HR's summer reading list: 14 must-read books

  • August 02 2018, 12:08pm EDT

HR’s summer reading list: 14 must-read books

While summer is the ideal time to kick back and take a minute to recharge, it’s also a great time to back away from the daily grind and take a more comprehensive view of your job: Why do you do it? How could you do it better? What would make it more fulfilling?

For HR and benefits professionals, there are a number of books that can help you do just that.

For instance, Daniel Coyle’s “The Culture Code” examines the importance of workplace culture — a top priority for any human resources manager. “Get to What Matters: Tools to Transform Conversations at Work,” by Wendy D. Lynch and Clydette de Groot, can help benefits managers prepare for important conversations with the C-suite. And “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back” offers insight on what author Elizabeth Rosenthal describes as the country’s flawed healthcare market — and what employers can do to make it better.

Those are just three books that HR and benefits professionals recommended to Employee Benefit News as great reads that are sure to help their colleagues with their self-guided professional development.

If you’re still in need of some last-minute reading to take with you to the beach, grab one of these 14 tomes recommended by industry insiders.

The Employee Experience Advantage, by Jacob Morgan

Recommended by Lynne Smith, senior vice president, human resources at Robert Half

“Jacob Morgan does a great job of providing a perspective on the employee experience that is real and practical and then helps you take action to focus and create an employee experience for your organization that is genuine and authentic.”

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Get to What Matters: Tools to Transform Conversations at Work, by Wendy D. Lynch and Clydette de Groot

Recommended by Sherri Samuels-Fuerst, director of total rewards at Sargento Foods

“This book has excellent examples that are applicable in a variety of work situations. It has helped me prepare for important conversations with our CEO and compensation committee, and gave me some practical tips on tackling those tough employee conversations. It’s also helped me communicate better with my husband. Improved communications increases our efficiency and strengthens our relationships, both professionally and personally.”

Platform Revolution, by Dr. Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne and Sangeet Choudary

Recommended by Ray August, president and CEO of Benefitfocus

“This book is at the top of my summer reading list. Platform models have disrupted the general technology and consumer business markets, so we know the benefits industry will soon follow suit. The book has changed how I look at Benefitfocus and our own platform technology — so much so that I recently invited Dr. Parker to speak to our associates on how platforms are driving economic shifts.”

Essentialism, by Greg McKeown

Recommended by Kevin Davis, senior benefits consultant and vice president at Univest Insurance

“I was very inspired by ‘Essentialism,’ which focuses on ‘the disciplined pursuit of less.’ McKeown defines an essentialist as one who moves from thinking they can be ‘all things to all people’ to choosing ‘less but better.’ From saying ‘yes’ to people without really thinking to saying ‘no’ to everything but the essential. This transforms them from living a life that does not satisfy to living a life that really matters. In the book’s appendix, McKeown writes that LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner sees ‘fewer things done better’ as the most powerful mechanism for leadership. He uses the acronym FCS (aka FOCUS) to teach his philosophy to his employees. The letters stand for ‘fewer things done better,’ ‘communicating the right information to the right people at the right time,’ and ‘speed and quality of decision making.’”

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Tools of Titans, by Tim Ferriss

Recommended by Brandi Britton, district president at OfficeTeam

“This book provides a good refresher that you need to look at the bigger picture when dealing with people. It isn’t always about what people say, but what they do that makes them who they are — and that includes you. HR professionals can enjoy the book for the reminders it gives you to look at life and business from a fresh perspective.”

The Culture Code, by Daniel Coyle

Recommended by Conner Gunn, employee benefits consultant at Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance

“I recommend this book because it gives insight on how to run our businesses, as well as be great consultants for other businesses. As consultants, we must know more about [a company’s] business than just their benefit design and renewal date. The ability to provide insights and learn about a company’s culture can help you help that company even more. This book preaches that safety, vulnerability and purpose all play a huge part in the culture of any company. All great points that I had previously not thought of. Great read.”

Seeking Wisdom — from Darwin to Munger, by Peter Bevelin

Recommended by Victoriana Jayme, sales developer at EaseCentral

“In it, Bevelin talks about how our thoughts are influenced, why we make misjudgments and tools to improve our thinking. Bevelin tackles such eternal questions as: Why do we behave like we do? What do we want out of life? What interferes with our goals?”

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Managing, by Henry Mintzberg

Recommended by Michael Rogers, CEO of iFocus: Human Capital Solutions

“‘Managing’ addresses what we do not know about running our organizations. Written for practitioners and those that work with them, this book is a classic read for those responsible for human resources offices and programs. In the latter half of the 20th century, industry sought to streamline organizations by reducing middle management; this remains a go-to concept for short-term shareholder value today. As a result, we have burdened our current and future management talent with learning their craft with limited, or incorrect, support. Mintzberg seeks to define managing as its own profession and provides concepts and resources to support personal and associated HR program development.”

Hiring for Attitude, by Mark Murphy

Recommended by Ky Kingsley, vice president at Robert Half Finance & Accounting, North America

“Murphy uses case studies like Southwest to provide evidence on how attitude affects performance. We all know that attitude is important. However, I think employers still often put skills first. This book provides methodology on how to focus on attitude in the hiring process.”

The Longevity Economy, by Joseph E. Coughlin

Recommended by Barry Kozak, a Chicago-based consultant for October Three

“‘The Longevity Economy’ is a very easy and enjoyable read. Joseph Coughlin provides insight from his leadership at the MIT AgeLab about some of the commerce directed at the elderly that worked and some that failed. The general observations, warnings and advice throughout the book can be applied to services directed toward aging [employees].”

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Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Recommended by John Turner, president and CEO of Corporate Synergies

“This is a must-read for those looking to take their business to new heights. Through historical analysis of hundreds of business cases, you see how important it is to continue to create differentiation and exceptional value for your company. In doing so, you are sailing on a blue ocean of opportunity as opposed to a turbulent sea of competition and parity. I continually refer to this book in life and business.”

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, by Elizabeth Rosenthal

Recommended by Mark Christensen, board chair, Houston Business Coalition on Health

“[The book] looks at the dangerous, expensive and dysfunctional American healthcare system and offers steps we can take to better manage this flawed market. Dr. Rosenthal recently spoke to a group of Houston employers on the topic, and she noted 10 economic rules, which included ‘the price will rise to whatever the market will bear.’ We have wonderful technology and medical expertise to save lives, but it has to come at a more reasonable cost. We can shop for quality and prices on cars and homes, and we need to be able to do the same for healthcare.”

The Customer Comes Second, by Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters

Recommended by Joe Terrion, president of New Ocean Health Solutions

“This book came out quite some time ago, but it is still a great guide to creating a vibrant company culture. Most HR professionals today are charged with helping employees reach their full potential so that the company can, in turn, reach its full potential. Driving that home is the intent of this book. It teaches you how to hire, motivate and manage employees in a way that helps them flourish, in a way that the CEO can appreciate.”

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Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box, by the Arbinger Institute

Recommended by Kerry Wekelo, managing director of HR at Actualize Consulting

“It teaches us about accountability through an easy-to-relate case study.”