Does the HR Answer Book deserve a place on your bookshelf?

With a rapidly evolving economy, increasingly technological workplace and incredibly fluid labor pool across a wide range of industries in today’s global economy, the management of human resources has become a bourgeoning enterprise in and of itself. And as with any new and popular phenomenon, a lot of folks have decided to write books about it. Year after year now, an inordinate number of “how to” guides have come out professing to be the “final word” on how to effectively manage a company’s human resources.

Thankfully, it hasn’t yet quite gotten to the point in which these books line grocery store check out lanes alongside publications heralding the infamous and otherwise-unnoticed mishaps of famous celebrities. Quite the opposite. There are a great many worthy books for the HR professional to read. The problem is which one? We can with great enthusiasm recommend the HR Answer Book.

Fortunately, there’s one writer who has actually managed to cut through all the nonsense. In The HR Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Human Resources Professionals, author Shawn A. Smith presents insightful argumentation and practical advice for business leaders and managers of HR departments who are or have been heading up the highly involved task of hiring, firing and generally managing a workforce.

Really, this book is like a breath of fresh air, considering the unseemly amount of useless HR pulp circulating through the shelves these days. Its get-down-to-basics, hands-on approach makes it easy for the reader to understand the often complex and highly detailed process of human resources management, from the very beginning to the very end of the entire process. What’s the first step in developing a strong and productive workforce? It’s hiring—and from page one The HR Answer Book is there to answer your questions.

And when reading the HR Answer Book, it’s easy to feel that sometimes certain issues are looked at in a manner you may not have considered before, which creates a sense of discovery. While the first chapter on hiring does go much more in depth than other books, readers of the HR Answer Book might still be struck by a certain level of simplicity and directness to the approach. Indeed, upon reading this book it could be easy to feel that something is missing were it not for the rigorous logic of the text and the examples from experience that laid out the ideas in action. Interestingly, however, there’s nothing missing out. Having read countless HR management guides, textbooks, theory books and more, I have found that The HR Answer Book is a precise and effective primer on the way to get things done—not how to spend hours stroking your chin and contemplating everything that you might end up not needing to know after all.

Indeed, The HR Answer Book is designed for business leaders and human resources professionals who are eager to see change happen now. And if this book were an instructional video, it would need to be a twenty part series on PBS and still only touch on the topics compared to the depth in which the ideas are explained within this book. The mere act of reading this HR guide is enough to increase one’s energy to make a positive change in the work flow, and while it’s a total page turner, it’s also hard not to get up, drive to the office, and start implementing the changes. If you happen to be reading The HR Answer Book on a Sunday, take notes instead.

After the concise instruction on how to recruit and hire employees, The HR Management Book lays out the groundwork for how to set up a clear and well-communicated list of policies that both management and the workforce can refer to throughout the course of employees’ tenure with a company. From there, readers will be able to learn about performance management and the effective use of reviews and metrics as part of an overall scheme for evaluating and improving workforce productivity.

Of course, worker performance appraisal is useless when it’s not coupled with effective training and development, and finding out the right way to keep employees—and keep them happy—is essential to a vital and productive employee base. That’s why Chapter 4 “Training and Development: How do Successful Companies Improve and Enhance Workforce Skills” and Chapter 5 “Employee Relations and Retention: How Do I Keep Good Employees and Maintain Working Relationships at All Levels” elucidate the importance of solidifying an effective approach to workforce management.

With so much good advice so concisely and effectively written, one would think it would be difficult to keep up the momentum in subsequent chapters (I like to call them “lessons”). Yet the spell isn’t broken as we head into Chapter 6, titled “Compensation: How Should Employees Be Paid?” (Yes, I was wondering when you would ask…). Indeed, this is perhaps one of the most pressing questions to face anyone involved in running a business or heading up a human resources department. Little known to many business leaders, however, is the fact that salaries are not always the maker or breaker of the job deal. Increasingly, HR professionals are realizing that work environment, benefits and other factors play a major role in the decision making process for highly skilled talent. The looming specter of salary negotiations and price wars needn’t eclipse other essential parts of an effective hiring strategy.

Yet doing away with the myth of a salary’s relatively inflated importance is best enacted by a clear understanding of how to go about addressing the compensation issue head on. That’s why Chapter 6 is an essential part of this book: it highlights the need for clarity, efficiency and a straightforward approach to employee compensation in a manner that is easy to follow for any individual assigned to the task of human resources management.

Once you put this book down, it will be easy to understand why The HR Answer Book is much more than simply a pamphlet containing a few practical suggestions—take them or leave them—about HR management theory. No. Rather, it is most effectively read as a step- by-step guide to implementing results-oriented workforce development and management processes in real time—without any of the jargon.

IThe straighforward writing is a refreshing quality of this book. After reading each chapter, the reader is able to feel like he or she could simply step into the office with more confidence with each “lesson of the day” that The HR Answer Book provides. We highly recommend this book, it belongs on the desk of every HR professional. Buy it now.

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