Essential Reading: 15 Best Books for HR Professionals

The field of HR is constantly evolving, presenting HR professionals with ever-changing industry trends and dynamic workplace challenges. HR leaders need to adapt and learn continuously to navigate industry changes and meet their organization’s diverse needs. While articles provide valuable insights, books offer a unique opportunity for deep dives that can truly transform HR practices, and the best books for HR professionals offer in depth guidance that HR podcasts and articles lack.

The best books for HR professionals provide a comprehensive understanding of crucial HR topics such as talent management, organizational culture, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, and leadership development. They act as catalysts for change, inspiring HR professionals to enhance their People practices and adopt fresh perspectives.

Here we have handpicked the 15 best books for HR professionals. Each book on our list holds the power to ignite new ideas, challenge conventional thinking, and empower people leaders to elevate their skills and approaches.

1. Leaders Eat Last

best books for HR professionals

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek delves into the concept of creating an exceptional workplace where employees are motivated, engaged, and driven to achieve outstanding results. Sinek explores the crucial distinction between organizations that struggle to reach success, despite offering attractive incentives and those that thrive due to a culture of trust and collaboration.

Inspired by a conversation with a Marine Corps general, Sinek introduces the idea that “officers eat last” and emphasizes the importance of leaders prioritizing the interests of their team members. Through fascinating real-life examples from the military, large corporations, and government agencies, the book illustrates why leaders should put their people first, fostering an environment of trust and cooperation.

2. Dare To Lead

best HR books to read

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown challenges the traditional beliefs that leadership revolves around status and power. Coming in second on the list of best HR books to read, it emphasizes sharing power, recognizing potential, and having difficult conversations rather than avoiding them.

Drawing from seven years of collaboration with transformative leaders, Brown shares real-life stories, examples, and research-backed insights to address the questions that often arise for people in leadership positions. Dare to Lead will be your trusted companion to learn how to choose courage over comfort and become a better leader.

3. Work Rules

best HR books to read

If you’ve ever wondered how Google remains one of the most highly-rated companies for its work culture, Work Rules by Laszlo Block is one of the best HR books to read. It reveals many valuable lessons you can learn from Google’s creative people to build a talented and successful workforce.

Covering how to learn from both the best and worst employees, hiring smarter people than ourselves, and using data for better predictions instead of relying on instincts, Work Rules dives into the industries most coveted secrets to building a lasting culture.

4. No Rules Rules

best books for HR professionals

No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer takes readers on an exciting journey of the transformation of Netflix from a DVD rental service to the entertainment giant we know today. Netflix co-founder, Hastings, introduced groundbreaking management principles that made their company’s pivot possible in the face of an evolving market.

Hastings’ unique management approach fostering an environment centered around freedom and responsibility puts No Rules Rules on the list of best books for HR professionals as readers explore nuanced management principles, such as providing employees context rather than strict control. It’s a must-read that will not only entertain you but also serve as a refreshing alternative to binge-watching Netflix during your free time (though we don’t mind that either).

5. Fixed: How to Perfect the Fine Art of Problem-Solving

best books for HR professionals

Fixed by Amy Herman is a captivating story that combines the beauty of art with valuable tools for solving complex challenges. Through a novel approach, Herman invites readers to see, ask, and think in new ways about the world around them. This step-by-step guide is not limited to personal or professional challenges but extends to the broader issues we face as a community, including those amplified by the pandemic, making it one of the best books for HR professionals.

If you’re seeking fresh perspectives and strategies to approach problems from a different angle, Fixed is a must-read. It will inspire you to embrace uncertainty, enhance your problem-solving abilities, and navigate the ever-changing complexities of our world.

6. Start with Why

best books for HR professionals

Over a decade ago Start with Why by Simon Sinek ignited a movement prompting organizations to question their greater purpose. Despite the passage of time, Sinek’s ideas remain relevant and robust catalysts for change. In this book, you’ll discover why certain organizations outperform others, create loyal customers and employees, and consistently achieve success.

Sinek introduces the concept of the ‘golden circle’ and provides a framework for building your organization around its core purpose. By focusing on your “why,” you can empower your people and foster a culture of success.

7. The Introverted Leader

best books for HR professionals

The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler tackles a vital question often overlooked: How can introverts excel as leaders? This book reveals that some of the most successful leaders, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Ariana Huffington, are introverts. Drawing insights from thousands of such introverted leaders, The Introverted Leader provides valuable guidance to create an environment that embraces introversion in the workplace.

One of the best books for HR professionals, it presents a four-step strategy called the 4Ps process that shows how you can succeed in the workplace by building on your strengths. After reading The Introverted Leader you will have a well-defined plan for getting through anxiety-inducing situations and knowing how to tackle tough conversations. Whether you are an introverted leader or manage introverted employees, it will help you cultivate a thriving work environment.

8. The First-Time Manager

best books for HR professionals

For nearly four decades, The First-Time Manager by Jim McCormick has been a go-to resource for new managers, providing them with the tools to tackle any challenge confidently. Recognizing the stress of being a new manager, it offers valuable guidance on stress management, becoming a better listener, and motivating employees.

The updated edition is packed with essential skills and knowledge to navigate the unique demands of managing remote employees, bridging generation gaps, and utilizing online tools for increased efficiency, earning its spot on the best HR books to read list. Whether you’re a new manager seeking guidance or a seasoned professional looking for a refresher, this book is a must-have companion on your managerial journey.

9. HBRs 10 Must Reads on Communication

best books for HR professionals

Must Reads On Communication by the Harvard Business Review is a valuable resource for leaders seeking to enhance their communication skills beyond basic advice from generic Google searches. This book compiles 10 of the best articles from Harvard Business Review, offering actionable steps, insights from experienced leaders, and real-life stories.

With insights from renowned experts such as Deborah Tannen, Jay Conger, and Nick Morgan, these articles cover various topics, including building credibility, why small businesses need HR software, and inspiring others to embrace your vision. Whether you want to establish effective communication or elevate your existing skills, Must Reads On Communication provides practical guidance to help you become a more impactful communicator.

10. Ask Powerful Questions

best books for HR professionals

Ask Powerful Questions by Will Wise and Chad Littlefield is a book that teaches leaders and employees how to escape small talk and have conversations that genuinely connect with others. Wise and Littlefield explain how asking the right questions can make a big difference in productivity, building trust, and creating a safe environment, whether at work or in your personal life. Ask Powerful Questions breaks the process down into six practical steps that you can easily follow for success.

The guide makes its way onto the best books for HR professionals as these questions aren’t just for the workplace — they can be used anywhere, from boardrooms to grocery stores. This book will help you initiate and continue conversations that build strong connections and positively impact every part of your life.

11. More Than a Boss

best books for HR professionals

More Than a Boss by Nick Brzozowski emphasizes the crucial idea that people leave managers, not companies. As one of the best books for HR professionals, More Than a Boss offers six valuable practices that can guide you in leading your department toward success. With these practices, you can become more than just a boss to your team. It’s a perfect guide for those looking for deeper clarity between different leadership styles such as transactional leadership and transformational leadership.

More Than a Boss covers essential aspects such as understanding your team, self-management techniques, effective motivational tools, and making informed hiring and firing decisions. While it doesn’t promise shortcuts to becoming a CEO, it equips you with the necessary skills to become the ideal boss that creates a thriving work environment.

12. Leadership for the New Female Manager

best books for HR professionals

Leadership for the New Female Manager by Karina G. Sanchez addresses the unique challenges millennial managers face stepping into leadership roles. As a young leader overseeing a team that may include older employees, feelings of inadequacy can be overwhelming.

Sanchez offers a guide to embracing leadership and unleashing your full potential as a female manager. As one of the best HR books to read, it offers practical advice to overcome imposter syndrome and lead with confidence. You’ll learn valuable lessons on navigating emotions while making effective leadership decisions, and encouraging open communication. If you’re ready to excel in your new leadership role, this book contains insights, hacks, templates, and tools you must take advantage of!

13. You Are The Team

best books for HR professionals

You Are the Team is a valuable guide by Michael G. Rogers that teaches us how to cultivate a highly dedicated and results-oriented team. It emphasizes the importance of setting aside ego and working collaboratively without distractions. With his extensive expertise, Rogers provides insights and practical exercises to help develop effective teams.

Being one of the best books for HR professionals, it goes beyond theory, offering relatable stories and actionable strategies for team development. You Are the Team is not limited to leaders alone, the entire team can benefit from its teachings. Team members can unlock their full potential by taking actions such as prioritizing the needs of the team over individual interests, engaging in honest conversations, and taking personal accountability.

14. A New Kind of Diversity

best books for HR professionals

In today’s workplace, companies need to address the challenges that arise when people from different generations work together. A New Kind of Diversity by Tim Elmore examines the complexities of up to five generations collaborating in many companies, where tensions can occur that affect team communication, morale, and a sense of belonging.

Each generation brings its own unique perspectives, beliefs, and ways of communicating. Sometimes, they feel like they speak different languages and struggle to understand one another. A New Kind of Diversity provides strategies to improve communication and collaboration while bridging the generation divide. With the tools for addressing these challenges, A New Kind of Diversity is among the best HR books to read to ensure you create a productive work environment for all employees.

15. The Eight Paradoxes of Great Leadership

best books for HR professionals

The Eight Paradoxes of Great Leadership by Tim Elmore prepares you for the challenges of becoming a successful leader and provides strategies to navigate the demands of a multigenerational workforce. Through these paradoxes, you’ll learn how to connect with your team members meaningfully and inspire them beyond just financial incentives.

Elmore, an experienced trainer of young professionals, shares valuable insights on the qualities that today’s team members seek in their leaders. He also showcases real-life examples of modern leaders who have embraced these challenges and achieved remarkable results. Whether you’re a new leader or aspiring to become one, this book offers practical advice to help you become an effective leader.

Deepen Your Leadership Skills

HR books allow you to take a closer look at the many facets of dynamic leadership. From theory to real-life examples from top companies and leaders, this round up of the best books for HR professionals is sure to help you navigate your leadership journey and build lasting cultures to organizational success.

best books for HR professionals

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