Today’s HR professionals have a slew of options available to them when it comes to finding advice and inspiration. There are websites (like this one), podcasts, YouTube channels, and even online short courses. One of the best, however, is also one of the oldest: books.
Now, at this time of the year, you’re bound to see plenty of articles suggesting what you should read. Unlike many of those lists, however, we’re not going to limit ourselves to dry tomes on workplace organisation and HR processes.
Instead, our selection reflects our “work with purpose” tagline and includes autobiographies, business histories, and treatise on some of the biggest shifts currently impacting society.
Steven Whetsaby is one of the world’s pre-eminent heart surgeons. Operating out of Oxford’s John Radcliffe hospital, he’s spent the past 35 years pushing the limits of what’s possible in heart surgery. Most recently, he’s started fitting artificial hearts to people who would otherwise be left hopeless by long transplant lists.
This memoir shows what it takes to push those boundaries. As well as real skill and drive, Whetsaby illustrates how important a healthy disrespect for authority can be.
Over the past few years, many of the life certainties we once took for granted (get an education, get a job, retire eventually) have been flipped on their head. Few books illustrate this change better than Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland.
In the book, Bruder immerses herself in a group of senior citizens who have given up owning houses and instead live out of mobile homes, traveling to wherever there is work. It is a life that’s in some ways liberating (these are people who have shaken loose the chains of materialism) and in many ways frightening (is it a failed system that’s forced them to adopt this lifestyle?). If you’re looking to understand some of the fears and motivations of your workforce (whatever their age), this is a good place to start.
Mark Zuckerberg may be the face of Facebook, but keen observers of the social network know that COO Sheryl Sandberg probably played a bigger role than anyone in taking it from cheeky upstart to world-dominating business.
In Option B, Sandberg teams up with her psychologist friend Adam Grant to explore the concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. By building resilience, they argue, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives.
It is, in other words, a book individuals can draw comfort from in times of trauma, but it may also be a good one to lend your boss if the business is going through a period of upheaval.
With 12.7-million YouTube subscribers and more than 2-million Instagram followers, Canadian actress and comedian Lilly Singh is an example of how rapidly the parameters for success have changed in recent years.
In How to be a Bawse, she provides “the definitive guide to being a BAWSE—a person who exudes confidence, reaches goals, gets hurt efficiently, and smiles genuinely because they’ve fought through it all and made it out the other side”.
Hey, no one ever said inspirational books couldn’t be funny.
A large part of HR’s job is to gauge the general mood within an organisation and, if necessary, address them. Thing is, if you’re relying on employee surveys to gauge that mood, there’s a good chance you’re not getting an accurate sense of how things are really going.
While Everybody Lies, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, doesn’t address that specific example, it does show how other forms of data can provide far more accurate insight than simply asking people.
More than that, however, it offers insights into ourselves and how we live our lives. And if that’s not the kind of knowledge that’ll improve your HR abilities, we don’t know what it is.