The field of Human Resource Management (HRM) is rapidly changing. Staying up to date with the latest information is more important than ever. In this article, we will list 7 must-read HRM books that will help you do your job better – whether you’re an experienced HR professional or just getting started in the HR field.
We decided to include both study books and more popular books. The study books that we’ll list are all prescribed literature for various HR courses at universities. These books help to get an in-depth understanding of Human Resources Management practices.
The more contemporary HRM books will give a good overview of popular topics in HR. They will also help to create a view on the future of the HR field.
1. Human Resource Management
Human Resources Management, written by Gary Dessler, is a 700-page HR bible. It is arguably one of the most read study books when it comes to HR. The latest edition, no. 15, was released in 2016.
In its 18 chapters, the book covers the key aspects of HR. It covers a practical and step-by-step explanation of the cornerstones of HR. These are defined in five parts: recruitment, placement & talent management, training & development, compensation, and employee relations.
2. HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources
Dave Ulrich, Jon Younger, Wayne Brockbank, Mike Ulrich
After you’ve read Dessler’s book, you know what Human Resource Management is all about. However, what are the competencies that you as an HR professional should have? That’s what this book is all about.
In this book, Ulrich and colleagues list the key competencies of the modern HR professional. The HR professional should enable capability building, be a technology proponent, a change champion and an HR innovator & integrator. These different roles sometimes conflict with each other. That’s why one of the most important roles of the HR practitioner is to be a credible activist – on the one hand for the employee, on the other hand for the business. This is all placed within a larger, strategic context, which forms the final competency: the strategic positioner.
Ulrich’s work is always very well-researched and so is this book. In 2017, Ulrich published Victory Through Organization, which builds upon this original work. However, the original book remains one of the must-reads when it comes to modern HRM.
3. The HR Scorecard
Brian Becker, Mark Huselid, Dave Ulrich
This book is arguably the oldest on this list – but also the most timeless of them all. In the HR Scorecard, Becker and colleagues explain how people, strategy, and performance can be linked and quantified.
HRM has never been regarded as hard science. Aligning HR activities with the organizational strategy, and measuring the impact on the workforce doesn’t come naturally to HR. However, when done well, it enables HR to quantify its impact and measure the effectiveness of their work.
Quantifying the work of HR helps in speaking the same language as the business. The business is focused on key performance indicators (KPIs) and on achieving a return on investment (ROI). Once HR is able to quantify some of its activities, this will help in building credibility.
4. Predictive HR Analytics: Mastering the HR Metric
Kirsten & Martin Edwards
This book builds on the previous one and is often used as reading material for HR analytics classes. The book explores metrics and analytics in much more detail. Using a number of different case studies, the book explores both metrics and analytics related to diversity, employee attitudes, employee turnover (including predictive turnover analytics), employee performance, recruitment analytics, and more.
Together, these four books give a good overview of everything you need to know about HRM. Dessler’s book gives a good introduction and overview of what HRM is all about, including its different focus areas. Becker’s book explains how these areas can be used to strategically support the business. Edwards’ book then shows how the progress in those areas is measured.
I don’t think ‘popular literature’ is the right term for the remaining books. They may not be the kind of books that are prescribed in university. However, that doesn’t mean that they are not evidence-based or less informative. These books are very appealing because they are written by practitioners for practitioners.
5. The Talent Delusion
This is my personal favorite. The Talent Delusion is an easy-to-read book, stacked to the brim with scientific facts regarding talent management. The book covers what talent is (not everyone is talent), how to measure talent, how to engage it, develop it, the dark side of talent, and the future of talent.
The book is filled with golden nuggets, like the picture below which shows that despite increased spending on leadership development, confidence in leadership has plummeted.
One of my favorite insights was the difference between normal performance and top performance. For some people, there’s a big gap between the two while for others top performance is fairly similar to their normal performance.
It is easy for an employee to fool their boss into thinking they perform well by giving it their best. However, it’s impossible to always be at peak performance. People can only do this for a limited amount of time before returning back to their normal performance. It is therefore almost impossible to assess someone’s performance based on one or two months of data, especially when this person is motivated to perform well.
The trick is therefore to select people whose normal performance is similar to their top performance level. An example is people who score high on the big-5 personality trait of conscientiousness. These are described as diligent and hard-working and will likely perform better over time compared to their less conscientious colleagues.
6. Work Rules!
Google has always been a beacon when it comes to good HR practices. In his book Work Rules! Laszlo Bock, former VP of People Operations at Google, describes the best HR practices at Google.
The book is subtitled Insights from inside Google that will transform how you live and lead. The book does exactly that. It’s a very practical book that stresses the importance of company culture, how Google is able to consistently select high performers, the importance of data in HR, why you should compensate unfairly – different performance should be compensated differently – and how to deal with mistakes in HR.
This is a book that you can finish in one day. Laszlo is able to show you which best practices you can copy tomorrow in your own organization in order to manage people better.
7. HR disrupted: It’s time for something different
I thought it appropriate to finish this list with a book that looks to the future of HR. What will the role of HR look like in the future? How can we lead, manage, engage, and support employees in a radically different way?
According to Adams, disruptive HR has three pillars. First, it doesn’t treat employees as children but as adults. Second, employees are treated as consumers, leaving behind the one-size-fits-all approach. Third, employees should be treated as human beings.
With a series of interesting and very recognizable examples from her role as HR director at the BBC, Adams illustrates how people can be managed better in an increasingly digital and disruptive business environment.
This wraps up our list of 7 HRM books that every HR professional should read. I have undoubtedly missed a few. Feel free to list them below, and I would be happy to add them in a later version!
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