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Lucy McCarraher

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Must-read HR books you may have missed in 2021

We look at the best HR books from 2021 that might have slipped under your radar.

In another year of juggling staff shortages, new policies and hybrid working, HR professionals have had to cope with more changes than ever before. At the Business Book Awards, we like to celebrate the books that have provided a source of entertainment and inspiration to HR professionals and help them navigate the uncertainty of 2021.

The People, Culture and Management category is always one of our most hotly contested awards. Here we have picked out a selection of great books from 2021 that you may have missed, but the awards are open for entries until 31st January so we’d love to hear about any books that should have a place on every HR leader’s bookshelf…

The Healthy Workforce by Prof Sir Cary Cooper and Stephen Bevan (Emerald Publishing) £18.99 

With 57 per cent of all long-term sickness absence at work due to stress, anxiety and depression, workforce health has the potential to derail Britain’s business recovery. Mental health, stress, musculoskeletal issues, and chronic illness are the number one cause of absence from work and loss of productivity in most Western economies. 

This book takes a long hard look at the impact of ill-health on the workplace and particularly on productivity. Workforce wellbeing has long been recognised as an important retention issue – but the authors argue that more businesses need to wake up to its substantial impact on productivity.

An essential read for HR professionals, The Healthy Workforce offers practical guidance for getting started in the delivery of an effective and evidence-based workplace health plan, which can enhance and sustain productivity growth now and in the future.

Deep Tech and the Amplified Organisation by Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson (Holonomics Publishing) £13.84 

Deep tech has the power to save the planet and solve society’s most complex issues – from wealth inequality to workplace diversity. But it also brings the potential for abuses of power.

This important book sets out a blueprint for business and HR leaders to embed the critical values of truth, love and righteousness into their organisations and allow Deep Tech to achieve its full potential. 

We need to understand businesses as living systems that are powered by relationships and continually evolving. Deep Tech and the Amplified Organisation explains how any organisation can be transformed into a hyperconnected business and is perfect for any HR leader looking to make their business future-fit. 

Rise Together by Dr Sam Mather (Rethink Press) £14.99 

In a concise, easy-to-digest, highly practical way, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to understand the science behind performance. It explains how to understand the way your employees react to challenges, assess cognitive resources, ensure employees are resource-full, able to learn, grow and embrace change. 

Wellbeing programmes are required at the point employee resilience has already failed. Instead, create leaders programmes and systems that negate the need for such programmes.

The book reveals how to achieve this by creating a brain-friendly organisation and why this is crucial to the bottom line. Based on three years’ scientific research into the resources people need to maximise performance in a VUCA workplace, RISE Together is the ultimate guide to create innovative, engaged, resilient employees.

The Leadership Star by Brian Hartzer (Wiley) £15.50 

As businesses grapple with the post-pandemic normal—hybrid working, supply issues and staff shortages—an engaged and loyal workforce has become a critical must-have. The Leadership Star sets out a proven methodology tried and tested across three continents in some of the world’s largest financial businesses.

This important book includes guidance on communicating effectively—particularly when you need your messages to reach into every corner of a large organisation. Developed by Brian Hartzer in the crucible of a number of demanding leadership challenges in the financial sector, this is a must read for anyone looking to help their team be the best they can be. 

The Performance Management Playbook by Hedda Bird (Pearson) £24.99

Though it may be easy to understand the concept, performance management is notoriously difficult and anxiety-inducing to deliver in practice. Each member of a team brings their own ambitions, issues skills and desires. Just how do you keep everyone engaged, motivated and on task?

This book aims to take the stress and the mistakes out of management. The work of human motivation and engagement expert, Hedda Bird, it helps readers move from anxiety-ridden one-off appraisals to more rewarding regular and meaningful conversations about performance.

Resetting Management by Stéphane J. G. Girod and Martin Králik (Kogan Page). £17.59

Resetting Management sets out a compelling case for why business agility matters now more than ever. Going beyond the buzzwords, it shows how agility can release a new level of energy, innovation and entrepreneurship that will enable organisations to respond to disruption better. However, rather than advocate a formulaic approach whereby all organisations default to agile methods, it outlines the paths towards calibrating the right type and degree of agility for every company’s unique circumstances.

The book sets out the tools needed to master any transformation journey – featuring case studies from some of the world’s leading companies and illustrating how they have successfully, and less successfully, transformed for greater agility.

HR Without People?  by Anthony Wheeler and Ronald Buckley (Emerald Publishing) £24

The relationship between people and machines is evolving, and it will change almost every facet of human existence in the coming years. Perhaps the most profound change, however, will be to how humans think about the role of work in their lives.

As work and business evolve away from mass employment, training, developing, and rewarding of people, how will the role of the HR professional change? This book predicts that HR professionals will play an increasingly important role, becoming not just technologists who can operate legacy HR systems, but a pivotal function that will help governments, organisations and societies create meaningful life opportunities and experiences for citizens.

Lucy McCarraher is the founder of the Business Book Awards and the author A Book of One’s Own – a manifesto for women to share their experience and make a difference. 

Interested in this topic? Read The six most inspirational HR and management books for 2021.

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