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Essential HR Reading to Get Your Seat at the Table


July 25th, 2018

- Updated on

July 26, 2018 - 9:53am

HR Pros, do you have a seat at the table when your organization’s leaders plan strategic moves that will drive your business outcomes?

This is a question that HR professionals ask themselves every day. As the books on this list relate, you may need a fresh approach to respond to changing talent management demands and innovative strategies of recruiting, engaging and retaining the talent needed to move your organization forward. A knowledge infusion from these volumes by other HR professionals may give you just the boost you need. 
essential Human Resources reading to earn a seat at the table
Make a plan to read one of these leading HR books a month for the next 6 months. Subscribe to some of the best HR blogs by prominent thought leaders to enhance your thinking about solutions to your most intractable HR problems – issues of innovation, culture, inclusion, performance, motivation, and worker wellbeing. Then act on what you learn, regularly measuring your progress against your own goals and key business metrics. Who knows, soon other leaders in your organization may take note, regularly beckoning you over, saying, “Pull up a chair. We’ve got some more planning to do.”

So Your Want a Seat at the Table Book Jacket - Jeanne Kerr
Talent Insight Publishing Group
January 25, 2018,
2nd printing
186 pages
So You Want A Seat at the Table: A Practical Guide to Being a True Strategic HR Business Partner by Jeanne Kerr
From the Publisher: “a refreshing approach to a long-debated challenge. It is targeted to new and experienced human resources business partners and human resources leaders who want to expand their ability to think and act strategically. Whether an HR practitioner is in a large or small corporation, not-for-profit, or the government, the book provides clarity to the critical elements to strategic human resources. It provides readers with multiple useful templates and tools as well as examples of how to build and communicate human resources value to the organization. Readers will be delighted with the limited theory and extensive useful guidelines, tips, tools, and resources presented in every chapter. Easy to read and apply, readers will be able to quickly grasp key concepts and approaches to make an immediate and lasting impact on their organizations.”
Review: Jeanne Kerr uses the case study/story format to bring together the concepts of leadership and change management. She blends story with the tools and templates needed to enable organizations to get a real return on investment with their HR initiatives and reach their strategic objectives. She not only addresses the why she sets up the what and the how very effectively. A great primer for the uninformed and a super guidebook for the experts all in one book!
- Bob Dodge, Trusted Advisor, The Alternative Board

Build It: The Rebel Playbook Book Jacket
February 1, 2018
273 pages
Build It: The Rebel Playbook of World Class Employee Engagement by Glenn Elliott and Debra Corey
From the Publisher: “The old way of treating people at work has failed. Only 30% of employees are engaged in their jobs, and in this fast-paced world, that's just not enough. The world's best companies understand this and have been quietly treating people differently for nearly two decades.
Now you can learn their secrets and discover The Engagement Bridge™ model, proven to build bottom-line value for companies through sustainable employee engagement.
Companies with the best cultures generate stock market returns of twice the general market and enjoy half the employee turnover of their peers. Their staff innovate more, deliver better customer service and, hands-down, beat the competition. These companies outperform and disrupt their markets. They break the rules of traditional HR, they rebel against the status quo.
The book follows the clear and proven Engagement Bridge™ model, developed from working with thousands of leading companies worldwide on their own employee engagement journeys.
Readers will learn:
  • How employee engagement helps companies perform.
  • The key factors that drive engagement, and how they work together.
  • What the world's most rebellious companies have done to break the rules of traditional HR and improve engagement.
  • How to implement The Engagement BridgeTM model to boost productivity, innovation, and better decision making.
Review: "Your all-things-necessary guide to employee engagement. You'll learn what engagement really means, why it's so essential, and how to instill it in your workforce. Packed with some terrific case studies, Build it will help you transform your workplace."
- Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of DRIVE and WHEN

Dying for a Pay Check Book Jacket
March 20, 2018
266 pages
Dying for a Paycheck by Jeffrey Pfeffer
From the Publisher: “In this timely, provocative book, Jeffrey Pfeffer contends that many modern management commonalities such as long hours, work-family conflict, and economic insecurity are toxic to employees—hurting engagement, increasing turnover, and destroying people’s physical and emotional health—while also being inimical to company performance. He argues that human sustainability should be as important as environmental stewardship.
In Dying for a Paycheck, Jeffrey Pfeffer marshals a vast trove of evidence and numerous examples from all over the world.
Exploring a range of important topics, including layoffs, health insurance, work-family conflict, work hours, job autonomy, and why people remain in toxic environments, Pfeffer offers guidance and practical solutions that all of us—employees, employers, and the government—can use to enhance workplace well-being. We must wake up to the dangers and enormous costs of today’s workplace, Pfeffer argues. 
Dying for a Paycheck is a clarion call for a social movement focused on human sustainability. Pfeffer makes clear that the environment we work in is just as important as the one we live in, and with this urgent book he opens our eyes and shows how we can make our workplaces healthier and better.
Review: “This is simply the most important business book I have read in a decade. As Pfeffer’s sharp analysis points out, the relationship between people and organizations is flat-out broken. Offering a range of solutions, Dying for a Paycheck will start a revolution.”
- Tom Rath, author of STRENGTHSFINDER 2.0.)

Black Holes & White Spaces Book Jacket
Society of Human Resource Management
January 19, 2018
196 pages
Black Holes & White Spaces; Reimagining the Future of Work and HR with the CHREATE Project by John Boudreau, Ian Ziskin, and Carolyn Rearick
From the Publisher: “…describes tools and frameworks that leaders inside and outside the HR profession can use to transform the HR profession and their organizational success. It summarizes the collective wisdom and hard work of over 70 exemplary chief HR officers and other leaders. Their mission: Disruptively accelerate the progress of the HR profession to meet the unprecedented challenges and opportunities of the new world of work.
These leaders committed to a three-year collective effort dubbed CHREATE -- The Global Consortium to Reimagine HR, Employment Alternatives, Talent, and the Enterprise. They recruited their colleagues and led volunteer teams that tackled the tough challenges, demonstrated how to address them, and built open-source tools and frameworks for leaders like you to use in your own organization. 
The project was guided by these common beliefs: open source, voluntary, inclusive, messy, and agile.
CHREATE focused on four key pillars of change, that organize this book:
  1. Align HR with Value Creation for Organizations that Win
  2. Shape Expectations of HR's Key Constituents
  3. Rewire the Work and Tools of HR
  4. Enhance the HR Talent Pipeline…
Use this book as your platform to disruptively accelerate HR and work in your organization.
Review: “Excellent resource on the future of HR and work. A must-read for anyone working in the fields of HR, talent management, or people operations. Well-researched, practical, and comprehensive guide to the future of workforce management.
- Eric Severson

The Right and Wrong Stuff Book Jacket
January 9, 2018
273 pages
The Right – and Wrong – Stuff: How Brilliant Careers are Made and Unmade by Carter Cast. 
From the Publisher: The Right and Wrong Stuff is a candid, unvarnished guide to the bumpy road to success. The shocking truth is that 98 percent of us have at least one career-derailment risk factor, and a half to two-thirds actually go off the rails. And the reason why people get fired, demoted, or plateau is because they let the wrong stuff act out, not because they lack talent, energy, experience, or credentials.
Carter Cast himself had all the right stuff for a brilliant career when he was called into his boss's office and berated for being obstinate, resistant, and insubordinate. That defining moment led to a years-long effort to understand why he came so close to getting fired, and what it takes to build a successful career.
His wide range of experiences as a rising, falling, and then rising star again at PepsiCo, an entrepreneur, the CEO of Walmart.com, and now a professor and venture capitalist enables him to identify the five archetypes found in every workplace. You'll recognize people you work with (maybe even yourself) in Captain Fantastic, the Solo Flyer, Version 1.0, the One-Trick Pony, and the Whirling Dervish, and, thanks to Cast's insights, they won't be able to trip up your future.
Review:” "Warning: Your career might be in danger of going off the rails. You probably have blind spots that are leaving you closer to the edge than you realize. Fortunately, Carter Cast has the solution. In this smart, engaging book he shows you how to avoid career derailment by becoming more self-aware, more agile, and more effective. This is the book you wish you had twenty years ago, which is why you should read it now."
- Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of Drive and To Sell Is Human

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility Book Jacket
Silicon Guild
January 9, 2018
228 pages
Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord
From the Publisher: “When it comes to recruiting, motivating, and creating great teams, Patty McCord says most companies have it all wrong. McCord helped create the unique and high-performing culture at Netflix, where she was chief talent officer. In her new book, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, she shares what she learned there and elsewhere in Silicon Valley. 
McCord advocates practicing radical honesty in the workplace, saying goodbye to employees who don’t fit the company’s emerging needs, and motivating with challenging work, not promises, perks, and bonus plans. McCord argues that the old standbys of corporate HR—annual performance reviews, retention plans, employee empowerment and engagement programs—often end up being a colossal waste of time and resources. Her road-tested advice, offered with humor and irreverence, provides readers a different path for creating a culture of high performance and profitability. 
Powerful will change how you think about work and the way a business should be run.
Review: “Patty McCord’s compelling account of the culture that made Netflix succeed should be required reading for everyone who wants their business to thrive in the 21st century. A natural-born storyteller, McCord shows us how the Netflix ‘methodology’ of radical honesty, debating everything and relentlessly focusing on the future can set us up to win in the 21st century. With Powerful, McCord challenges, entertains, and inspires as she sets out how we can bring out the best in ourselves and others.”
- Arianna Huffington, founder, and CEO of Thrive Global

Top HR Blogs Worth Following

For a quick idea infusion, HR blogs can inspire, stretch, and engage your brain with the most up-to-date thinking in the profession. In addition to our own AJO Blog, here are 5 more of the top 100 HR blogs. Subscribe to theses or others listed on the Top 100 HR Blogs, News Websites And Newsletters To Follow in 2018 by Feedspot to sharpen and retain your professional edge.
  • AJO Blog - Launched in 2010, our goal is to bring original, in-depth commentary and news on topics related to HR Consulting, Talent Development, and Career Transition. Subscribe to the AJO Blog here.
  • HR Bartender - Sharlyn Lauby, an HR pro turned consultant, created this blog to discuss workplace issues.
  • Evil HR Lady - Lady Suzanne created this blog to "demystify HR".
  • Human Resources Today - The best content on HR from a wide variety of industry thought leaders.
  • HR Times - News and information on human capital, talent and organizational performance from Deloitte Consulting.
  • Workforce Magazine - the latest news on Compensation, Benefits & Rewards, HR Management, Legal Insight, Recruiting & Staffing, Software & Technology, Training & Development and more.

Kathy Flora is a Career and Executive Coach and AJO Blogger who is actively pursuing her life’s passion, helping others find and fulfill theirs. Known as a positive change agent, mentor and guide, she has assisted hundreds of leaders and their teams understand their strengths, collaborate effectively, and drive organizational success. She has a special affinity for working with virtual teams, using webinars, virtual meet-ups, and online collaborative communities to optimize communication and productivity. Her experience spans over 25 years in executive management and leadership, career development, facilitation, and consulting in private firms, state government, and in federal agencies.