Examiner.com columnist reviews The Essential HR Handbook: HR handbook helps all managers

By Eric Jacobson
Kansas City Leadership Columnist, Examiner.com
January 13, 2010

It’s unfortunately too common for an employee to be promoted into a management position with little to no Human Resources (HR) training. Similarly, many small business owners don’t have a dedicated human resources person so they end up muddling their way through critical human resources issues while wearing the HR hat.

These are some of the reasons authors Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell wrote the book “The Essential HR Handbook,” described by them as “a quick and handy resource for any manager or HR professional.”

If you don’t have the time or funds to attend HR training at a nearby educational institution or if there is not within your workplace a qualified and seasoned mentor to teach you HR skills, this book provides the novice manager important basics, accompanied by real-world examples and templates that you can readily use as you lead your team of one or more employees. It’s also an excellent refresher for managers who need to hone their hiring, onboarding, and performance evaluating capabilities.

Within 250 digest-size pages, authors Armstrong and Mitchell cover:

• Strategic planning
• Mission statements
• Optimal staffing
• Interviewing
• Orientation and onboarding
• Training and development
• Performance evaluations
• Benefits
• Compensation
• Employee relations
• Legal considerations
• Diversity
• Technology
• 21st-Century workplace challenges

So, the book covers the core elements of the HR function, and includes in each topic section/chapter a summary “Main Message For Managers” that serves as both a quick read for those with limited time and as a reminder point for future reference.

One of the most important chapters walks the reader through the entire performance appraisal process where the authors caution managers to watch for these pitfalls when rating employees:

• Clustering everyone in the middle performance-rating categories
• Overlooking flaws or exaggerating the achievements of favored employees
• Excusing substandard performance or behavior because it is widespread
• Letting one characteristic — positive or negative — affect your overall assessment
• Rating someone based on the company he or she keeps
• Rating someone based on a grudge you are holding
• Rating someone based on a short time period instead of the entire evaluation period
• Rating everyone high, to make you look good

When asked why some leaders fail, Armstrong said, “I think some leaders fail because they can’t explain the vision of the organization in such a way that motivates employees.”

In addition, even seasoned managers who interact with their HR staff can benefit from, in particular, reading and learning the lingo in the chapter on legal considerations.

Some of Armstrong’s favorite leadership books include those written by Leigh Branham (who is from Overland Park, KS and who runs the business Keeping The People), Marcus Buckingham and David Sirota. She said, “They all focus on employee/motivation and I think that is so important in the workplace.”
Armstrong said her favorite book of Branham’s is “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave.”

Early in Armstrong’s career, while she worked for the US Department of Education, she traveled frequently to Kansas where she met with local school districts that were receiving governmental funding.

Finally, Mitchell’s and Armstrong’s book made it to the list of 235 best leadership books when various LinkedIn social media web site members recently recommended their favorite leadership books.

Read the entire article here. And click here to link to Eric’s blog: http://ericjacobsononmanagement.blogspot.com.