8 Books That Will Make You A Better HR Professional

8 essential books that will help you be a better HR professional

While formal education serves as an adequate foundation for human resource professionals entering the field, experience and continuing education are vital for growth and evolution. Additionally, the workforce and what’s known about it changes over time.

Keeping pace with HR trends is imperative for effective and influential leadership.

This list of must-read books takes two primary things into consideration: 

  1. Even the most dedicated leaders must be realistic. This list assumes it’s feasible to read a book every six weeks or so, understanding that both personal and professional commitments often take precedence. 
  2. As strategic partners to the business, its leaders, and its people, the most effective HR leaders are well-rounded. These books address a myriad of important topics and proficiencies.

Without further ado, let’s dive into 8 career-changing books new and seasoned HR professionals should aim to read in the next year.

Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace – Cy Wakeman

The most successful human resources professionals are self-aware. They understand their own role in the organization, focus on solutions over problems, and work to identify where they can add value in challenging situations.

Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace by Cy Wakeman is a helpful read for HR professionals seeking to improve their own performance so they can successfully partner with others facing similar obstacles.

The book emphasizes the importance of facing organizational challenges head-on, focusing on practical solutions rather than dwelling on problems. It encourages HR professionals to adopt a reality-based mindset that promotes accountability, fosters open communication, and eliminates drama and unnecessary distractions.

Ultimately, it helps HR professionals create a more productive and harmonious workplace.

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie 

One of the most important aspects of the ‘HR as coach’ model is influence. In order to coach and mentor executives, leaders, and staff, HR professionals must become proficient in the art of influence. 

While there are a number of books written on influence, Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People makes it easy. This invaluable resource for ‘people people’ offers a step-by-step process for making others feel seen and heard. For HR professionals, these principles are essential when building rapport, resolving conflict, and creating a positive employee experience.

The book also emphasizes the power of praise and constructive feedback, which can be instrumental in performance management and staff development.

Perhaps most important, How to Win Friends and Influence People provides guidance on influencing others without coercion, an essential skill in HR when persuading stakeholders to embrace change or adopt new policies. These teachings offer an authentic route to influence in business. 

Start With Why – Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, is a thought-provoking read in this space because it delves into the core of what motivates individuals and companies. His Golden Circle concept encourages us to first understand and articulate the why behind our actions, rather than just focusing on the how or what. For HR professionals, this perspective is invaluable in shaping company culture, engagement, and talent management.

By embracing the why, HR professionals can better align their recruitment and retention strategies with the organization’s purpose. Understanding the deeper meaning behind the work can enhance employee motivation, job satisfaction, and commitment. Moreover, the book’s emphasis on effective communication and storytelling helps HR professionals convey their mission and values more compellingly to attract and retain top talent.

Start with Why prepares HR professionals to create a workplace culture that goes beyond simple transactions and fosters a deeper sense of belonging and purpose. In a rapidly changing business landscape, this book provides a foundation for HR leaders to inspire people to bring their best selves to work.

The Fearless Organization – Amy Edmondson

The Fearless Organization by Amy C. Edmondson is an essential read for HR professionals because it addresses the critical and relatively new concept of psychological safety in the work setting. Edmondson’s book explores how fostering a culture of psychological safety can lead to improved performance, innovation, and worker well-being.

In today’s complex work environments, HR plays a pivotal role in creating an atmosphere where people feel safe to voice their ideas, share concerns, and take risks. Edmondson’s research on psychological safety demonstrates it can help organizations do exactly that. Reading this book will set HR professionals up to take steps toward creating this psychologically safe environment in their workplace, ultimately helping their businesses thrive in today’s competitive climate. 

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High – Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, & Emily Gregory

Difficult conversations are often not only necessary but pivotal. 

HR professionals should read Crucial Conversations because it provides a comprehensive framework for effectively navigating sensitive and high-stakes conversations. In the field of HR, where dealing with issues like performance problems, conflict, and organizational change is commonplace, the ability to manage these crucial conversations is essential.

The book offers practical techniques to foster open communication while maintaining respect and trust. HR individuals can apply these skills to mediate disputes, address performance deficits, and address sensitive worker issues. Additionally, the book highlights the importance of creating a safe environment for open dialogue, a fundamental aspect of HR’s responsibility to maintain a healthy culture.

By mastering the principles in Crucial Conversations, HR pros can drive positive change through brave dialogue. This book is an indispensable resource that equips human resources team members to not only engage in challenging conversations but also empower others to do the same.

The Data Driven Leader: A Powerful Approach to Delivering Measurable Impact Through People Analytics – David Swanson & Jenny Dearborn

In a department so intertwined with people, it’s easy to let emotions take the wheel. The most effective human resources experts leverage data to make informed business decisions, and The Data Driven Leader provides real-world examples to teach data analytics to HR folks. This book equips HR professionals with essential skills to use data effectively in their roles.

For starters, it emphasizes the importance of data collection and analysis to gain insights into key HR metrics.

By understanding these insights, HR practitioners can present data-driven business cases to senior leaders, driving strategic decisions that benefit the company and its people. In addition, The Data-Driven Leader offers guidance on building a data-driven culture. This can lead to more informed talent management, better recruitment and retention strategies, and improved personal and professional development programs.

By mastering these principles, HR leaders can enhance their ability to demonstrate the value they bring to the business and contribute to long-term business success. 

Radical Inclusion: Seven Steps to Help You Create a More Just Workplace, Home, and World – David Moinina Sengeh

Radical Inclusion is a transformational read for HR teams. In an increasingly diverse and globalized workforce, the book addresses the importance of fostering inclusive companies that leverage the power of diverse perspectives. For HR, this means redefining traditional approaches.

The book encourages HR experts to expand their understanding of inclusion beyond surface-level diversity to encompass a broader range of backgrounds, experiences, and thought. By embracing these ideas, HR can help companies benefit from the innovation and creativity that diversified teams can offer.

Radical Inclusion provides actionable insights into creating an environment where all workers feel valued and heard. HR practitioners who apply these principles can lead the charge in reshaping their organizations.

The Retention Revolution: 7 Surprising (and Very Human!) Ways to Keep Employees Connected to Your Company – Erica Keswein

The Retention Revolution provides critical strategies for retaining existing talent. While other organizations focus on recruitment, which is costly, those who invest in keeping the talent they already have will surpass the competition. 

The year 2024 is expected to bring further changes in the workforce, including the ongoing challenge of retaining top talent. The Retention Revolution provides a roadmap for reimagining retention strategies, focusing on creating an engaging and inclusive workplace, understanding and meeting the evolving needs of workers, and implementing innovative practices to retain valuable talent. In a competitive job market, HR specialists must stay ahead of the curve to ensure their businesses can attract and keep top talent. 

To close, books are a convenient way to learn and grow as an HR professional. These reads serve as a solid foundation for HR individuals or teams looking to stay proficient and get ahead of workplace changes in 2024.


  • Rynae Golke

    Rynae Golke, MS, PHR, is seasoned People Leader with over a decade of experience in healthcare human resources. She is passionate about creating workspaces that foster brave leadership, psychological safety, and inclusivity and sharing her learnings with others. 

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