Best HR Books People Leaders Need to Read in 2024

Posted by Trakstar • October 4, 2022 (Last modified August 15, 2023) • 8 min read

What are the best HR books for people leaders? There are many ways to improve in your role as a people leader, whether you are the director of human resources or studying for your HR certification. Books can help you gain experience from people who have been successful in HR leadership. These books are often inspirational and action-motivated, which many of us need.

Not every book will be perfect or applicable to your organization or outlook on human resources. However, knowing how other people do things can be helpful in managing people. Why? New employees are likely to come into their roles expecting something from the HR department, and those expectations may not always be positive.

We’re all just doing our best, but there’s room for improvement. However, it can be challenging to find the space, time, and resources to make those changes. At Trakstar, our goal is to free up some of your time so that you can take action on what you learn in your HR books. Click here to schedule a personalized short demo of our talent development platform that incorporates an applicant tracking systema learning management systemperformance management, and HR analytics and reporting tools.

Best HR Books for Beginners

The best books for HR beginners can help you when you are early in your career and don’t want to make the wrong decisions. While nothing can compare to experience, books can help inspire you and show you how to avoid mistakes other people have made.

The Essential HR Handbook by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell

This is one of the top HR strategy books on the market, and for a good reason. It’s an excellent place for beginners because it covers almost every HR topic you’ll face, especially if you buy the latest edition (though there are many used editions out there as well). You’re likely to keep this one on your desk to help you through the first few years of your job.

 The book focuses on best practices with workers, building relationships within your workplace, and navigating some of the most complex HR problems in the business world. 

Unleashing the Power of Diversity: How to Open Minds for Good, by Bjørn Z. Ekelund

This book is a little less instructional and instead focuses on the cultural, social, and environmental issues that impact the modern workplace. Throughout the text, the focus is on doing what most HR leaders seek: building trust, supporting talent, increasing diversity, and achieving great things.

This book isn’t going to work you through some of the basic steps of writing a performance improvement plan, for example (there are already plenty of books that do that). Instead, it will give you the motivation you need to make your company a better place to work.

1501 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson

Are you struggling to reward employees who are going above and beyond? 1501 Ways to Reward Employees is a collection of unique and innovative ways to encourage employees to participate in training, make their goals, improve, and stay engaged. There are long lists of ideas that incorporate team rewards, recognition, special occasions, and much more.

To quote Bob Nelson: “There’s a revolution going on in today’s workplaces. Workers want respect and they want it now. They want to be trusted to do a good job….they want to be appreciated when they do a good job.”

Best HR Books for Professionals

If you are an HR leader with some experience, you might not think you can learn anything new, but you can. The world is changing, and the people we lead are following it.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is a well-known presenter who has given some of the TED Talks that circulate HR circles. In his work Leaders Eat Last, Sinek focuses on employee engagement and encouraging your employees to achieve the impossible. However, he puts many leaders in their places and suggests why trust and inspiration come from leadership and spread throughout a healthy company.

There is a great focus on leading younger generations and how they will differ from older generations with different priorities.

Bring Your Human to Work by Erica Keswin

Many of us struggle with bringing ourselves to work in the most open, raw, and sometimes flawed way. This text focuses on a humanistic leadership style that encourages managers and leaders to form genuine relationships with their employees. She suggests caring about your employees as humans before you care about their success and achievements. 

There’s a great deal of focus on toxic cultures and bad apples in the workplace, which is something all HR leaders should know how to deal with, particularly in startup culture.

Redefining HR: Transforming People Teams to Drive Business Performance by Lars Schmidt

Redefining HR: Transforming People Teams to Drive Business Performance by Lars Schmidt is a great read for HR professionals and business leaders who have been around a while and want to find new ways to do their jobs, report on their impact, and adjust to the times.

This text, written by Amplify founder Lars Schmidy, talks about People Operations in some of today’s most prominent companies like Reddit, Asana, and Hubspot, to name a few. This book is one that you will highlight, mark, dog-ear, and open again and again.

There’s a focus here on understanding people analytics and the ROI of the work that you do. For many HR leaders who have been in this profession for a long time, finding new ways to think about things, measure them, and report on what you do can be a game-changer.

The 9 Faces of HR: A Disruptor’s Guide to Mastering Innovation and Driving Real Change by Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn is someone you’ve likely heard from before now – she’s a well-known speaker, writer, and industry thought leader. The 9 Faces of HR is a must-read for everyone, regardless of tenure. This book breaks down different HR archetypes that you will have to be, including:

  • A Judge
  • A Fixes
  • A Mentor
  • An Assassin

Dunn discusses the different traits and shows when and where we need to use each one.

Classics: Best HR Books to Read

The best books about HR don’t always stand the test of time. Our workforces are changing, meaning the old books don’t always show the best way to do things anymore. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read them, however. It’s important to know where HR is coming from – especially if you have a multigenerational or aging workforce.

How Will You Measure Your Life? By Clayton M. Christensen

This book will help develop your leadership skills across the board, not just in HR. However, it’s a classic that many business leaders have read to make better decisions. There’s a focus on how your choices will impact your employees at work and in their personal lives. It even helps with succession planning, attrition, and letting go of employees. 

If you think of human resources as more than just a career but a calling, this is a book that will touch your heart.

Human Resource Management by Gary Dessler

A classic, this 700-page tome is one of the most read and purchased books when it comes to human resource management and HR development. It is laid out across 18 chapters with updates on a regular basis. It covers essential HR topics like:

  • Recruitment
  • Placement
  • Talent Management
  • Training & Development
  • Relationship Building
  • Compensation

If you are building an HR department in a small company, inheriting an HR department, or growing into a new role or era at your company, this is going to be one of your best friends.

Good To Great by Jim Collins

Over 30 years of research went into this classic HR book that new leaders and seasoned professionals will be able to take lessons and practices from on talent development and leadership.
If you’ve ever heard of the Hedgehog Concept, this book is where it all started. Good to Great is a text that focuses on everything Trakstar stands for: attracting, retaining, and, most importantly, engaging your most talented employees. It talks about learning management and encouraging development amongst employees, but also how leadership and management should act, complete with an evergreen playbook adapted to different companies.

Schedule A Demo Of The Trakstar Platform

Professional development is important for all of us, and the work you do there impacts the rest of your organization as well. It will impact organizational culture, employee well-being, and so much more. HR leaders have the power to determine the direction of the organization. While you help your employees develop and get better, you need to think about your own development as well. Learning and trying new things can help get you out of ruts, reduce burnout, and increase satisfaction in your job.

Don’t have time to focus on things like organizational leadership styles? HR leaders are constantly tasked with many things, but Trakstar can help! We streamline the talent development process so that you can focus on the bigger picture items. To schedule a demo, click here.

Don't Miss Out on More Great HR Articles!

Subscribe to get the latest, greatest HR and Talent Development content straight to your inbox.