Human resources operations require more than grit and experience. Today, HR managers juggle compliance, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, career progression, retention tips, recruiting needs, and limited budgets.
And as HR becomes more complex, there is a driving need to automate and optimize department operations. But getting inspiration in a sea of entrepreneurial content creators can feel overwhelming.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
To help you accelerate your learning and leverage tried-and-true strategies, we’ve asked business owners and HR professionals what their favorite HR operations management books are.
This is our short list of books every HR manager should read:
1. Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman
Business success is tricky — and in HR, where so much depends on employee moods and motivation, it’s even more complex. Gino Wickman’s bestseller, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, lays out a specific roadmap, the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), to help professionals improve their businesses.
This is geared more towards COOs, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. However, HR managers can leverage the techniques in this book to improve tedious processes and foster leadership.
“This book helps you strengthen the core components of your business. It’s very simple stuff but powerful,” said Tabetha Sheaver, a business consultant based out of St. Louis. “I highly recommend it.”
2. 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace by Hiroyuki Hirano
This classic book on workplace operations provides insight into the 5S system written by an expert in inventory management. Applicable across disciplines, HR managers and small business owners can glean several useful tips on workplace optimization in Hiroyuki Hirano’s 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace.
The 5 measures, Sort, Set In Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain, help leaders boost their productivity and decrease risk. And for a compliance-heavy industry like HR, this can certainly be helpful.
“I’d suggest HR managers and business owners read this book,” said Linda Shaffer, CPOO at Checkr. “The 5S System lets you better organize your workspace, eliminate unneeded items, streamline your processes, and improve communication and collaboration among employees.”
3. Reengineering the Corporation by Michael Hammer and James Champy
For small business owners and HR managers, Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution may be the mind-blowing business book you’re looking for.
This tome focuses on how companies boost their productivity dramatically. As a comprehensive approach to operations management, Reengineering the Corporation addresses how you can change your systems, culture, and processes to improve the workplace.
And even though it was first released in 1993, it’s been revised and updated to match the current economy.
“If you want to take your business to the next level, this book will show you how to do it,” said Daniel Foley, an SEO consultant.
4. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
Gawande’s bestselling book focuses on checklists — something that most HR teams can appreciate. The Checklist Manifesto dives deep into a framework for handling complicated problems.
The authors leverage several stories across industries to highlight how checklists can help streamline any process, from onboarding to medical procedures.
“I found this book exceptional in improving my approach and growing my business,” said Josh Dudick, a finance expert and business owner.
5. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
This book offers answers to real and difficult questions regarding running a business. What happens when you hire a friend but later need to fire or demote them? How do you handle a star employee who mistreats the team?
Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things contains insights into founding, running, and managing tech companies. But many of the lessons learned in this gem can be used by leaders across industries and departments.
“The Hard Thing About Hard Things is, without a doubt, one of my favorites,” said Ava Collins, CEO and Founder of Adelaide Examiner.
6. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
Anyone in a management position knows that there are only so many hours in a day. And in Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, it’s possible to learn how to use the time we have wisely — without the anxiety and life hacks.
Let’s be clear: This book isn’t focused on optimizing time through tips and tricks. It’s a deep but accessible meditation on how much time we really have.
“I found this book to be both readable and helpful, and I frequently refer to it for guidance,” said Max Whiteside, the SEO and Content Lead at Breaking Muscle.
7. HR Disrupted: It’s Time for Something Different by Lucy Adams
The modern economy has been in a state of flux for years. But the shift towards remote work has accelerated massive changes. It’s highlighted the need for more inclusive and efficient HR practices.
Lucy Adams details the challenges and solutions facing HR managers in her book HR Disrupted: It’s Time for Something Different.
“No matter how far you are in your career, I highly recommend HR Disrupted,” said Allan M. Siegel, Partner at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. “This book makes you take a hard look at the processes in your workplace and consider new solutions.”
8. Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness by Steve Magness
What does toughness mean in the business world and do we really understand how to leverage it? In Do Hard Things, author Steve Magness reexamines traditional views of toughness and resilience — and highlights how it doesn’t hold up in today’s world.
But while there’s no room for false bravado and fear-based management, it’s possible to cultivate true inner strength and leadership.
“I’d recommend this book because of the critical thinking insight it shares with the audience across several niches, spaces, and ideas,” said Jeff Sherman, Founder and Owner of Top Marketing Agency. “For HR teams, this book highlights how the right mindset can have a dramatic and positive impact.”
9. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Jim Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results. Those companies sustained those results for at least 15 years. And he compiled that data into Good to Great.
In this 5-year research project, Collins and his team analyzed 28 companies over a 30-year period to identify how they succeeded or failed.
While many of the businesses are known today as extraordinary, such as Intel and General Electric, this business classic focuses on how they made it big. And for managers and small businesses, this translates into essential leadership research.
“Since I supervise different teams, I always recommend Good to Great so others can get the insight I got from it,” explains Mark Sadaka, Founder of Sadaka Firm.
10. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
The longer you spend in HR, the more you realize that success hinges on understanding human behavior and emotion. In Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, the author makes the case that investing in emotional intelligence skills improves success.
“HR managers need to read this book, which offers more insight into employee feelings and emotions,” said Jonathan Merry, Vice President & Co-Founder at Bankless Times. “It highlights a human-centric approach to understanding the workplace and improving performance through positive relationships.”
What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve
Answer to see the results
Simplify benefits administration
Improve our virtual onboarding experience
Automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks
Bonus: Streamline your People Operations
Many HR teams are taking their efforts to the next level to boost retention and recruiting through investing in People Operations (POPS). In an era when employees are looking for flexible benefits and companies want to reduce costs, POPS offers a solution for optimizing the workforce.
People Operations: Automate HR, Design a Great Employee Experience, and Unleash Your Workforce is a comprehensive guide to unlocking growth and improving your employee experience.
The answer? Focusing on people, not paperwork. People Operations: Automate HR, Design a Great Employee Experience, and Unleash Your Workforce is a comprehensive guide to unlocking growth and improving your employee experience.
“People Operations is critical reading for businesses of all sizes. The book expertly lays out an updated vision for what had traditionally been considered “human resources” and makes clear that a new way of thinking about engaging with and managing employees is not just needed, it is critical for the success of businesses in the 21st century,” said Seth Levine, Co-Author of The New Builders, and Partner and Co-Founder of Foundry Group.