HR Insights 6 min

What Are The Best HR Books of 2021?

June 13, 2019
Updated September 15, 2021

In the challenging field of human resources, there’s always more to learn—and this year brings a bumper crop of must-read books for HR professionals. We’ve handpicked some of the best HR books of 2021, but you’ll also find books on our list every HR professional should read. Everything we’ve recommended will help you sharpen your skills, keep up with changing trends, and learn from diverse perspectives.

Top HR Books: Our Picks

1. The Essential HR Handbook, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional

By Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell

This perennial best seller is the book many HR professionals reach for first whenever a question or problem comes up. Newly updated in 2020, it offers a wealth of information and advice on just about every HR topic under the sun, including hiring and firing, telework, managing a diverse workforce, creating compensation packages, and avoiding legal pitfalls. Find best practices that help you attract talented workers, create positive relationships between employees and managers, and navigate HR issues in today’s complex business environment.

2. Unleashing the Power of Diversity: How to Open Minds for Good

By Bjorn Z. Ekelund

Workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse and inclusive, and this book shows you how to strengthen your organization by improving communication between people who have different cultural backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. You’ll learn how to use the Diversity Icebreaker, a tool that has helped more than 250,000 people around the world break down barriers and build unity and trust. This book is designed to help workplaces of every size and industry manage and sustain increasingly diverse teams.

3. Rituals for Work: 50 Ways to Create Engagement, Shared Purpose, and a Culture that Can Adapt to Change

By Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan

This book seeks to help you think about your workplace in a new and beneficial way by focusing on rituals. A ritual is an action that is always done in a similar fashion in a particular situation. It can be as simple as a daily standup meeting in the office or as elaborate as a university’s graduation ceremony. Ozenc and Hagan argue that rituals have a unique power in the workplace to make things more meaningful and create lasting bonds between people. Drawing from research, this guide explains how to use rituals to transform an organization’s culture, achieve goals, foster innovation, strengthen teamwork, and replace negative behaviors with positive habits.

Ritual actions regulate people’s emotions, keeping them calm. Rituals also regulate people’s performance, helping them to act in a steadier and more focused way. Finally, rituals regulate people’s sense of belonging, giving them a stable feeling of social connection.

4. People Processes: How Your People Can Be Your Organization’s Competitive Advantage

By Rhamy Alejeal

Here’s a book that explains what we at BambooHR have known for years: technology can free HR professionals from paperwork so they can spend more time helping people be exceptional and satisfied employees. Learn how HR software can streamline onboarding, payroll, benefits, compliance, reporting, and more. Then, follow a helpful step-by-step roadmap that takes you from fact-finding to HR management system rollout in only 100 days.

5. People Analytics for Dummies

By Mike West

“Dummies” books are famous for making complicated subjects easy to understand, and this volume is no exception. It explains a variety of essential people analytics tools and tactics for creating a great place to work. You’ll learn how data can help you know who to hire, where to focus resources, what increases commitment and motivation, how to keep employees satisfied, and more. If you want to make key personnel decisions based on facts instead of gut feelings, this book is worth considering.

6. The Drama-Free Workplace: How You Can Prevent Unconscious Bias, Sexual Harassment, Ethics Lapses, and Inspire a Healthy Culture

By Patti Perez

The title says it all. Sooner or later, most organizations will confront these difficult issues, possibly leading to lawsuits, low morale, and a broken culture. This book helps you anticipate and avoid many forms of workplace drama—and be ready with solutions if they happen. Learn simple, practical ways to make your workplace healthier, improve compliance training, communicate more effectively about sensitive topics at work, and master other skills that are essential in today’s #MeToo world.

No HR department? Get our free guide to do-it-yourself HR.

7. Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Surefire Ways to Design a Workplace That Is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World

By Erica Keswin

In an age when technology often isolates us, it’s more important than ever to foster strong human connections at work. A Wall Street Journal bestseller, this important book teaches you how to create a more human workplace, with inspiring real-life examples. Learn how to honor and strengthen workplace relationships in ways that will help your organization and everyone in it flourish.

8. Talent Keepers: How Top Leaders Engage and Retain Their Best Performers

By Christopher Mulligan and Craig Taylor

How can you attract and keep great people when competition is fierce? What will inspire your employees? Are you doing enough to adapt to the changing workforce? In this book, you’ll find research-based answers and proven, practical strategies for launching a plan to energize your workforce and help keep your most valued people committed to your organization. And it’s not just talk: you’ll see case studies that show how this approach has helped real-world companies succeed.

Not only does keeping your best employees ensure that your teams are more productive, engaged, and just plain good at what they do, it also improves the bottom line dramatically.

9. Culture Decks Decoded: Transform Your Culture into a Visible, Conscious, and Tangible Asset

By Bretton Putter

What do some of the most successful companies around know about culture that you don’t? This book analyzes the acclaimed culture decks of Netflix, LinkedIn, Etsy, and other firms to show you how to build a culture that helps your organization and your employees achieve their potential.

10. Performance Management for Dummies

By Herman Aguinis

The “Dummies” publisher has been busy this year, releasing another HR book that made our list. Learn how to define and measure the performance of individuals and teams, help each person improve and grow, and align performance with your organization’s goals. Whether you want to learn the basics or refine an established performance management system, this book covers it all. You’ll also learn the advantages of handling performance management online.

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11. Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How to Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance

By Jennifer B. Kahnweiler

If your company culture recognizes employee performance primarily through loud and public means, some of your most important contributors may be screaming internally. And that’s not the only way introverted employees may be underserved by your workplace. Read this book for insights on how to create a workplace that suits all types of workers and personalities.


12. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

By Adam Grant

Renowned organizational psychologist Adam Grant makes a strong case for not always trusting your gut in this 2021 book. This page-turner will teach you how to give space to ideas that contradict your firmly held opinions— and just what a difference this attitude can make. HR professionals will find inspiration for leading change in Grant’s charge to Think Again.

Go Beyond the Best HR Books

Want more? Some of the best HR books might not even be traditional books! BambooHR has an ever-expanding library of free HR content including ebooks, white papers, infographics, guides, and more.

Also, check the BambooHR blog often for helpful, actionable articles on timely HR topics. We’ve even compiled a list of the top 25 HR blogs for you!

Finally, from our own website and across the internet, we’ve gathered more than 40 tools and resources that every HR professional can benefit from. We’re here to help!

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Kent Peterson

Kent Peterson is a writer at BambooHR. He has also created award-winning work in radio and television.