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Business Leadership

 Applying Advanced Analytics to HR Management Decisions

Applying Advanced Analytics to HR Management Decisions
By James C. Sesil
Pearson Education Inc., 2014
156 pages
List price: $59.99
ISBN: 978-0-13-306460-5

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We don’t make decisions rationally, says author James C. Sesil. Our biases play a strong role, and business decisions are no exception. In Applying Advanced Analytics to HR Management Decisions, Sesil shows how bias works, then discusses the myth that people are naturally self-centered—a myth that he says has damaged our ability to be cooperative and collaborative at work.

But through the right combination of learning, economics and psychology, managers can eliminate bias in decision-making, get better performance results and reduce discrimination. Sesil demonstrates how the science of “advanced analytics” can improve decisions.

What prevents us from making the best possible choices? Sesil, who currently is developing HR software to support decision-making, describes the problem of relying on intuition and biases when making human capital management decisions.

Sesil delves into what makes collaboration work so well, and why people are not as motivated by selfishness as we think. He covers the types of organizations that benefit from collaboration, the bottom-line advantages of participative decision-making and models of collaboration in business. Analytics can improve choices by predicting outcomes more accurately, mapping individual and team performance, and evaluating the impact of planned changes. Employers can learn to use human capital data better, and Sesil demonstrates how research data can contain biases that HR and management must be aware of.

How do you model “ideal HR practice choices”? Sesil provides ideas on optimal practices. He also introduces readers to specific software packages that can help with talent analytics, enterprise resource planning, talent management and more.

Selection and promotion decisions can be particularly prone to biases, so a more analytical approach yields more-objective choices. Tools include a “biographical survey” that uses a candidate’s personal history as an indicator of potential job performance.

Incentives and motivation are other areas where more science and fewer assumptions could create more-effective systems. Sesil explains why collaboration does not work with competitive compensation and reward systems that pit employees against each other and create mistrust.

The author outlines the usefulness of performance management tools based on analytics, including expert systems, predictive modeling, artificial intelligence and econometrics tools. He also describes how analytics can help with specific incentive issues, including incentives for executives; for low-skill, low-wage employees; and for specific job groups such as teachers and physicians.

The Nonprofit's Guide to Human Resources
By Jan Masaoka
Nolo, 2011
351 pages
List price: $49.99
ISBN: 978-1-4133-1375-8

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The advice in The Nonprofit's Guide to Human Resources is aimed solely at the HR professionals working for nonprofits listed as public charities in the tax code (known as 501(c)(3) nonprofits). This category includes a huge variety of nonprofits, from large institutions such as hospitals to small ones such as a local PTA, but the emphasis here is on advice for organizations with 100 or fewer staff members.

While the basics are the same for nonprofits as for other employers—for instance, the minimum wage law applies to both—there are special considerations for HR professionals who work for nonprofits. Among those considerations are the extensive use of volunteers and payment for interns.

The book might appear to look like the basics of any HR handbook—topics cover everything from hiring to benefits to layoffs—but author Jan Masaoka tailors details and examples to fit nonprofits' needs, including:

  • Salaries and benefits. Should fundraisers get paid commissions? Who should be classified as exempt or nonexempt (the distinction can get fuzzy for nonprofits)? How can you effectively and legally use incentive pay such as bonuses in a nonprofit? Can you say that "doing meaningful work" is considered a job benefit?
  • Performance reviews. Nonprofits often have very small staffs. Managers may see staffers as colleagues, not subordinates. The result is that no one wants to review others' performance. Masaoka argues that reviews are vital to help define job roles, which can be fluid in nonprofits, and to ensure that good performers get recognition.
  • Supervision. How do you discuss career paths in an organization with only a handful of staffers? What kind of training should people get, and how do you decide who gets trained? Why are conferences particularly useful to nonprofit staffs?
  • Strengthening performance. Why are workers in some nonprofits susceptible to burnout, and how can HR help prevent it? How can you develop leaders? What should nonprofits consider when hiring outside consultants?
  • Managing volunteers. Masaoka looks at ways to organize volunteer management, outlines common types of volunteer positions and provides a sample job description for a volunteer role. Find out how to locate volunteers through third-party placement organizations and how to work with volunteers who are performing court-ordered community service.

Other topics include getting appropriate insurance coverage for volunteer activities, onboarding volunteers effectively and organizing an HR department in a nonprofit. Chapters include easy-to-find tips and links to resources readers can use immediately.

Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership SkillsUpgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills
By Giselle Kovary and Adwoa K. Buahene
n-gen, 2012
194 pages
List price: $25
ISBN: 978-1-77084-198-7

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Upgrading means building on what’s already there—trying to “enhance, improve and refine,” as this book puts it. An upgrade doesn’t toss out the past, but it does re-evaluate it.

Authors Giselle Kovary and Adwoa K. Buahene offer practical tips to help you upgrade your leadership skills, with special emphasis on tailoring leadership to meet the needs of multiple generations at work.

Based on the authors’ decade of work with more than 50,000 leaders, managers and employees, Upgrade Now builds on Kovary and Buahene’s previous research on how to engage a multigenerational workforce. This volume identifies nine key skills leaders should upgrade, and its pithy chapters outline what to learn about each skill and how to apply it in your workplace now. Upgraded skills include the following:

  • Improve the work environment. The single biggest positive influence a leader can have in engaging employees is improving the work environment. The book covers how collaborative leadership, empowerment, team building and especially flexibility all contribute to a better environment. Readers get a questionnaire to help them uncover their own personal attitudes and approaches to work style and workplace culture and to think through how they can improve their work environment today.
  • Facilitate career development. Employees often crave real developmental opportunities, and good development practices help keep good employees onboard. Readers learn about the four typical types of career paths as well as the various individual patterns careers can take—one employee might need specialized formal education for an expert occupation, while another employee might need an “entrepreneurial pattern” with frequent moves.
  • Empowering employees through selective delegation. Many leaders don’t delegate or aren’t sure how to delegate effectively. Yet delegation not only empowers employees, it also frees the leader or manager to do other tasks.

The book shows what empowerment at work means (increasing employee accountability, allowing employees to direct their own work, supporting their decisions). It outlines how to delegate work, from identifying the appropriate tasks or projects to ensuring that resources are available to communicating well with employees. And the authors give leaders responses to the many potential objections they might feel about delegation, such as “I can do it myself” and “If I let someone else do it, I’ll lose control.”

Kovary and Buahene walk managers through a three-step process for delegating work to employees successfully.

Upgrade Now gives the same brief but detailed treatment to other leadership skills including leading virtual teams, leading and managing change, and leveraging social media.

Start Something That MattersStart Something That Matters
y Blake Mycoskie
Spiegel & Grau, 2011
189 pages
List price: $22
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6918-7

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A photo in Start Something That Matters shows a scribbled drawing on lined paper: It’s a roughly drawn shoe, and beneath it are the words “Shoes for Tomorrow = TOMS.” This is the genesis of both a successful brand and a company with an unusual business model: For every pair of shoes customers buy, TOMS donates one pair of shoes to a child in need. Founder Blake Mycoskie’s book aims to show businesses how they can apply the lessons he learned and “find profit, passion and meaning all at once—right now.”

Mycoskie uses his own experiences as an entrepreneur, and the experiences of his co-workers, friends and other business owners, to illustrate six key ideas designed not only to result in business success but also to make a positive impact on the world:

Find your story. People tend to remember a compelling story better than they remember facts, Mycoskie notes, and he shares the TOMS story and how he and others spread the message of “one for one” shoe donations through the media and through personal evangelism. He translates these experiences into tips for others: Control the story online, and ensure that what’s out there is accurate. Find storytelling “partners” like the ones TOMS found at AT&T, which used Mycoskie in one of its commercials. Share the story in your personal life and social networks as well as at business events.

Face your fears. Readers get Mycoskie’s list of ways to conquer business fear, including articulating your fears clearly, starting small to ensure that you learn your trade and seeking as much advice as possible.

Be resourceful without resources. TOMS began with a staff of one and no offices. Mycoskie looks at other companies, from Facebook to Mattel, that started in dorm rooms or garages. Tips: develop a presence where it’s free (on social media in particular); be creative about your office space—most offices are a waste of money initially, but you can always camp at your local coffee shop, as Mycoskie did at first; reward employees however you can, with food, games or gifts, even on a tight budget.

Keep it simple. The shoes’ key characteristic is simple design, and the author says simplicity helps businesses stay focused. Advice ranges from scheduling everything to ensuring that technology doesn’t tether you to work 24/7. The book takes brief looks at how businesses as different as Southwest Airlines, Netflix, Craigslist and Chipotle stuck to simple ideas, simple goals or simple menus to create successful brands.

Build trust. Readers learn how both internal trust, between employer and employee, and external trust, between company and customer, are vital. Admitting mistakes is an important part of gaining trust, and Mycoskie details errors that cost TOMS money but earned the company trust when it admitted its faults. Letting employees feel free to make mistakes and learn from them shows that employers trust them.

Giving is good business. “If you incorporate giving into your business and life, you will see greater returns and rewards than you ever imagined,” Mycoskie writes. Good works give customers more reason to care about your firm and your product, he notes. The book advises on incorporating giving into your business in manageable, simple steps.

Human Capital Analytics
By Gene Pease, Boyce Byerly and Jac Fitz-enz
John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2013
236 pages
List price: $60
ISBN: 978-1-118-46676-6

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Focused on HR practitioners and their need to show increasing accountability, this volume teaches the tools of predictive analytics—“analytics that not only measure impact but also help optimize and prescribe future investments.” HR can use analytical tools to get more out of human capital, these authors say. They add that the book isn’t about simply justifying HR investments; it’s also about improving those investments.

Human Capital Analytics takes users through the steps from determining stakeholders through gathering data, connecting data with performance and communicating effectively about what your data show.

As they walk readers through the predictive analytic process, the authors illustrate ideas with case studies from real companies.

Among the steps taught in detail are these:

  • Alignment. Figure out who your stakeholders are, what you need to get done in a stakeholder meeting and what your stakeholders (and you) need to measure. This section also looks at who should participate in analytics and how to assign financial values to intangibles.
  • Measurement. Learn how to create and use a “measurement map,” the visual depiction of how your investment and your strategic goals align. Learn how metrics and demographics for a study work, and prepare the groundwork for the next stage:
  • Data. Learn how both HR information systems and learning management systems play roles as data sources, and how other sources—from social media to surveys to interviews to benchmarking data—can work for you. Readers get guidance on how to handle challenges such as the organizational politics that affect data-gathering and the privacy issues involved.
  • Descriptive statistics, correlation and causation. Organizations need to provide indicators of what’s going on, such as head count numbers. HR needs to know how to express data in different ways to meet different needs, and how to combine data from different sources and systems to discover connections. This section also warns readers about the dangers of correlations—assuming that because data are related, they imply causality. In other words, if milk consumption increases and death rates increase, it doesn’t mean that the former causes the latter. Another chapter focuses solely on causation and finding the real, data-based linkages between things.
  • ROI and optimization. The authors want HR to get beyond just calculating return on investment and move toward optimization—understanding where an investment is and isn’t working, and making adjustments to improve impact over time. The book teaches the main aspects of optimization. Optimization “moves us from simple ‘measuring an investment’ to actually improving future work.”
  • Communications. To have an impact and spark change, data need a strong presentation. Learn about creating effective reports, graphics and talks that restate HR and statistical jargon in ways the stakeholders will understand.

SHRM 2012-2013 Human Capital Benchmarking
SHRM 2012-2013 Human Capital Benchmarking
SHRM, 2012
136 pages
List price: $800
ISBN: 978-1-586-44327-6

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“Measure everything if you want to prove the business worth of human capital.” That’s what HR professionals hear in meetings, magazines and books. But where can you go to find the right data on other companies like yours, in your geographic area? Where can you get dollar amounts for organizational revenue per full-time equivalent employee, or the HR-to-employee ratio, or the average annual salary increase for employees in your industry?

Finding these data to use as benchmarks for your own company’s numbers can be tough—unless you examine SHRM’s Human Capital Benchmarking surveys.

These data charts report information by industry, number of employees and region. The book provides more than 40 metrics, including compensation data, HR department and expense data, employment data, and expectations for revenue and organizational hiring. A glossary gives readers detailed descriptions of each metric.

The source of the data is SHRM’s benchmarking database, which contains data from a random sample of SHRM members in the United States in varying industry sectors. Those sectors include for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises, finance, government, health care, high-tech, and durable and nondurable goods manufacturing.

Organizational data include revenues per FTE. HR department data includes total HR staff number; HR expenses; the HR-to-employee ratio; and the percentages of HR staff in supervisory, professional/technical or administrative support roles. Other data cover the types of HR positions organizations expected to fill in 2012.

Compensation data cover annual salary increases, salaries as a percentage of operating expenses, target bonuses for nonexecutives and executives, and reimbursements for tuition. Employment facts include time-to-fill, cost-per-hire, number of positions filled in 2011, annual turnover rates and more.

The book’s guidelines state that any deviation between the data in the book and the reader’s own figures for the same human capital measures is not necessarily favorable or unfavorable. Deviations only mean the reader needs to do more analysis. The guidelines also note that human capital measures specific to the reader’s own industry and business size “are more descriptive and meaningful” than generic data.

Reality-Based LeadershipReality-Based Leadership
By Cy Wakeman
Jossey-Bass, 2010
161 pages
List price: $27.95
ISBN: 978-0-470-61350-4

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“Your circumstances may not be negotiable, but your suffering is,” writes speaker and trainer Cy Wakeman. In this book for managers and other leaders, Wakeman shows how to recognize the realities of your job and workplace, and deal with them, rather than constructing excuses and defenses.

The focus of Wakeman’s plan is finding real peace at work. Peace, for her, isn’t a warm and fuzzy feel-good term; it means the absence of drama and the acceptance of responsibility. Happiness at work, she says, does not mean a lack of stress; it means that everyone accepts his or her accountability.

Job one is finding peace: Tools include an exercise to measure the level of drama in your workplace now. Wakeman then demonstrates how to stop framing work problems in terms of victims, villains and helpless bystanders, and how to respond only to the facts of a situation, not the emotions. Another tool helps readers take a problem of their own and record it to distill just the facts.

Wakeman probes how ego affects the workplace and sometimes is the real reason behind seemingly ego-free issues, like avoiding conflict or trying not to offend others. She offers a recipe for depersonalizing the work environment, stopping your own defensiveness and choosing to help others rather than criticizing.

The second step toward reality-based leadership is “restoring sanity.” Wakeman warns against confusing management with leadership: Management “is working on your business, and leadership is working on your people.” Leaders get principles for leading without trying to manage people: Don’t leap in and help. Build employees’ confidence and competence will follow. Focus not on logistics (that’s managing) but on the employees’ hearts and minds.

Wakeman teaches leaders how to write a survey that measures not just employee satisfaction but employee accountability, as a way to find employees who are highly accountable and therefore good for business. This leads to “playing favorites” on purpose and dumping the idea that it’s unfair to have protégés.

Reality-Based Leadership dissects why certain workers become resistant to change: They’re tenured but lack updated skills; they’re at the top of their pay range and don’t deliver their best anymore; or they’re great workers but too judgmental of others. Tips for handling resistant employees are included.

She covers competencies that make employees “bullet-proof” when change or adversity come along. Employees and leaders need to be able to respond to adversity and not be stuck in the past. They need to be committed to succeed and use change to their advantage. And they need “the will to resolve and move through conflict very quickly,” instead of being mired in emotion.

The third part of Wakeman’s prescription for leadership is leading teams to success. She identifies common beliefs that limit what teams can do. One example: The mantra that “everyone’s opinion counts” is useless, she says, and actions and buy-in matter more than opinion. Feedback, she says, is for gathering expertise, not opinions.

Delegation is a critical component of a leader’s work on a team, and readers get detailed tips on how to delegate effectively, such as using delegation to help develop an employee, delegating things outside your own usual staff, and presenting delegated tasks as rewards for work well done.

The volume includes tools, such as a self-test to determine whether you are managing rather than leading and a “feedback frame” that helps a leader structure specific and useful feedback for employees.

The Leadership ChallengeThe Leadership Challenge
By James Kouzes and Barry Pozner
Jossey-Bass, 2012
382 pages
List price: $29.95
ISBN: 978-0-470-65172-8

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The fifth edition of The Leadership Challenge marks the 25th anniversary of this guidebook on how to get others to follow your lead and move with you toward a common goal.

Authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner use fresh research and a host of case studies from real organizations to present five essential practices that leaders can use to make things happen. The book also offers “Take Action” sections showing readers how to put these leadership practices into immediate use in their own workplaces.

The “five practices of exemplary leadership” aren’t for a select few, the authors say. “Leadership is not about personality; it’s about behavior,” they write, emphasizing that any leader or manager can learn to apply these principles:

  • Model the way. Leaders have to speak for others, but the first step they take should be to look inward and clarify their own values. Readers learn the nature of values; how to express themselves in their own, authentic voices; how to align personal values with organizational ones; and how to affirm shared values in a group, building consensus around principles and standards.
  • A chapter on setting examples for others looks at how to spend time wisely, use language with care, ask purposeful questions (of yourself and others) that keep the focus on values, and use stories to illustrate desired behaviors.
  • Inspire a shared vision. To lead, you have to envision the future, Kouzes and Posner write. They provide ideas for using your own past experiences, listening to others both inside and outside the organization, and other steps for actively looking forward. The book shows how to enlist others in that vision of the future with communications, expressing your own emotions and acknowledging others’ emotions and long-term interests.
  • Challenge the process. Search for opportunities, experiment, and take risks. Readers learn how to take initiative and how to encourage others to do so; how to look outside their own personal experiences and get ideas from customers and others about what works. Other advice includes generating small wins and taking small risks that act as “laboratories for trying, failing and learning.”
  • Enable others to act. Kouzes and Posner show how to create a climate of trust, show concern for others and share information to show that you, the leader, have know-how that can build your team’s trust in you. Leaders also need to “structure projects to promote joint effort” and take other steps that increase collaboration. Ways to empower employees include sharing information with them, giving them latitude to make decisions in their jobs, holding them accountable for their performance and increasing their competence.
  • Encourage the heart. Kouzes and Posner focus here on setting clear goals and recognizing employees’ contributions when they meet those goals.

Stanford Business Books, 2012Effective Human Resource Management: A Global Analysis
By Edward E. Lawler III and John W. Boudreau
Stanford Business Books, 2012
196 pages
List price: $35
ISBN: 978-0-8047-7687-5

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If HR doesn’t change, it risks becoming just an administrative function, overseeing vendors who do the bulk of the work. HR could instead be a vital part of business strategy, but first HR must reconsider its basic structure, services and programs.

Those conclusions come from authors Edward E. Lawler III and John W. Boudreau, of the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California, in their extensive study of results from 15 years of gathering data about HR management. The study’s data identify best practices in HR, including design of the HR organization and metrics to measure HR functions’ effectiveness.

The report analyzes survey data from six points between 1995 and 2010 and examines how “the design and activities of the HR function are actually changing” over time. The surveys went to medium and large companies around the globe.

One highly significant finding: How HR organizations allocate their time has not changed between 1995 and 2010—a fact the authors find “surprising and concerning … indeed shocking” because rather than increase the time it spends being a business partner, HR continues to invest its time primarily in services, audits and legal issues—not strategic business services.

“This may be a major problem if it leads to HR executives believing they have made progress toward an objective they feel is important when in fact they haven’t,” Lawler and Boudreau warn.

Those HR executives may not even come from HR. Some companies (roughly one-quarter) place executives from non-HR functions into roles as heads of HR departments. The reasons can vary, with some companies using HR to groom executives for higher jobs such as CEO, or to make HR “more like a business,” or to give them a “ ‘safe’ pre-retirement job.”

Among other topics the study examines are these:

  • Relationships between HR organizations and their companies’ boards.
  • Quality and effectiveness of decisions about human capital.
  • Design of HR organizations worldwide. The study shows growth in self-service HR, HR teams and centers of excellence.
  • Activities HR organizations undertake. HR programs with more focus on their role in business strategy tend to be programs that also pay more attention to their own organizational development.
  • Underutilization of HR metrics and analytics.
  • Lack of growth in outsourcing of HR functions.

Click here for audio from a webinar on Effective Human Resource Management.

The Leader Phrase BookThe Leader Phrase Book
By Patrick Alain
Career Press, 2012
191 pages
List price: $14.99
ISBN: 978-1-60163-200-5

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An intractable employee won’t even consider anyone else’s point of view. You need to get her to open up to other ideas. So what do you say? “There is probably more than one way to look at this” or “You’re as stubborn as a mule”? Or is there something you can say that lies between the conciliatory and the downright rude.

From tactful and professional phrases down to combative and confrontational ones, the ready-to-use lists in The Leader Phrase Book demonstrate myriad ways you can respond to others in a host of situations. Author Patrick Alain—developer of best-selling video games including Grand Theft Auto—cautions that while the book sets out lists, readers must use their own judgment to decide how to use these words.

Alain organizes phrases based on a continuum, from those that are the most measured and professional to those with more punch to responses that are rude or curt. He groups the lists by situation—at work, in a conflict, in a negotiation and so on.

For example, in a list on how to put off a task, the continuum of possible responses ranges from civil (“I wish I could address this, but I’m completely tapped out right now” or “I’d be delighted to set aside time to go over this”) to more direct (“I’ll have to delay” or “We’ll deal with that some other time”) to blunt (“Ask me next week if I care.”). You could use anything on this list, depending on the context, the person with whom you’re talking and the stakes involved.

Alain’s phrase lists include tips on communicating in certain contexts:

  • General communications. Alain advises about how to use idioms effectively, expand your vocabulary and learn from others’ mistakes. Phrases cover how to agree and disagree, how to open and close a conversation, how to express an opinion or ask someone else’s opinion, how to change the topic, and how to respond when you don’t want to answer a question.
  • At work. Stay positive, prepare all speeches carefully, and pay attention to your writing skills as well as your speaking skills, Alain notes. Phrases for the workplace cover ways to ask for a raise or time off; how to say no to your boss; how to bring up—or avoid bringing up—a personal issue at work; how to assign someone a task; how to defer a conversation or postpone a decision; and how to fire an employee.
  • Conflicts. Alain discusses ways to keep calm, listen with empathy and keep discussions on track. Phrase lists include phrases to help defuse a tense situation, get past a misunderstanding, respond to an offensive statement, deal with a defensive person and pursue an answer when someone is avoiding you. Many more lists cover other aspects of conflicts or anger, especially in the workplace.
  • Diplomacy. Anyone who must resolve delicate situations under pressure while keeping participants relatively happy has an element of diplomacy in his job. Gaining the other side’s trust, appearing cool under stress and expressing truths carefully are tools for the workplace diplomat. Phrase lists help leaders open or close debates, call for consensus, work through differences of opinion, respond to unwanted advice or suggestions, and more.
  • Negotiation. Like diplomacy, negotiation requires you to gain trust, but it also means you need to decide when you will walk away. Alain’s phrases for negotiation include how to stall, how to accept or reject an offer, ways to sell something, how to handle a stalemate, and how to ask for compromise.
  • Problem-solving. Responses address how to handle someone who is being negative (from offering support to shutting the person down), how to talk about a current or past problem, how to respond to a complaint, or how to acknowledge a problem.

HR at Your ServiceHR at Your Service
By Gary P. Latham and Robert C. Ford
Society for Human Resource Management, 2012
194 pages
List price: $27.95
ISBN: 978-1-586-44247-7

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HR at Your Service views HR through the lens of customer service and examines how HR can better assess its customers’ needs and deliver those services effectively. Using examples from organizations known for good customer service, the book applies those techniques to HR’s own service delivery strategies.

HR needs to be more “client-centric,” authors Gary P. Latham and Robert C. Ford write, which means HR must embrace two basic concepts: Every action is focused on the client, and every client is valued. While HR managers often say they put clients first, they really put their own departments ahead of everything else, and they don’t value all their clients equally, Latham and Ford say.

To achieve client-centric HR, departments need to put service first in strategy, staffing and systems.

  • Choose what kind of service HR wants to emphasize. One strategy is a focus on delivering services at the lowest cost. Another is differentiating HR’s services and selling the organization on how HR can help it achieve its goals. A third is creating a niche for HR—a unique role only HR fulfills (and HR contracts out routine HR services in order to focus on the niche).
  • Use planning to meet client expectations. Latham and Ford outline the HR planning cycle, including understanding the larger business environment, using brainstorming and focus groups, knowing the relevant technologies and regulations, understanding what the competition offers to employees, and more. Internally, HR must assess itself: What are the HR organization’s core competencies? What are the office’s strengths and weaknesses? Getting input from HR’s clients is key to defining HR’s new mission.
  • Create a “client-centric culture.” Employers with strong cultures attract workers who have the same values. The book walks readers through the elements of HR department culture—the beliefs, values, norms and laws particular to HR—and explains how to put client service at the center of that culture.
  • Make sure staff are focused on clients. Examples of employees creatively solving client problems illustrate how the right staff keeps clients happy. Latham and Ford discuss how to spot people with a talent for HR service, how to conduct a situational interview tailored to HR situations and how to become an employer of choice for HR professionals.
  • Motivate HR staff to give client-centric service. Establish a relationship between the HR staff’s actions and the expected outcomes; measure those outcomes and reward people accordingly. The book includes a checklist of characteristics of a successful HR team, as well as steps toward giving employees authority and autonomy to provide better service.
  • Create a service delivery system, and keep improving it. Latham and Ford take readers through the fundamentals of service delivery systems—planning, measuring what happens to clients in each step of service delivery and using the information to improve service delivery continuously.

Also covered: working with clients so that they “co-produce” some of their own HR services.

Great By ChoiceGreat By Choice
By Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen
Harper Business, 2011
304 pages
List price: $29.99
ISBN: 978-0-06-212099-1

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Jim Collins is known as the author of Good to Great, a best-seller on performance. With Great By Choice, Collins and co-author Morten T. Hansen ask, “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?” The answers are surprising, and they go against well-established business myths.

Looking at companies that beat their industries’ averages by at least 10 times—including Southwest Airlines, Intel and Microsoft, to name a few—the book shows how these thriving firms were not headed by bold visionaries, were not more innovative than others in their fields, did not make quick decisions, and did not change as radically in the face of threats as their less-successful counterparts did.

But aren’t business successes supposed to reflect the work of highly innovative risk-takers, willing to stake everything on one amazing product or service? The studies Collins, Hansen and their researchers conducted found that lasting success wasn’t necessarily based on being more creative, visionary or willing to take risks than the competition.

Instead, success was based on three core behaviors, dubbed “fanatic discipline, empirical creativity and productive paranoia.” In Great By Choice, the authors use extensive examples from both successful and bruised companies to show readers how these behaviors can help them build their own great businesses.

Fanatic discipline. This doesn’t mean being rigid or rule-bound. It does mean having clear performance markers and hitting those marks consistently over a long period of time. This formula—compared to a daily, 20-mile march that doesn’t try to go further on a great day but also doesn’t slack off on a bad day—gets a company where it wants to go, one step at a time, while building confidence that the firm’s own actions, and not outside factors, push its success forward.

One unexpected finding Collins and Hansen note is that companies that pursued maximum growth in boom times did worse than companies that marched along steadily and resisted the temptation to expand quickly. “Twenty-mile-marchers” didn’t overextend themselves and were ready when leaner times hit.

Empirical creativity. Research for this book found that the high-performing companies were innovative, but they innovated less than the authors expected and were “generally not the most innovative” in their fields.

Why wasn’t innovation a hallmark setting these firms apart from others? They were applying discipline. Instead of staking their success on one great idea, they tested multiple ideas, trying low-risk, low-cost experiments and assessing their success carefully. These firms used experience and experimentation to ensure that once they launched a bigger product or service, it was the right one. Less-successful firms tended to rush into launching things on too large a scale, too quickly.

Productive paranoia. Even in good times, leaders in the successful companies were preparing for bad times. The example of how Southwest Airlines rebounded immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when much of the airline industry cut operations, demonstrates why preparation works. Collins and Hansen add that the more-successful companies placed limits on the amount and kinds of risk they were willing to take, made deliberate decisions based on facts rather than impulsive choices based on the situation, and focused on recognizing threats early rather than minimizing potential threats.

The book prescribes “durable operating practices” that create a replicable formula for success. Those practices can be called SMaC, for Specific, Methodical and Consistent. Readers learn to devise their own SMaC practices incorporating the discipline, carefully tested creativity and productive paranoia that set apart the highly successful firms. A set of frequently asked questions guides readers on how the ideas in the book relate to those in Collins’ other works.


Proving the Value of HR: How and Why to Measure ROIProving the Value of HR: How and Why to Measure ROI
By Jack J. Phillips and Patricia Pulliam Phillips
SHRM, 2012
315 pages
List price: $37.95
ISBN: 978-1-58644-231-6

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Practical, concise and focused on HR’s particular needs, this second edition of the popular book Proving the Value of HR shows HR professionals how to convert “data into monetary values” for their programs.

Readers learn not only how to turn data into dollars but also how to communicate the results effectively.

This new version includes more details on what the writers identify as the critical step for giving credibility to any HR return on investment (ROI) initiative—isolating “the effects of an HR program from other influences.” HR must be able to show which business results are attributable specifically to HR initiatives rather than to other programs or factors. Authors Jack J. Phillips and Patricia Pulliam Phillips walk readers through detailed analyses and estimates that readers can apply to isolate HR’s impact on the bottom line.

Readers also learn different approaches to collecting data; ways to connect a realistic, credible monetary value to HR projects; and how to measure and report on the intangible, nonmonetary benefits of an HR program. The book goes step by step, from discussing the need for ROI through explaining the basics of ROI methodology and preparing for an ROI analysis.

A chapter on “Converting Data to Money” lays out calculations and techniques in detail. Another section teaches how to determine which HR costs should be part of the ROI calculations. Readers delve into different types of HR costs and learn to create cost profiles.

Calculations alone don’t turn ROI into a usable tool. HR needs to communicate the results of an ROI study. What is the purpose of the evaluation? To whom should HR present it and when? Who should present the data, and what media and tools should the presenter use? The book guides readers to answers.

Readers learn to write an impact report and what to include in it. A section on choosing the right forums and media looks at how to use meetings, progress reports, brochures, websites, e-mail and more. The authors show how to tailor the report for specific audiences and create a one-page summary for senior managers.

HR staffers may be resistant to calculating ROI because they believe the process will be too time-consuming or they fear that the final results won’t benefit HR after all. The authors give managers strategies to overcome resistance, starting with a sample survey to assess the HR team’s attitudes. Managers get a primer on specific actions to involve the HR team and select the right programs for ROI evaluation.

The Well-Managed Meeting (DVD)
The Well-Managed Meeting (DVD)
Kantola Productions LLC, 2011
List price: $179

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In this 22-minute video, a fictional manager named Clay starts out with a lousy, off-track meeting; learns quick tips for improving his meeting leadership skills; and applies them to turn his next meeting into an efficient, tightly timed gathering.

Clay bemoans his poor leadership, from his own late arrival to the distractions of employees hewing to their own pet topics or arriving unprepared. Reviewing the problems later with other managers, Clay finds out how to keep meetings on track and get specific actions out of team members.

The advice starts with determining what type of meeting is needed—information giving, where the leader conveys information; information getting, where the leaders seeks information from participants; and problem solving, where the leader needs back-and-forth with participants to create ideas.

Viewers learn about meeting environments, who should and shouldn’t attend, and how to set expectations in advance with an agenda.

For larger meetings, viewers learn how to assign leader, scribe and facilitator roles, with the scribe recording the discussion and the facilitator keeping the discussion on time and on topic.

Also included are demonstrations of how to promote interaction by asking questions, calling on quieter participants and acknowledging contributions.

A manager with experience leading online meetings shows how she creates camaraderie among people who may only meet online. She shows how to pull people into the discussion, summarize the meeting, assign action steps and follow up with participants.

The video closes with Clay tackling another meeting but this time using an agenda, encouraging participation by everyone, assigning tasks for follow-up and acknowledging participants’ off-topic concerns but not letting them derail the meeting.


Business Literacy Survival Guide for HR ProfessionalsBusiness Literacy Survival Guide for HR Professionals
By Regan W. Garey
Society for Human Resource Management, 2011
193 pages
List price: $26.95
ISBN: 978-1-58644-205-7

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This guidebook aimed at HR professionals outlines all the financial basics, and knowledge of those basics can help HR get more respect and make more visible contributions to the larger organization’s strategy, author Regan W. Garey says.

An HR professional who is “business literate” understands how business decisions connect to each other; how to interpret financial statements; how to spot potential waste, fraud or abuse; and how the organization’s accounting works.

Garey urges readers to keep this guidebook handy and use it not only as a primer but also as a reference, seeking out what they need when they need it.

Among the topics Garey covers:

  • Types of financial statements and how they relate to each other.
  • The roles of accountants, auditors and financial managers.
  • How to read financial statements as well as how to spot manipulation in statements.
  • Techniques for interpreting financial information and analyzing trends.
  • Why corporate tax issues matter to HR.
  • Important accounting distinctions, such as the differences between accrual vs. cash basis financial reporting, and why those distinctions matter.
  • Understanding cash flows, restructuring, bankruptcy and other topics, and knowing the roles HR can play in restructurings.
  • Definitions of capital, debt, equity and dividends, and the pros and cons of debt in particular.
  • Budgeting and the HR professional, including methods for evaluating capital expenditures as well as avoidable and relevant costs, and the part HR can play in helping an organization determine costs.

Garey includes financial management issues she says should be on HR’s radar. One is preventing waste, fraud and abuse; HR can help create a culture where employees can come forward to report those issues. Another is maintaining internal controls that keep things honest—such as segregating duties so the same person isn’t opening the mail, depositing the checks and reconciling the books.


Scenario Planning in OrganizationsScenario Planning in Organizations
By Thomas J. Chermack
Berrett-Koehler, 2011
272 pages
List price: $34.95
ISBN: 978-1-60509-413-7

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A what-if scenario might help your organization figure out what it’s doing well and what it needs to do differently—and it could help you plan your actions in case challenges arise.

But how do you create these fictional stories and make them realistic for your workplace? How do you use them once you’ve plotted them? And how do you get top management to view scenarios as a useful tool on which they should spend time and resources?

In Scenario Planning in Organizations, author Thomas J. Chermack shows readers how to create business scenarios as well as how to use them for detailed and effective business planning. Chermack also examines ways scenario planning helps people think more creatively about challenges they and their organizations face, and demonstrates ways to assess a scenario’s effectiveness after it’s used.

Chermack, director of the Scenario Planning Institute at Colorado State University as well as founder and managing partner of Chermack Scenarios, walks readers through a five-part system for planning scenarios:

Project preparation. Anyone considering using scenarios to help with planning needs to understand the purpose of scenarios and then build support in the organization for using them.

Chermack details how to determine the organization’s purpose for using scenarios. Does the organization need to test one specific decision or project? Does it need to test a strategy already in use? Does it want scenarios to give the organization ongoing, adaptive learning opportunities?

Learn to define the scope and time frame of a scenario project, how to assemble a team to construct scenarios, and how to decide what type of outcome you’re seeking (a recommendation on a specific decision or ongoing learning or a financial analysis, for instance).

Readers get a sample proposal for a scenario project, showing how to include cost estimates, statements of purpose, expected outcomes and more.

Scenario exploration. This phase is for gathering information about the organization. The team needs to understand the industry and the organization’s environment as well as the specific issue for the scenario.

Scenario development. Here, the team gets creative, building the fictional yet well-researched scenarios that will test the organization. The book outlines how to use a series of workshops to construct scenarios. Readers then learn how to use plots and subplots and how to write scenario stories. Examples of corporate scenarios illustrate what a detailed scenario looks like.

Scenario implementation. Scenarios are only stories until organizations use them to learn something. Chermack shows how to use workshops to examine and test the scenarios and how to analyze the effectiveness of the organization’s current strategies if they were used in the scenarios.

Project assessment. Scenario users need to document the new options that come out of scenario projects. The book offers a “results assessment system” to help users measure a project’s outcomes. Readers get samples of participant satisfaction surveys and participant feedback charts measuring what people believe they learned, as well as charts for experts to assess how participants performed in the scenarios.

Another section of the book discusses how to manage and lead scenario projects and includes advice on initiating your first scenario project.

Business-Focused HR: 11 Processes to Drive ResultsBusiness-Focused HR: 11 Processes to Drive Results
By Scott P. Mondore, Shane S. Douthitt and Marisa A. Carson
Society for Human Resource Management, 2011
209 pages
List price: $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-586-44204-0

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In Business-Focused HR, the authors examine 11 processes familiar to all HR practitioners—from employee selection to performance management and from training to succession planning—and show how to make the business case for each.

The book examines different employee selection techniques and evaluates the effectiveness of each. Readers also learn how to calculate the return on investment of the hiring tools they currently use.

For performance management, the authors demonstrate how to create appraisals rooted in performance criteria and how to make career development part of the appraisal process. Readers learn to draw connections between appraisals and business outcomes.

A chapter on multi-rater and 360-degree assessments focuses on how to connect the rated competencies to the business and how to use data from these assessments to evaluate the larger organization.

Organizations have made employee opinion surveys “standard practice,” the authors note, but few organizations use the information from these surveys effectively. The book advises on ways to get top brass’s commitment for opinion surveys and how to write reports that tie survey results to business outcomes.

Career development can help keep the best employees on board and can develop skills the organization needs. A chapter on development offers techniques for finding out more about employees, tailoring development to their needs as well as the organization’s, and making the business case for career development.

Scorecards usually look only at an HR department’s “internal efficiency metrics” such as the time it takes to fill a job. The authors say that this limits HR’s business impact, and instead they present a four-step process that ties HR initiatives to the overall business.

The book also covers areas such as leadership development, work/life balance and employee training, and the business case for using each.


The Chief HR OfficerThe Chief HR Officer
Edited by Patrick M. Wright, John W. Boudreau, David A. Pace, Elizabeth “Libby” Sartain, Paul McKinnon and Richard L. Antoine
Jossey-Bass and the Society for Human Resource Management, 2011
310 pages
List price: $60
ISBN: 978-0-470-90534-0 

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This collection of advice and insights from more than two dozen top HR leaders focuses on the many roles the chief HR officer must play in today’s organizations—strategic advisor to the executive team, talent architect, shaper of the company culture and transformer of the HR function, among others.

Part one of this essay collection, sponsored by the National Academy of Human Resources, covers the broad responsibilities of the chief HR officer (CHRO). Issues include how to deliver results successfully, how to develop skills to do the CHRO job well, and how to use both the science of tools and frameworks as well as the intuitive art of handling complex situations.

Part two of The Chief HR Officer delves into two of the roles that the CHRO must fill—strategic advisor and talent developer. These senior HR officers must identify talent gaps, plan for future talent changes and show the executive team why talent management matters. Essays look at employee engagement, the role of CHROs in shaping and maintaining culture in an organization, and guidelines for talent management.

A third section focuses on issues that CHROs “discuss only among their own in a dark corner of a secluded, nondisclosed location,” the editors write. Those issues? Conflicts within senior leadership teams. CHROs end up in the middle of tensions among top brass. Essays cover what happens when the CEO and others are in conflict, tips on adapting one’s own style to that of different CEOs, and discussion of why CHROs need to develop their own values and personal brand.

CHROs also must work with boards of directors, and part four looks at this role—the one many CHROs say “they were least prepared for” when they became chiefs. Advice includes how to improve the link between the CHRO and the board, how to work effectively with a board, and how to approach executive pay issues successfully.

Delivering value is the topic of part five, with authors sharing their experiences in transforming HR functions. A final section focuses on what CHROs need to do and know to help their CEOs meet business challenges today. Essays look at the changing nature of the CHRO’s role and the knowledge areas vital to CHRO success.

Leading Under PressureLeading Under Pressure
By Gabriela Cora
Career Press, 2010
254 pages
List price: $15.99
ISBN: 978-1-60163-128-2

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Work/life balance: It’s “a myth, a tempting fairy tale, an illusion …,” writes Gabriela Cora. Those who want to have it all end up burned out and unable to enjoy either their work achievements or their home lives.

In Leading Under Pressure, Cora—a medical doctor with an MBA—argues in favor of a proactive approach that fights the burnout she sees in too many workplace leaders.

Cora opens with a quiz asking readers to assess the amount of stress in their lives and whether their work is burning them out. She teaches ways to avoid burnout, integrate individual employees’ health with the organization’s health, and get acceptable performance and productivity while ensuring that employees and managers are mentally and physically healthy.

She examines a dozen common but fallacious beliefs that light the flames of workplace burnout. These include the beliefs that working from home will be less stressful; that “only I can do my work, and I do it better on my own”; and, most damaging, that “This is the way it is, and I can’t change it.”

Readers learn that the ideal world sold to most people—where everyone gets eight hours for work, eight hours of sleep and eight hours for personal activities—is far from reality, where work and work-related activities like commuting fill 12 to 16 hours of most people’s days.

The book guides readers to identify their own stress symptoms. Cora advises on how to create plans to handle stress and improve resilience.

“Do you need a coach or a doctor?” Cora encourages readers to ask. A workplace coach helps those who are already performing at a good baseline level or who need help setting priorities.

But a doctor may be needed if stress is already creating physical and mental issues. Cora looks at the physical cost of stress, identifying how medical problems may be stress-driven. Readers learn which medical conditions tend to be related to stress and how medical interventions and lifestyle changes can help.

Other topics include:

  • How to be a healthier individual, not only physically but also intellectually and socially.
  • How to improve your workplace performance and productivity by fixing what doesn’t work, setting priorities, making meetings work for you and more. Cora offers strategies for managing crises step by step.
  • How to create a healthier organization. The book looks at improving the physical aspects of work, such as ergonomics and equipment; the emotional dimension, including corporate culture and communications; and the cognitive dimension, including training and development, vision, and how intellectual capital is used. Social and spiritual dimensions include relationships at work and the organization’s values and community service.

SHRM 2010-2011 Human Capital Benchmarking cover imageSHRM 2010-2011 Human Capital Benchmarking
Society for Human Resource Management, 2011
136 pages
List price: $800
ISBN: 978-1-586-44212-5

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This volume provides data about human capital for HR professionals to use in comparing their own organization to other organizations in their industry and region.

The Society for Human Resource Management collected the data in 2010, covering 2009 results, and sorted them by industry, employee size and geographic region. The report includes metrics such as cost-per-hire, turnover and salary increases in enough detail to help HR professionals seeking comparisons for their own HR initiatives.

Data cover both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and come from six industries—finance, government, health care services, high-tech businesses, durable goods manufacturing and non-durable goods manufacturing.

The data include the following categories:

  • Organizational data. Revenue per full-time employee (FTE), net income before taxes, net income per FTE and more.
  • HR data. Total HR staff, HR-to-employee ratio, areas of HR outsourcing, types of HR positions organizations expect to hire and more.
  • HR expense data. HR-expense-to-FTE ratio, HR-expense-to-operating-expense ratio and more.
  • Compensation data. Annual salary increases, salaries as a percentage of operating expenses, target bonuses for executives and non-executives.
  • Tuition/education data. Percentage of employees participating in tuition or education reimbursement programs, maximum reimbursement amounts.
  • Employment data. Number of positions filled; cost to hire; annual overall, voluntary and involuntary turnover rates.
  • Expectations for revenue and organizational hiring.

The editors give users guidance on interpreting the data to use it for evaluating organizations and programs.Human Resources in Research and Practice: The RQ Reader cover imageHuman Resources in Research and Practice: The RQ Reader
Society for Human Resource Management, 2011
174 pages
List price: $39.95
ISBN: 978-1-58644-207-1

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HR professionals, students and professors are the audience for this collection of readings that gather research data and practical applications covering four areas—strategic HR management, staffing management, employee relations and organizational development, and the HR profession.

Under strategic HR management, a chapter on employee engagement argues that engagement is vital to business success. A chapter on organizational development notes that the ability to use organizational development effectively is an advantage for HR. High-performance work practices also get attention, with an essay about using key performance indicators—quantifiable measures of performance—to understand an organization and improve its success.

Staffing management topics include talent management, the use of strategies or systems to attract, keep and develop employees with the skills needed now and in the future. A chapter on diversity makes a business case for having a diverse workforce, showing how it creates a more competitive labor pool, allows employers to have workforces that better reflect their customer bases and more. Companies that deal with cultural differences among staff or between locations learn about cross-cultural decision-making, differences in performance feedback among cultures and different perceptions of fairness in the workplace.

A section on employee relations and organizational development includes chapters covering motivation, performance management, business ethics and the virtual organization. Ideas on motivation cover not only theories but also tips on motivating employees and specific ideas for motivating younger workers and workers in global organizations. The essay on performance management is a primer on success factors for good performance systems, options for different types of appraisals and guidance on assessing an existing system.

HR professionals can read about how creativity and innovation have roles in HR and how HR can better anticipate change and be a strategic partner. A chapter on career development for HR professionals examines career paths, education, certifications, career development ideas and pay ranges.

The ROI of Human Capital, 2nd edition book cover imageThe ROI of Human Capital, 2nd edition
By Jac Fitz-Enz
AMACOM, 2009
312 pages
List price: $29.95
ISBN-13: 978-0-8144-1332-6 

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This second edition of Jac Fitz-Enz’s volume on measuring employee value is updated with topics that have come to the fore in the decade since the first edition was published. These topics include outsourcing, predictive management, globalization and recruitment in a time of tough talent shortages.

Fitz-Enz’s original book won the Society for Human Resource Management Book of the Year Award in 2001.

The focus is still on how to quantify the contributions of an organization’s human capital. Fitz-Enz shows how to measure employees’ contributions by breaking the measurement down into steps:

  • Contribution to enterprise goals. Here the emphasis is on connecting people to financial results at the corporate level.

    Readers learn to calculate the costs of human capital, measure productivity and calculate the human capital return on investment (the profits made for the money spent on employee pay and benefits). Fitz-Enz looks at variables including the use of contingent workers, exempt vs. nonexempt workers, and rates of employee separation and replacement.
  • Impact on processes. “People are beginning to see how human resources can positively affect business processes in other units, which in turn supports the goals of the enterprise,” Fitz-Enz writes.

    The book examines how to analyze processes and looks at HR’s role in the human supply chain, providing the right kinds of human capital when and where it’s needed. Fitz-Enz shows how to find the human capital effects within a business process—including finding “the effects of HR’s work on a business process.”
  • HR’s “value added.” Learn to track HR’s four major human capital management activities: acquisition of talent, support in areas such as pay and benefits, retention, and development.

Fitz-Enz also examines predictive analytics, which help users look at where organizations are heading and where trouble spots might occur.

A chapter on measuring the value of improvement initiatives looks at the return on investment of outsourcing, restructuring, using contingent workers, and merging with or acquiring other organizations.

The 2020 Workplace book cover imageThe 2020 Workplace
By Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd
HarperCollins, 2010
294 pages
List price: $26.99
ISBN: 978-0-06-176327-4 

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Two huge forces—social media and the Millennial generation—are converging on the workplace, and together they will change it.

How do employers revamp talent management to get and keep these workers, and what role can social media play?

After two global surveys and interviews with more than 50 major employers, from NASA and Nokia to IBM and JetBlue, authors Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd have some answers.

It’s not too early to target younger Millennials, those still years away from applying for jobs. The book covers pre-college outreach, based on the idea that students are thinking about their careers long before they enter college—and even before they’re in high school. Case studies look at working with students in the K-12 group and developing partnerships with schools.

The 2020 Workplace compares traditional recruiting and social media recruiting and offers definitions for readers who aren’t familiar with social media. Sections discuss how to use YouTube, Facebook, Second Life, Twitter and other social media for recruiting.

Meister and Willyerd make a case for companies becoming “uber-connected.” For example, IBM has an internal, online mass collaboration program on its in-house social network. Connectivity also can drive innovation, as it does at Bell Canada, where an online tool lets employees vote, American Idol-style, for new ideas that they submit themselves.

The book also provides a blueprint for setting a social media strategy, from identifying business reasons to use these tools to developing a pilot site to deciding how to measure social media’s effectiveness at meeting the workplace’s needs.

The book also covers:

  • How to use social networking models for learning and development. Employers can apply technology to career path tracking, on-demand mentoring, “microfeedback” that provides instant input on ideas and more.
  • How to fit managers and leaders into the newly connected workplace. To manage Millennial employees, managers will have to alter their styles and accelerate leadership development.
  • How the workplace will change by 2020. An acute, global talent shortage will make competition intense. Social networking will be the starting point for recruiting. Work-at-home “web commuters” will “force corporate offices to reinvent themselves.” And social media literacy will be required for all employees. These are among the 20 predictions made by Meister and Willyerd that employers should consider.


Retooling HRRetooling HR
By John Boudreau
Harvard Business Press, 2010
212 pages
List price: $35.00
ISBN 978-1-4221-3007-0

Member price: $32.00
Item #: 48.25079 

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HR professionals can apply proven techniques used by other parts of their organizations—such as financial planning, inventory analysis, engineering performance analysis and more—to improve decisions about talent, author John Boudreau writes.

In Retooling HR, Boudreau identifies common HR decisions and shows how other business disciplines apply to the same situations.        

For performance management, Boudreau advises trying engineering’s emphasis on “performance optimization.” He shows how three engineering tools can help HR measure its “return on improved performance.” Readers learn how information they already hold about jobs, performance and capabilities reveal where employee performance has the most impact on the business.

Some CEOs already refer to having a talent “portfolio,” a term they borrow from finance. Boudreau advises going further and truly treating talent like an investment portfolio.

HR can use scenarios, as finance does, to plot potential future risks and how the organization would handle them. HR can use financial-style diversification—seeking the right mix of employees, in the right jobs, with the right capabilities, to prepare the organization for potential changes. Boudreau shows how to estimate the risks and returns for different strategies.

Ideas from marketing and consumer research can help HR better use the huge amounts of information it already holds about demographics, employee engagement, labor patterns, turnover and much more. Using marketing tools, HR can pour in all that data and identify “talent segments” just like marketing identifies consumer segments. Then HR can map the workforce’s preferences and customize the employment opportunities it offers.

Inventory optimization tools that help businesses deal with shortages, surpluses and costs also apply to employees. Readers learn how to move from thinking about “turnover” to thinking in terms of “workforce inventory.” The inventory approach asks: What is the optimum number of employees? How often should we hire, train or develop them? What level of vacancies can we allow? How long should we allow for hiring, training and development, since it takes time for new employees to become ready employees?

The book draws examples from a wide range of businesses including the airline, automotive, technology, retail, food service and manufacturing sectors.   


HR Strategy, Second EditionHR Strategy, Second Edition
By Paul Kearns
Butterworth-Heinemann, 2010
209 pages
List price: $44.95
ISBN 978-1-85617-815-0 

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Organizations may have a business strategy and an HR strategy. But what they really need, consultant and author Paul Kearns argues, is an “HR-business” strategy, in which HR is inseparable from the business.

“What better way is there to ‘alter (your) company’s strength relative to that of (your) competitors’ than to ensure you manage your people better than they manage theirs?” he asks.

The book walks readers through developing an HR-business strategy, including these points:

  • Most “HR strategies” look at HR as just another operational office. Talk about “aligning” HR strategy with a business strategy comes too late; HR and business strategy should be one from the start.
  • To create a real HR-business strategy, organizations don’t need to devise an elaborate new framework. They can use existing, generic models, with well-known steps of a vision, a mission statement, a value creation plan, a business plan and an operating plan. Kearns shows readers what an HR-business organization looks like.
  • Without an overall HR-business strategy, people management has three parts—personnel administration, direct personal management by supervisors, and HR management including training, appraisals and development. HR-business strategy integrates these parts, for instance, by ensuring that training is designed to support job requirements.

HR Strategy helps readers determine where their own organizations currently stand on the path toward real HR-business integration.

Kearns offers some simple ways to measure performance and criteria for evaluating an existing performance management system. He also looks at how local culture, unions, and the psychological contract of work affect the HR-business structure.

He also uses a detailed sample to show how to write an effective “human capital report” that avoids platitudes about how “people are our greatest asset” and instead provides hard numbers on costs and benefits.


The New HR AnalyticsThe New HR Analytics
By Jac Fitz-enz
AMACOM, 2010
List price: $29.95
342 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8144-1643-3 

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Anecdotal evidence about the value of employees isn’t good enough to make a firm business case in HR’s favor, argues author and consultant Jac Fitz-enz. In The New HR Analytics, he urges readers to use “human capital measurement and analysis” to show the real dollar value of their investments in people.

The book combines Fitz-enz’s human capital management process with detailed “how to do it” essays by 30 HR experts writing about specific aspects of that process.

Fitz-enz breaks his human capital management process, called HCM:21, into four phases:

  • Scanning. Organizations need to take a broad look at both external forces—industry trends, laws, labor supply, competition, etc.—and internal factors, such as their own leadership, culture, finances and more.
  • Planning. Fitz-enz and his fellow authors argue in favor of doing away with the HR emphasis on filling positions and replacing it with a focus on building engagement, skills and knowledge. They call this the shift from “workforce planning” to “capability planning.”

    Essayists look at how to measure employee engagement effectively, how to better manage performance while tying it to compensation more realistically, and how to spot signs of employee disengagement and turnover.
  • Producing. Fitz-enz encourages HR professionals to improve processes and products by first gathering data on processes already in place and their results. Examples include analyses of staffing processes, training from different sources and turnover patterns. One essay examines how to use data you already have on hand to analyze processes and make predictions, while another looks at using time-clock records and other labor data to capture, predict and influence employee behavior.
  • Predicting. Organizations can learn from common mistakes employers make when measuring and interpreting data. Fitz-enz looks at those errors as well as the path from measuring to benchmarking to predicting behaviors—and using those predictions to better manage people and “maximize investments in people.”

Chapters look at Fitz-enz’s human capital model in practice, using case studies from the car rental, engineering, federal government and health care sectors, among others.

The Why of WorkThe Why of Work
By Dave Ulrich and Wendy Ulrich
McGraw-Hill, 2010
281 pages
List price: $27.95
ISBN: 978-0-07-173935-1 

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Employers should care about whether employees find their work meaningful. If employees get personal meaning out of their jobs, they are more engaged and more productive, and customers want to deal with them. In short, meaningfulness at work has real market value, authors Dave and Wendy Ulrich note.

The Ulriches urge leaders to consider seven areas, including the following, to help them make meaning at work:

  • Identity. What are individual employees known for? What is the organization’s identity? Leaders can use observation, assessment, conversation and assignments to help employees find their strengths and build on them. To find out and strengthen the organization’s identity, leaders need to find out what key customers expect.
  • Purpose. The Ulriches give leaders tools and exercises for finding out what motivates employees. Leaders then learn how to match that motivation with the work that employees perform.
  • Relationships that work. Leaders can learn, teach and model relationship skills that benefit workplace interactions, especially among teams.
  • An effective “work culture or setting.” Leaders learn to assess the culture. Are ideas welcomed or quashed? Are connections impersonal or personal? Are behaviors selfless or selfish? These and other questions, laid out in a chart readers can use for any workplace, help gauge how positive the workplace is.
  • What challenges interest employees? Leaders need to make work personal and show employees that their work “contributes to outcomes that matter” to them and to the organization.

Instilling greater meaning in work will mean changes for leaders and HR departments, and a chapter on those changes examines how the search for meaning could affect HR areas such as hiring, training, reward systems and organizational practices. 


Analytics at WorkAnalytics at Work
By Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris and Robert Morison
Harvard Business Press, 2010
214 pages
List price: Member $27.95
Nonmember $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-4221-7769-3

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Too many companies “manage by autopilot,” doing what they do just because they’ve always done it that way. And too often, the basis for a business decision is someone’s gut feeling, not sound research based on data. In Analytics at Work, readers get step-by-step help switching off the autopilot, analyzing their organizations’ data and turning that analysis into a competitive advantage.

This volume teaches how to assess what kinds of data the organization has, how to consolidate data from different sources, how to judge its quality and how to protect it. Authors Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris and Robert Morison argue in favor of data gathering and data analysis that cover the whole business enterprise and look at how technology makes that possible.

The authors offer a model for data analysis that includes these areas:

  • What data is, ways companies can use it to create competitive advantages, and how to determine data quality and accessibility.
  • Why you should look at data across your entire business or organization, not just for one initiative or office.
  • How leaders play the crucial role in making an organization truly analytical. This section includes profiles of analytical leaders in different industries.
  • How to choose the right targets for analysis and figure out which business processes are candidates for data-based analytics.
  • How to manage, motivate, develop and deploy analytical professionals.
  • Why you need to “embed analytics in business processes” and make the gathering and use of data part of daily decision-making.

Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va.


Strategic SpeedStrategic Speed
By Jocelyn R. Davis, Henry M. Frechette Jr. and Edwin H. Boswell
Harvard Business Press, 2010
191 pages
List price: Member $27.95
Nonmember $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-4221-3152-7

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In business, as on the racetrack, faster is better. Just look at what happened when the authors of Strategic Speed asked hundreds of business leaders to rate their own firms’ speed of execution relative to others in their industry.

Companies describing themselves as “faster” or “much faster” averaged 40 percent higher sales growth and 52 percent higher operating profit, over a three-year period, than did their slower competitors, according to writers Jocelyn R. Davis, Henry M. Frechette Jr. and Edwin N. Boswell.

Strategic speed means getting things done “not only quickly, but well,” and fast companies focus not just on processes but also on people. The book examines mistakes organizations make when they pay too much attention to pace and processes and not enough to ensuring that the company is flexible, employees are engaged, and ideas are innovative.

Three factors increase strategic speed:

  • Clarity. Everyone understands the organization’s direction. Leaders are deeply involved, people take time to review how initiatives are really going, and employees get training when new initiatives start.
  • Unity. Everyone agrees that the direction is worthwhile and that they need to work together. Team members talk comfortably about problems and are flexible about helping each other out and switching responsibilities.
  • Agility. Everyone is willing to adapt swiftly but still keep strategic goals in mind. The company innovates and explores new methods and tools.

Strategic Speed offers tips on measuring a company’s speed—the amount of time it takes for people or initiatives to start producing value for the organization and the amount of value that increases over time.

With detailed examples from organizations ranging from financial firms to universities to technology firms, the book shows how changing employee and manager behavior affects focusing on people and improves speed. Readers learn to create more-realistic workload projections, introduce change in stages, reduce complexity in management processes, get employee backing for initiatives and more.

The book includes surveys readers can use in their own organizations to assess the value individuals and teams provide over time; to check whether the organization has the prescribed clarity, unity and agility; and to profile whether leaders are helping or hindering speed.


Leadership Without ExcusesLeadership Without Excuses
By Jeff Grimshaw and Gregg Baron
McGraw-Hill, 2010
288 pages
List price: $29.95
ISBN 978-0-07-160004-0

This volume’s aim is to prevent finger-pointing before it happens and create a climate where employees don’t make excuses for performance failures—and leaders don’t accept excuses.

Authors Jeff Grimshaw and Gregg Baron argue for increasing real accountability while creating rewards that actually motivate employees. They prescribe three changes:

Leaders need to communicate “clear and credible expectations for performance.”

Employees need help dealing with the gray areas that arise in business, and they need help applying company values to the real world, Grimshaw and Baron note. Leadership Without Excuses models how realistic discussions, using real-life scenarios, can show employees the way.

Leaders also learn to ensure roles are clear, pinpointing who is responsible for what, even in highly interdependent organizations. To ensure employees understand what leaders truly want, the book teaches about “commander’s intent,” a clear statement that specifies the end state the leader wants while letting people improvise to get to that state.

Leaders need to create “compelling consequences” so everyone knows that they will feel the consequences if they don’t perform. Too many leaders tolerate behaviors they really don’t want to see, and at the same time, leaders hand out rewards that aren’t truly motivating.

The book shows how compelling consequences include not only loss of money or titles or bonuses, but loss—or in the case of rewards, gains—in less tangible areas, such as responding to their requests, consulting with them on future projects, networking with and for them, and increasing their visibility and buzz within the organization.

Readers also learn that the biggest stick is “the power to take things away,” and again, those losses aren’t just monetary. They include “soft” losses that shame people, such as losing bragging rights for a project, losing teammates’ confidence, and more.

Leaders need to lead conversations that are based in reality. This includes serious talks that scrutinize possible projects honestly and analyze factors both for and against success. Realistic analysis up front prevents finger-pointing later. The authors also warn against making fetishes of popular business mantras—do what the celebrity CEO does and you’ll be a winner too, or, quantify everything and you can’t go wrong—because such ideas, followed slavishly, damage real accountability.