20 Best Books for HR Professionals

Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers. Here’s a list of 20 great reads that have the power to transform both you and your organization.


1. Investing in People

Author: Wayne Cascio and John Boudreau

Summary:  Cascio and Boudreau’s “Investing in People” delivers useful advice for choosing HR investments that offer optimal strategic value — and avoiding those that don’t.

Why it made the list: What’s more important than deeply understanding the business value that HR brings? Read this book to learn how to measure, analyze, and manage the best HR practices.

2. Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People

Author: Mahzarin R. Banaji, Anthony G. Greenwald

Summary: “Blind Spot” makes a case for why everyone — yes, every single one of us — should be aware of their biases, and delivers the science for aligning our intention with our behavior.

Why it made the list: Unconscious bias is real. Read this for some practical tools that will help you promote a culture of inclusion in your workplace.

3. Quantifiably Better: Delivering HR Analytics from Start to Finish

Author: Steve VanWieren

Summary: “Quantifiably Better” is the HR leader’s roadmap to successfully interpreting data, and using it to make a real business impact.

Why it made the list: Pick up this book if you’re just getting started with HR analytics, or you know you need to improve your current practices.

4. Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

Author: Adam M. Grant

Summary: “Give and Take” outlines how genuine connections with others impact our success. Grant’s research uncovered that at work, most people operate either as givers, takers, or matchers. Surprisingly, the givers — individuals who give without expecting anything in return — ended up more successful than others. The ideas in this book have the power to transform not only individual success but entire organizations and communities.

Why it made the list: More often than not, HR leaders like to help people. The ideas in “Give and Take” help shape that desire to help into intentional actions that contribute to individual and team success.

5. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

Author: Daniel Coyle

Summary: Author of “The Talent Code” follows up his last book with a toolkit for building a cohesive, innovative culture.

Why it made the list: We often think of culture as subjective, or sometimes even nebulous. Coyle demystifies what culture truly is, and how we can actually apply it in our organizations.

6. Mindset

Author: Carol S. Dweck

Summary: “Mindset” is the groundbreaking idea from Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck that has changed millions of lives. Backed by decades of research, Dweck shows how the power of mindset can help anyone solve almost any problem. Maintaining a fixed mindset fools us into believing that our intelligence, skills, and talents are set in stone from the day we’re born while engaging a growth mindset reminds us what’s actually true — that we’re able to learn and grow throughout our lives.

Why it made the list: Read “Mindset” to motivate your team — and yourself — to buy into a culture of learning.

7. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High

Author: Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan

Summary: “Crucial Conversations” is a guide for navigating tense conversations, at work, and in life. The remarkably practical tools offered between the pages prepare the reader to get the results they want when inevitable and sudden conflict arises.

Why it made the list: Great conflict resolution skills are not only useful for HR leaders themselves, as they often find themselves mediating difficult situations. The best HR leaders are also able to coach other members of their team, to prevent many scary situations from happening in the first place.

8. WORK RULES!

Author: Laszlo Bock

Summary: Drawing on cutting-edge research in both behavioral economics and psychology, the former Head of People Operations for Google lays out a roadmap for attracting the best talent possible and ensuring they succeed. Bock gives the reader a sneak peek into why Google is consistently named one of the best places to work in the U.S.

Why it made the list: “WORK RULES!” offers a philosophical approach to HR that flies in the face of traditionalism. Pick up WORK RULES! if your HR department needs a reboot.

9. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues

Author: Patrick Lencioni

Summary: In his classic book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Lencioni lays out five behaviors that will wreck a team. In “The Ideal Team Player,” he moves his focus to the individual level, uncovering three qualities that will make a person a good team player, every time.

Why it made the list: The “Ideal Team Player” is a must-read for anyone who makes hiring decisions. It brilliantly cracks the code for who really adds value to teams and simplifies the process for applying it on your own.

10. Storytelling with Data

Author: Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

Summary: “Storytelling with Data” teaches the basics in data visualization, and how to communicate meaningful insights effectively.

Why it made the list: To be successful in HR in 2019, leaders need the ability to do more than find meaning in data; they must also be able to communicate that meaning to others. This book offers the simple tools needed to make that possible.

11. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business

Author: Josh Kaufman

Summary: In “The Personal MBA,” Kaufman shares the essentials of running a business at the executive level (marketing, operations, productivity, systems design, and much more) in one comprehensive volume — without the price tag of some fancy degree.

Why it made the list: The best HR leaders know how HR strategy aligns with the entire business. Pick up this book if you don’t have a finance or business administration background but want the executive expertise.

12. Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life

Author: Francesca Gino

Summary: Simply put, it’s just as important to know when to break the rules as it is to know when to follow them.

Why it made the list: This book shows us when we should deviate from a workplace norm, and how to encourage others to do the same when needed.

13. HR Transformation

Authors: Dave Ulrich, Justin Allen, Wayne Brockbank, Jon Younger, and (last but not least) Mark Nyman

Summary: “HR Transformation” lays out a new way of thinking about and practicing HR, making a case for why HR leaders of the future will need the ability to set entire business strategies actively.

Why it made the list: Read this book if you want to transform your role from a tactical to a more strategic one.

14. This Is Marketing

Author: Seth Godin

Summary: “This Is Marketing” is the latest from marketing guru Seth Godin. Godin essentially offers everything he’s learned about marketing over the past four decades of his work, all in one place.

Why it made the list: Strong HR leaders can sell their ideas. Brush up on the tried and true marketing tactics mentioned in this book if you need to persuade your team to make some organizational changes.

15. The Truth About Employee Engagement

Author: Patrick Lencioni

Summary: Formerly titled “Three Signs of a Miserable Job,” this book boils down three qualities that contribute to low employee engagement, retention, and job satisfaction in the workplace.

Why it made the list: Designing great jobs is one of the fundamental roles of HR. Read this book to get practical advice on doing it well.

16. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Author: Daniel H. Pink

Summary: In “When,” Pink argues that timing is not an art — it’s a science. Drawing on abundant research from psychology, biology, and economics, he reveals how to time our days, weeks, and years for optimal effectiveness.

Why it made the list: Timing is everything. Read “When” if you have any influence in the way your workforce structures their day.

17. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Author: Kim Scott

Summary: In “Radical Candor,” Scott takes what she learned about being a good boss at both Google and Apple, and lays it out in a critical approach to effective management. The big idea is that to be a good boss, you need to be simultaneously highly supportive and highly demanding.

Why it made the list: This pick is great for any HR leader who spends a significant amount of time coaching other managers.

18. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

Author: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee

Summary: “Primal Leadership” covers Goleman’s groundbreaking ideas about emotional intelligence and applies them directly to the business world, making it a necessary skill for leaders.

Why it made the list: “Primal Leadership” is a must-read for anyone who is a leader or aspires to lead in the future.

19. Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch

Author: Curt Coffman

Summary: The classic book on culture, “Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch,” has been transforming organizations since 2013. This book is a crash course into turning culture into a competitive advantage.

Why it made the list: This book is for the HR leader learning what works and what doesn’t when making lasting cultural change.

20. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t

Author: Jim Collins

Summary: Quite possibly the most popular business book ever written, “Good to Great” explores the ideas and practices that separate the good businesses from the great ones.

Why it made the list: HR leaders will be happy to know that Collins’s concepts start with who … and then what. Read this book to remember how to tie all of your HR initiatives back to overall business value.

Other helpful resources

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