Top 10 summer reads (and listens) for HR professionals

To help take your own learning and development up a notch, People Management rounds up 10 of the best books and podcasts for those in the people profession

Witthaya Prasongsin / Getty Images

The HR Business Partner Handbook

Glenn Templeman, Kogan Page

£23.99/£21.49 e-book

The role of an HR business partner can be one of the broadest in the profession, yet is neatly summarised in Templeman’s comprehensive (and surprisingly humorous) guide. From the basics of being a reliable HRBP, such as empathy and ethics, through to the more advanced strategic elements, any new or existing HR business partner aiming to be brilliant need look no further.

The Culture Playbook

Daniel Coyle, Cornerstone Press 

£8.39/£7.99 e-book 

Culture is something that’s often discussed, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, yet can be hard to define – and even harder to improve. Also the author of several previous books on the topic, Coyle spent six years studying some of the most successful teams in the world (including US Navy SEALs) to inform The Culture Playbook, and offers his findings as 60 concise and practical tips, including ‘build a failure wall’ and ‘set aside time to do nothing together’.

Going Digital

Lyndsey Jones and Balvinder Singh Powar, FT Publishing

£13.59/£11.99 e-book 

The pace of digital transformation has been accelerated by the pandemic, yet as Jones, a strategic consultant who led digital transformation at the Financial Times and Singh Powar, adjunct professor at Madrid’s IE Business School, explain, many organisations only factor in the technology and not the people side of change. Free of complex jargon, Going Digital promises to help leaders thrive in an increasingly technological landscape.

The Anti-Racist Organization

Shereen Daniels, Wiley

£14.95/£12.34 e-book 

Daniels is no stranger to helping organisations promote racial equity; she is vice chair of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Black Business Association, founder of anti-racism consultancy HR rewired, and was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in 2020. Her first book is an unflinching exploration of a society built on white privilege and a roadmap for change, covering how to begin asking uncomfortable questions, her four-part model for change, and maintaining progress into the future.

Redesigning Work

Lynda Gratton, Penguin Business

£10.69/£9.99 e-book

Redesigning Work sets out a simple four-stage process for businesses to follow to give employees the working lives they really want. These include: understanding what matters to them; reimagining the future; modelling and testing new ideas; and acting on the new model and creating new ways of working. Particularly pertinent is Gratton’s explanation of how to ensure fairness when modelling and testing new practices. For any HR leader or business owner looking to define and embed post-Covid working practices in the longer term but unsure where to begin, Redesigning Work is an excellent starting point.

Everyone Included

Helen May, Pearson Business 

£11.79/£8.19 e-book 

Having worked in leadership, talent and culture for a quarter of a century and been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, May is no stranger to the need for businesses to be inclusive. In Everyone Included, she puts forward the idea that a sense of belonging among employees is key to successful inclusion and diversity initiatives, explaining her five principles as well as how to create this feeling among staff and embed belonging into the organisation’s culture in the long term. 

The Future of Recruitment

Franziska Leutner, Reece Akhtar and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Emerald Publishing

£17.64/£17.76 e-book 

Recruitment has already changed beyond recognition thanks to the pandemic, but it’s due to keep up that momentum as the likes of artificial intelligence and gamification become more commonplace. Leutner et al have created a book that explores where the world of hiring is likely to head in an incredibly thorough and detail-rich way, but that also manages to avoid being complicated or technical.

Learning at Speed

Nelson Sivalingam, Kogan Page

£18.29/£14.39 e-book

Even without the significant changes to working practices caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the move towards a more agile or ‘lean’ way of working has long been on the cards. But when it comes specifically to learning and development, is such a framework as straightforward to apply? If you read Learning at Speed, the answer should be a resounding ‘yes’. The first two of the three sections the book is split into (‘On Your Mark’ and ‘Get Set’) thoroughly explore the theory, background and context to the lean methodology and how it applies to different areas of L&D, before the final section (‘Go’) takes them through the practical process. Crucially, the last chapter is devoted to ‘marketing’ L&D within organisations, explaining how to encourage people to engage with learning, and retain them when they do. 


Kathryn Jacob, Sue Unerman & Mark Edwards, Bloomsbury Business

£9.05/£5.89 e-book 

What do you get when you cross the chief transformation officer at MediaCom, the CEO of Pearl & Dean and a Sunday Times journalist? No, it’s not the punchline to a joke, it’s one of this year’s most important I&D books. After conducting more than 200 interviews, Jacob, Unerman and Edwards concluded that a major barrier to improvements in I&D is men’s involvement; Belonging acts as a strong call to action for males in power to do more to eradicate discrimination.

The Learning Development Podcast

David James, via all good podcast providers 

Unsurprisingly, if you’re looking for a podcast about L&D, this is a good place to start. Hosted by David James, chief learning officer at Looop and formerly director of talent, learning and OD at The Walt Disney Company, its fortnightly episodes tackle anything and everything affecting L&D professionals in an accessible way, including learning culture, the impact of Covid on learning, and career progression as a practitioner.