success, Lattice CEO and co-founder Jack Altman demonstrates how adopting a people-centric HR strategy creates meaningful work experiences and inevitably drives business results.

“Ask yourself this: you wouldn’t go into your annual planning stage without a sales strategy or a marketing strategy or a product strategy, so why would you go forward without a People strategy?”

Redefining HR: Transforming People Teams to Drive Business Performance

Author(s): Lars Schmidt
Audience:
HR professionals and business leaders

As the founder of the HR firm, Amplify, Lars Schmidt has spent over 20 years driving innovation in the HR industry. Redefining HR walks readers through the evolution of Human Resources and People Operations, with a focus on the fundamentals of successful HR practices at leading companies like Hubspot, Reddit, and Asana. Intended as a practical playbook for modern HR teams, this bestselling book explores the future of human resources, from recruiting and talent management to analytics and ROI.

“Next-generation HR leaders (and teams) are much more secure in their impact on the business. They are focused on success enablement and designing programs that allow leaders to lead and employees to thrive.”

Work Rules!

Author(s): Lazlo Bock
Audience:
HR professionals and business leaders

Companies have long regarded Google as a symbol of excellent corporate culture and strategy. As their former VP of People Operations, Lazlo Bock has gained invaluable knowledge from driving Google's reputation as a top employer for over 30 years. InWork Rules! Bock shares several HR best practices that made Google successful, such as learning from high and low-performing employees and relying on data rather than gut instincts. As a proven guide for building successful HR strategies,Work Rules! is considered one of the best HR books available.

“If you believe people are fundamentally good and worthy of trust, you must be honest and transparent with them. That includes telling them when they are lagging behind in their performance. But having a mission-driven, purposeful workplace also requires that you approach people with sensitivity.”

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't

Author(s): Simon Sinek
Audience:
Business leaders

Many people know Simon Sinek from his viral TED Talks, but in addition to being a motivational speaker, Sinek is also a bestselling author. In Leaders Eat Last, he urges readers to imagine a world where people feel inspired and trusted at work on a daily basis. Sinek places the onus on business leaders to put their employees first, drawing from the leadership practices of Marine Corps Officers as an example of successful management. As an added bonus, Sinek includes an entire chapter devoted to effectively leading the millennial workforce.

“For [leaders], the will to succeed and the desire to do things that advance the interests of the organization aren't just motivated by recognition from above; they are integral to a culture of sacrifice and service, in which protection comes from all levels of the organization.”

Growth & Performance

High Growth Handbook: Scaling Startups From 10 to 10,000 People

Author(s): Elad Gil
Audience:
CEOs, founders, and executives

Elad Gil has been a driving force behind  companies like Airbnb, Square, and Twitter. Drawing from his experience as an investor and entrepreneur, High Growth Handbook is Gil’s playbook for growing a startup into a major corporate enterprise. This definitive guide covers a range of topics for growing companies, from the role of CEOs to best practices for hiring. Interviews with top Silicon Valley business leaders are included throughout the book and are chock-full of valuable insights for ambitious organizations.

“Every high-growth company eventually needs to tackle the same set of challenges around organizational structure...Since most founders are dealing with these issues for the first time –– and navigating many of them simultaneously –– hypergrowth tends to feel like a hyperstressful roller coaster.”

Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation

Author(s): Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi
Audience:
HR Leaders and managers

As co-founders of Vega Factor, Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi are experts in building high-performance cultures. In Primed to Perform, they explore how businesses can tap into human psychology to achieve sustained  innovation across organizations. They also delve into the practical applications of Total Motivation (ToMo) Factor, a predictive measurement tool that enables businesses to measure the strength of their culture and track improvements over time. The end result is higher sales, more loyal customers, and more passionate employees.

“The highest-performing cultures are built on a simple truth: why people work affects how well they work.”

Love 'Em Or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay

Author(s): Beverly L. Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans
Audience:
Managers

Beverly Kaye are Sharon Jordan-Evans are HR executives who provide talent retention, engagement, and management services to enterprise-level corporations. The two of them combined their expertise in solving workplace challenges to create the bestseller Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em, which outlines how managers can build a supportive environment to fight burnout and hold on to top-performers. The book is structured around twenty-six strategies lettered from A-Z, and the newest edition contains specific emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

“[Many managers] believe retention is largely about money, perks, and benefits –– areas where they have little control. We know that is not true. In addition to fair pay, people want challenging and meaningful work.”

Talent Makers: How the Best Organizations Win Through Structured and Inclusive Hiring

Author(s): Daniel Chait and Jon Stross
Audience:
CEOs, hiring managers, and talent recruiters

As the co-founders of talent acquisition platform Greenhouse, Daniel Chait and Jon Stross know a thing or two about hiring. In Talent Makers, they share proven methodologies for business leaders who want to transform their organization's hiring practices to attract top talent, diversify workforces, and build winning teams. They even include a “hiring maturity” model so that businesses can evaluate and measure the effectiveness of their existing hiring and onboarding practices.

“Your HR department needs you to step up and not just say but show that hiring is a priority. You need to create the space for people on your team to work on the business, as well as in the business.”

Culture & Retention

Unleashing the Power of Diversity: How to Open Minds for Good

Author(s): Bjørn Z. Ekelund
Audience:
HR professionals, business leaders, managers

Bjørn Z. Ekelund is the chairman of HR management company, Human Factors. Known internationally as the creator of the Diversity Icebreaker® –– a popular training and development program used in over 70 countries –– Ekelund outlines his approach to breaking down barriers in his book, Unleashing the Power of Diversity. His plan teaches readers how to improve communication between people from various cultural experiences, with the goal of unifying organizations in a way that is authentic and sustainable.

“Using one’s own standards, norms, and values as the reference point means the reference point is usually implicitly and explicitly, consciously or unconsciously self-evaluated as a ‘gold standard.’”

Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Surefire Ways to Design a Workplace That Is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World

Author(s): Erica Keswin
Audience:
Business and HR leaders

Cited as one of Business Insider’s most innovative coaches of 2020, Erica Keswin is an expert on science of workplace relationships. She’s also the author of the Wall Street bestseller, Bring Your Human to Work, which argues that companies who recognize the human need for connection will have productive, creative, and loyal employees The book features numerous case studies from top brands like Lyft, and Starbucks to illustrate the importance of building an organizational culture centered around wellness and humanity both in and out of the workplace.

“Bringing our human to work is both about putting technology in its place in order to build strong relationships and about inhibiting technology to the table, making good use of everything that can create a more human workplace.”

Feedback (and Other Dirty Words): Why We Fear It, How to Fix It

Author(s): M. Tamra Chandler and Laura Dowling Grealish
Audience:
Managers

As talent management experts, M. Tamra Chandler and Laura Dowling Grealish have a lot to say about the power of feedback in the workplace. Their book, Feedback (and Other Dirty Words), takes an unfiltered look at why feedback can feel like a negative thing to many people and presents an alternative perspective of feedback as a tool for trust and collaboration. Chandler and Grealish also offer actionable strategies for providing feedback equitably and effectively to create a strong feedback culture within your organization.

“If so many of us are walking around wounded by our feedback experiences, then it’s obvious that we’re doing it wrong as a culture. We’ve got our work cut out for us: rebranding feedback as something we want to run toward and not away from is going to require some serious changes to both out heads and our hearts” 

Belonging at Work: Everyday Actions You Can Take to Cultivate an Inclusive Organization

Author(s): Rhodes Perry
Audience:
Business and HR leaders

Rhodes Perry is a leading voice in the growing dialogue around workplace inclusivity who believes that cultivating a successful company culture is about making employees feel accepted, valued, and respected for their contributions. Perry uses a combination of case studies, practical strategies, and personal experiences to make his point. With a focus on authenticity and accountability, Belonging at Work encourages leaders to join Perry’s #BelongingMovement and aims to positively impact workplace cultures around the globe.

“Equity in the workplace is rooted in the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement of an employee while simultaneously attempting to identify and eliminate structural barriers that have prevented the full participation of underrepresented groups.”

13. Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fair

Author(s): Kim Scott and Trier Bryant
Audience:
Business and HR leaders

Author of the New York Times bestselling book Radical Candor, Kim Scott, partnered up with Trier Bryant to write this powerful guide on creating fair work environments. JUST WORK: Get Sh*t Done, Fast and Fair delves into the harmful effects that bias and discrimination can have on businesses, and argues that respectful cultures are actually beneficial for organizations. Scott and Bryant’s framework for eliminating workplace injustice is essential for any business leader looking to transform their company into a collaborative powerhouse.

“When we take proactive measures to create the kinds of working environments where we respect one another’s individuality and collaborate more effectively, we all enjoy our jobs and our colleagues more, make better decisions, and become more successful.”

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The HR space is constantly evolving with new ideas and expectations, and staying on top of all of them can be challenging –– especially during times of accelerated change. These books are a great place for any HR professional, manager, or business leader to start learning about what it takes to create a successful workplace.

If you want to learn more about investing in the full potential of your employees, grab your copy of People Strategy: How to Invest in People and Make Culture Your Competitive Advantage.