The top HR books of 2014

Our ultimate Christmas reading list for HR

With the holiday season coming up, it’s time to plan your beach reading list. I don’t know about you, but I love using this time as a springboard into a productive new year. So I’ve picked out some of the best new HR reads for the Christmas break.

If you’ve got other recommendations we haven’t featured, I’d love you to jump into the comments below or tweet me @cognology.

Smart Tribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together by Christine Comaford

Smart Tribes

Christine Comaford is an applied neuroscience expert with over 30 years of company building experience. Smart Tribes uses this experience to look at how leaders can drive productivity through engagement.

A workplace culture where employees lie low, suck up and procrastinate may meet short term deadlines. But these behaviours don’t encourage company growth and development. Comaford gives practical applied neuroscience tips to get all your employees unstuck and engaged with the organisation.

The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh

The Alliance

Co-written by Reid Hoffman (the co-founder of LinkedIn), this book looks at how businesses should work with their employees in the digital age.

Organisations can no longer promise employees lifetime work, but they also can’t just treat employees as free agents for hire. The solution Hoffman proposes is to think of employees more as allies than family or free agents.

Treating employees as allies creates a mutually beneficial workplace environment. Employers benefit from employees who see projects through and build the organisation. Employees gain development and the necessary skills to progress their careers.

This book is all about how the creation of an alliance between employer and employee creates great conversations, trust and retention of the best individuals required for a successful business.

Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion by David Zweig 


David Zweig’s latest book explores the careers of the “Invisibles”. These are the people who work in critical background roles. They typically only receive recognition when something goes wrong (rather than when they do outstanding work).

Zweig goes backstage at a Radiohead concert with their head guitar tech rather than a member of the band. He talks to an interpreter who works in a closed-door meeting at the UN. And he talks to the lead structural engineer of China’s tallest skyscraper, rather than its architect.

This book will help you identify your invisibles – directing recognition to quiet achievers for a job well done.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last

Simon Sinek is the bestselling author of “Start With Why”. He returns with his latest book on how every organisation can make their employees love work every day.

The primary message behind this book is that leaders who are willing to put the wellbeing of their employees first will succeed.

The book looks at why some teams succeed and some are forever bound by infighting. It will give you tips on trust building and several practical case studies that apply Sinek’s ideas. Pick this book up to find out why leadership isn’t theory, it’s biology.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Ben Horowitz is the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz. As well as funding a number of multi-billion dollar businesses, he’s had plenty of experience in the CEO chair. It’s one of the reasons he’s one of the most respected CEO advisors in Silicon Valley.

This is a no-holds barred look at what it really takes to build a successful and enduring company. 20% of this book is focused on entrepreneurs, but the remaining 80% is pure HR gold. This book will take you inside the CEO perspective on critical people issues. Horowitz also gives you practical frameworks to deal with the hardest of HR issues.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things is full of battle worn experience about what it really takes to grow a successful, people first businesses.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Creativity, Inc.

Ed Catmull founded Pixar Animation Studios with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter.

Creativity, Inc. is an exploration into how any business can inject creativity into the way things are done. Catmull discusses everything from meetings, post-mortems, and the braintrust sessions that lead to the realisation (and sometimes cancellation) of key films.

Ed’s credibility comes from the success of Pixar’s films, having broken box office records and garnered over 30 academy awards. This book is for anyone looking for battle-hardened tips on what it really takes to drive an innovation first culture.

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

How Google Works

Eric Schmidt is the executive chairman and former CEO of Google. Jonathan Rosenberg is Google’s former senior vice president of products. Both came to Google ten years ago to help Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, restructure everything they knew about management.

This book covers a range of the experiences that Schmidt and Brin had whilst working at Google. These include seeing how technology was tipping the balance of power, and creating new products just to attract key employees dubbed “smart creatives”.

This book is full of disruption and personal anecdotes from Google staff. Don’t miss this insider take on how Google invented their data driven approach to people management.

The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership by Richard Branson

The Virgin Way

Richard Branson is the CEO of the Virgin Group (as if you didn’t know that already). In his latest book, Branson draws on 40 years of insights to identify what really makes an effective leader.

Branson’s leadership methods have never been conventional. He’s never read a book on leadership himself (and since he suffers from dyslexia, I’m not surprised). But his ability to grow so many successful businesses over 40 years makes him more than qualified.

This book is high on the list for anyone who wants a very different view on what it takes to lead.

The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business by Tom Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen

The GenZ Effect

The Gen Z Effect is a book on how technology is the defining factor that unites different generations. It’s a refreshing approach, considering most generational books focus on the differences rather than similarities. The Gen Z Effect examines the possibility of a post-generational workplace where technology allows us to work and communicate fluidly together, without age-based boundaries.

The power of technology in the workplace is something I’m really passionate about. If you share this passion, this is a worthwhile look at the role that technology can play the future of work.

The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems by Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen

The Moment Of Clarity

The Moment of Clarity looks at how traditional problem solving methods aren’t effective against problems that involve a high degree of uncertainty.

Madsbjerg and Rasmussen use theories and tools from anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and psychology to create a practical framework to pull businesses through those uncertain times. They call this process “sensemaking”.

This book is for anyone who wants a different approach to people strategy. The moments of clarity offered in this book have already been used by companies such as Lego, Samsung, and Adidas. The Moment of Clarity gives you the competitive advantage already used by some of the world’s largest companies.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

The Power Of Habit

Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer Prize winning business reporter and author. In his latest book, Duhigg looks at why we fall into routine.

Duhigg uses a range of powerful case studies. These include the boardroom of Procter and Gamble and the sidelines of the NFL. His book argues that the secret to achieving any long-term goal is by understanding how to manipulate habits to your advantage.

This book will help you transform your professional interactions and broader business through the power of habit.

The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success by Rich Karlgaard

The Soft Edge

Rich Karlgaard is an author and keynote speaker. He has several books on business under his belt, and The Soft Edge is his latest entry into the study of business excellence.

“The Soft Edge” represents the creative side of business. Karlgaard argues that CEOs who struggle to think in terms of soft skills will lose out in long-term success and innovation.

I love this book because it emphasises just why all business decisions need to include a human factor (which is often hard to quantify). This is a great read for anyone who wants to learn how the human side of business can be your biggest competitive advantage.

So there you have it, my top 12 HR books of 2014

Have you read an amazing business book that’s a glaring omission from this list? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to my reading list.

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