Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | December 2, 2010

HR Concepts: An HR Bibliography

By Mike Deblieux, SPHR

The workplace provides a never-ending source of ideas, topics and questions for researchers, consultants, and authors. Their completed works offer a sea of answers to everyday challenges and questions. A lack of information is not the problem for an HR professional. The dilemma is not enough time to read, but falling behind for a lack of time to read. This predicament must be solved by every HR professional.


Most HR professionals have a stack of unread books in their office. Each book was purchased with good intentions (remember the lines of well-intentioned book buyers at the PIHRA Conference in Pasadena?) Typically, a speech, a web article, or a conversation with a colleague leads to a book purchase. The book sits on the desk as a constant reminder of a desire to gain new insights. “I need to read that book,” says the busy owner. After a few weeks or months, however, interest leads to frustration, and frustration leads to resignation – the book moves to a bookcase, out of sight and out of mind.

This dilemma has a solution. An insightful mentor once observed that the typical book includes ten chapters. Reading one chapter each day results in thirty-six and a half-completed books at the end of each calendar year – take weekends off and the total is still twenty-six. The average chapter is twenty pages. It takes about thirty minutes to read. It is a great way to start or end the day.


Books are wonderful, but they are not the only place to find HR information. SHRM’s HR Magazine is a monthly source of useful ideas. Harvard Business Review, Workforce, Fast Company, and Fortune offer endless insights into workplace issues. Periodicals, like books, tend to pile up in the office. One way to attack the stack is to scan the Table of Contents for each new issue. Look for articles that peak your interest. Highlight them with a self-sticking note. Develop a habit of reading one article, on the same day each week, for a year-end total of fifty-two.

Periodicals offer one other untapped opportunity. Month after month, they look across the workplace landscape. They cover a series of hot topic themes that offer insights into the future. You can identify these trends by cutting the articles out of each issue and filing them by subject. Some folders will grow more quickly than others will. The thicker folders show that the business press is interested in a particular topic. It might be a good idea to do some catch-up reading on the articles in that folder.


A funny thing happens to most of us when we walk into a bookstore. We almost automatically go to the section with books that contain information on topics that we have already mastered. In other words, we seek more information about things that we already know more about! A well-rounded professional fights this instinct and reads an array of HR topics. Here are few reading ideas from across the HR spectrum for your 2011 reading list:

  • Strategic Management – Every HR Professional wants a seat at THE table. Wanting and getting are two different things. Ralph Christensen’s Roadmap to Strategic HR (Amacom, 2006) may help you translate your wish into a reality.
  • Selection – Topgrading by Bradford Smart, offers an in-depth look into finding the right people and the techniques it takes to get them into your organization (Penguin Group, 2005).
  • Metrics – If you read this book, How to Measure Human Resources Management by Jac Fitz-enz, from cover to cover, you deserve a triple scoop ice cream cone and a break. If you do not refer to it several times a year, you are probably limiting your career potential in HR (McGraw-Hill, 2001).
  • Creativity – Yesterday and today no longer provide a clear path to tomorrow. Theory U by Otto Scharmer, offers a unique perspective on guiding organizations from the future as it emerges in front of us (Society for Organizational Learning, 2007).
  • Leadership – Cy Wakeman proposes a unique approach to managing people in Reality-Based Leadership, (John Wiley & Sons, 2010).
  • Psychology – Dan Ariely offers valuable insights into why and how people make decisions in Predictably Irrational (HaperCollins, 2009).
  • Employees –Studs Terkel lived an amazing career interviewing people from all walks of life in his Chicago based radio studio. His insightful volume simply titled, Working, provides an in-depth look into the world of employment through the eyes of those who toil at it every day (The New Press, 2004).
  • Investigations – You should invest some of your valuable time with your employment law attorney to understand how to conduct an investigation. Before you meet, however, you should read Investigating Workplace Harassment by Amy Oppenheimer and Craig Platt so you will know what to ask to get the most from your attorney’s advice (SHRM, 2002).
  • More Metrics – You really do not have a choice about reading The HR Scorecard by Brian Becker, Mark Huselid, and Dave Ulrich. It is fundamental to your success in HR (Harvard Business Press, 2001).
  • Why – And just to round out your reading, take a little time to ask why you are in HR. Mathew Breitfielder and Amy Dowling will guide your self-analysis with their 2008 Harvard Business Review article, Why Did We Ever Go into HR?


Regardless of your HR role, your constituents depend on you to help them move into the future with contemporary ideas. You cannot meet their expectations if your pursuit of knowledge is based on a “when I get time” philosophy. You must have a learning plan that makes reading an everyday priority.

Mike Deblieux, SPHR, provides training and on-site consultation services for first-line workplace leaders. His most popular seminar topics include leadership, first discussions, coaching, corrective action, performance reviews, and sexual harassment. Mike writes HR Concepts to help HR professionals better understand and use fundamental HR principles. Share your feedback on this article with Mike at

Copyright © 2010 PIHRA


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