HR’s must-read books for 2021

When we think of World Book Day, it often evokes the images of children dressing up as their favourite characters from their beloved books, and possibly memories of the time when we would dress up for the day. But at its core, the day is intended to promote the joys of reading, for children and adults alike. As busy adults, with our hands full of work and home responsibilities, we sometimes forget what it feels like to sit down with a good book and get lost in its pages.

hr books world book day sofa

As well as feeling time poor, we’re faced with the fact that HR is constantly changing. Managing COVID-19 challenges, improving the employee experience and creating diversity and inclusion initiatives that work … it can be hard to keep up with it all!

With this in mind, we’ve put together a collection of books exploring the various themes HR is currently dealing with in the workplace.

1. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

With widespread protests last year drawing the world’s attention to ongoing racial inequalities, organisations have been put under the spotlight on how they deal with making their workplace an inclusive and fair environment.

Building on our recent article that highlighted Black British experiences, our first book recommendation is the 2019 Booker Prize winner, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.

Following the lives of twelve characters, Evaristo’s novel explores the interactions between different cultures, identities, nationalities, religions and generations through the lens of these protagonists. These bring to light the everyday issues people face relating to feminism, politics, sexuality, and racism. The book demonstrates the complexities of our different identities and how overlaps impact our lived experiences.

Being aware of these intersectionalities while planning out your D&I processes can help in making sure they are genuine and helpful to your employees.

2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This is likely a familiar book to many, but how is an 85-year-old self-help book still relevant to HR today?

HR professionals have had to take a more active role in assisting businesses to navigate the challenges caused by COVID-19, from creating or updating homeworking policies, to dealing with COVID-19-related absences, furlough and redundancy processes. HR has also had to stay on top of upcoming legislative deadlines, such as those relating to gender pay gap reporting and IR35. Yet, despite the work they do, HR teams are often given the least voice within the business, they may be unpopular and, in some cases, done away with altogether.

For HR professionals who often act as mediators on workplace issues, this book helps by providing tips on handling people in various situations and how to best convince stakeholders to see your perspective when proposing solutions to key business issues.

3. Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou

After a long period of lockdown, financial hardships, furloughs and redundancies, it’s not surprising that people’s spirits are down. Not to mention the loneliness and isolation people feel when socially distanced from friends and family. All these stressors combined, no doubt, have had a massive impact on people’s mental wellbeing.

Letter to My Daughter is a collection of essays dedicated to the daughter Maya Angelou never had where she shares lessons she’d learnt after overcoming hardships in her life. Angelou’s message centres around expressing gratitude for the present and that it’s ok not to know everything. This book makes for a comforting read yet delivers powerful and familiar messages throughout.

4. Fundamentals of HR Analytics: A Manual on Becoming HR Analytical by Fermin Diez, Mark Bussin, and Venessa Lee

With the wide range of modern HR software solutions now available, using data to drive HR and business strategies just makes sense. And if you’re looking to secure a seat in the C-suite, incorporating data into your decision making is key.

This book provides a comprehensive breakdown of what HR analytics actually is, the key skills you need (like data management and collection), and how HR analytics can be applied to solve workforce challenges (such as talent attraction, retention, development and engagement). HR professionals at all levels will benefit from the practical advice this book provides so they can get started on HR analytics.

5. Feedback (and Other Dirty Words): Why We Fear It and How to Fix It by M. Tamra Chandler and Laura Dowling Grealish

A previous report we published showed that people do want feedback, especially when starting a new position, but often it’s either not given or not given well. Feedback has become a negative word in the workplace, something that we feel we need to be defensive about.

But done well, feedback is one of the most effective ways of improving performance, building trust and encouraging productivity. And when working in a distributed workforce, open communication and trust are crucial to the health of the company culture.

Along with case studies and exercises, Feedback (and Other Dirty Words) explains how feedback came to gain its bad reputation and offers a way to make feedback focused, fair, and frequent (the three Fs).

Which book will you be reading for World Book Day?

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