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

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

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

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


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The Only HR Book You’ll Ever Need!

“Whether you’re a small business owner, a manager in a business without an HR department, or even a seasoned HR professional, this book will help you handle any personnel problem—from on-boarding to outplacement—quickly and easily.”—Solutions Review

For more than a decade, busy managers by the tens of thousands have turned to this best-selling book as a handy guide to the ins and outs of human resources. And no wonder! Because whether you're a small business owner, a manager in a business without an HR department, or even a seasoned HR professional, The Essential HR Handbook will help you handle any personnel problem—from onboarding to outplacement—quickly and easily. This fully updated 10th anniversary edition is packed with information, tools, checklists, sample forms, and timely tips to guide you through the maze of personnel issues in today's complex business environment.

In The Essential HR Handbook you'll find out how to:

  • Attract talented staff through social media recruiting
  • Identify legal pitfalls to avoid lawsuits and regulatory interference
  • Train a diverse and inclusive multigenerational workforce
  • Provide the compensation and benefits package that will make your organization an "employer of choice"
  • Streamline your orientation and onboarding practices so new employees hit the ground running

Whenever personnel problems arise, having The Essential HR Handbook on your bookshelf is like having a team of expert HR consultants at your beck and call!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632651396
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 01/01/2019
Series: Essential Handbook
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 431,592
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Sharon Armstrong began her career in Human Resources in 1985 as a Recruiter/Trainer in a large Manhattan law firm. Since launching her own consulting business, Human Resources 911, in 1998, Armstrong has provided training and completed HR projects dealing with performance management design and implementation for a wide variety of clients. 
Barbara Mitchell is an author, speaker, and human resources consultant. She is the coauthor of The Big Book of HR, The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook, The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book, and The Essential HR Handbook. Most of her HR career was spent with Marriott International. Barbara is managing partner of The Mitchell Group and an innovative career transition coach.

Read an Excerpt



Strategy connects the purpose and values of your organization with those of its customers and other external shareholders.

Tony Manning, Making Sense of Strategy

If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? That's why every organization needs a strategy for planning its future, and HR is a big part of that planning process.

Organizational strategy

Managers are responsible for allocating resources to achieve their organization's stated goals, and this is where organizational strategy comes into play. Successful management of resources depends on effective planning. Managers need to set the organization's strategic direction and develop a plan to implement the strategy.

That plan defines the organization's path into the future, and implementing it involves making decisions about the allocation of resources to reach the goals.

Organizational resources include intellectual capital, products, and financial capital, but the most important resource is human capital — the people who make it all happen. And because most organizations spend the largest percentage of their dollars on their labor force, firms that align their people strategies with their organizational strategies are the most successful.

The strategic planning process begins by determining what the organization wants to achieve throughout a reasonable period of time. In the past, standard business practice was to plan for long periods, such as five, ten, or twenty years — but in today's volatile business climate, most organizations plan for shorter periods such as one, three, or at most, five years.

For your organization to remain competitive, it is essential to revisit your strategic plan frequently, and explore the business climate in your organization's field to understand changes that may affect your organization and its strategy. Strategy development involves evaluating the organization's current business situation and determining where it wants to go in the future. Managing strategy is never "cast in concrete" — it is a continuous, recurring process.

Developing a strategic plan

The most enlightened organizations include human resources (HR) in the development of the strategic plan, so that the human resources plan can link directly to the strategic plan (discussed later in this chapter).

The typical approach to strategic planning is a three-step process:

1. Establish why the organization exists, its mission.

2. Define what you want the organization's near future to be.

3. Establish what needs to be done — and what needs to be done differently — to reach the stated objectives.

Crafting a mission statement

Organizational strategy consists of concisely, clearly, and carefully communicating to everyone in the organization where the organization is headed, which is the first step in creating a mission statement. This document describes what the organization is today, and what it values, in succinct and measurable terms. Mission statements are shared with employees, clients, and customers.

When you're developing a strategic plan, start by asking a series of questions that will produce the information you need to take the next step in defining the organization's future direction. Here are some sample questions:

[??] What are your plans for growth?

[??] What is your ethics statement?

[??] What challenges are you facing today?

[??] What are your competitors doing that you aren't doing?

[??] What sets you apart from the competition?

[??] What changes have occurred in your industry or service area?

[??] How has globalization affected your organization?

[??] Have your competitors entered the global market?

[??] Are there opportunities outside your current market to consider?

[??] Is your technology up to date?

[??] What effect has technology had on your customers, members, or employees?

[??] Have your customers' or members' expectations changed?

[??] What are you doing to retain any competitive advantage you have?

[??] What are your distinctive competitive strengths, and how does the plan build on them?

[??] How will changes in your strategy affect your employees?

[??] Do you have the people resources you need to reach your desired goals?

[??] What effect will the changing demographics have on your strategy?

[??] What legal or regulatory changes do you anticipate that may affect your strategy?

[??] How and why is this plan different from the previous one? Were all your previous elements completed? If not, why? What could you have done to complete that element?

[??] How different is your strategy from those of your competitors, and why? Is that good or bad? What do you know about your competitors' strategies?

[??] How accurate have your past budgets and projections been? What could have made them more accurate and how will you modify your budgeting process, if needed?

[??] Who will measure the outcomes of the strategy, and with what tools? How often will you monitor progress?

After answering these questions, you can determine how the organization will capitalize on its strengths, eliminate or minimize its weaknesses, exploit opportunities, and defend against threats. This is called a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and should be something you do annually.

Putting your strategic plan in motion

If the organization sets out a good strategic direction and sets goals and measurements to ensure the goals are met, it can envision its future.

But after the vision is set forth, nothing will happen without an implementation strategy. This is where responsibilities are determined and accountabilities defined. A timeline should be created, and milestone reviews should be scheduled, so that the strategic plan is constantly in front of the leadership and discussed at staff meetings. The timeline should be reviewed and updated in order to keep it as current as possible.

Communicating the plan

Once the strategic plan is developed and easily understood, it is extremely important to share it with the employees. This can be in writing, sent as an email from the leader of the organization, or communicated in person at an "all staff" meeting. How the message gets out isn't nearly as important as the fact that it is communicated. Employees need to know where their organization is headed, and how the work they do fits into the plan; this is especially important for your Millennial employees. They will leave if it's not readily apparent to them how their work impacts your mission.

Linking HR planning to the strategic plan

Organizations that link the overall strategic plan to their plans for finding and keeping employees tend to be the most successful in today's competitive marketplace. After an organization's strategic plan is in place, it is important to identify the roles the human resources department will play in achieving the organization's goals.

Once the strategic areas that will affect employees are identified, the planners need to determine whether the organization lacks any resources that will cause problems in the implementation phase.

It is at this point in the process that HR issues — a critical element in the strategic plan — really come into play. Organizations that involve HR in the strategic planning process soon learn that issues about people have an effect on nearly every organizational activity.

For example, if the plan calls for building a new manufacturing facility in South America, it is probably HR that will need to research labor markets and union activity in different countries, look at compensation plans, investigate the process for obtaining work permits and visas for US nationals, research applicable benefit plans, and gather data on whether the organization's current health plan covers workers outside of the country.

If growth is projected in the strategic plan, HR should consider creating a workforce plan. This involves looking at the current workforce in depth and asking questions such as:

[??] What are the strengths and areas of concern with the current workforce?

[??] Who is eligible to retire?

[??] Are there current employees with performance issues?

[??] Does the projected growth mean additional workers will be needed?

[??] What skills and abilities — technical, administrative, managerial, and leadership — are needed to accomplish the work?

[??] Are there gaps in the current skills of the workforce? What will be required to achieve the new strategic direction?

Once these questions are answered, HR can address how gaps can be filled. For example, if the strategy involves increasing the number of technical employees in a particular department, some solutions might be:

[??] Hiring new employees.

[??] Training existing employees.

[??] Transferring employees from another location.

[??] Doing all of the above.

If the choice is to hire new employees, the organization needs to plan how to onboard them into the workplace culture to make their transition into the organization as smooth as possible so that they can be productive.

Succession management as a workforce planning tool

Succession management is used in organizations to identify and prepare employees who have the potential skills and abilities to move into key positions when they become available. Having a succession plan generally guarantees a smooth continuation of business operations when a position becomes vacant within the organization due to a promotion, resignation, transfer, or death.

Succession management is a comprehensive process that begins by identifying potential successors and a development plan for each person. The goal of a succession management system is to have a pipeline of highly developed leaders across the organization who are prepared (or in the process of becoming prepared) to fill vacancies as they arise. Succession planning or management should be part of your organization's ongoing planning process and must be linked to your performance management system (see Chapter 5).

Linking HR and the organization

A typical criticism of HR professionals is that they do not understand the businesses in which they work. Critics think they are too focused on HR-related topics like compensation, benefits, and recruiting, and don't always take the time to understand marketing, finance, and business operations. This can cause a disconnect between the HR staff and other organizational leaders.

Although HR is increasingly complex, it is not a stand-alone function. For HR professionals to be true business partners, they must learn as much as possible about the operation of their organization's business. Studying business plans, strategic plans, annual reports, and other written documents is one of the best ways to do this; so is networking with others in the organization.

If you're new to an organization or new to your job, a great way to learn more about your firm and get to know others is to make a list of people with whom you need to work or interact and schedule a meeting with each one. You may want to do these meetings over coffee or lunch so that you're both more relaxed than you might be in a conference room. Before your meeting, put together a series of questions to get the conversation started. Most people enjoy sharing their expertise, and if you approach these conversations properly and respect colleagues' busy schedules, this strategy can be very effective. Possible questions include:

[??] How long have you been with the XYZ organization?

[??] What about this organization attracted you to it?

[??] What has been your greatest challenge at XYZ?

[??] What has been your greatest success?

[??] What keeps you up at night?

[??] How does your department fit into the organization's overall mission?

[??] How can the HR function help you and your staff achieve your goals?

[??] What has XYZ's HR function done well in the past, and where can it improve?

[??] Can you recommend books or other reference material so that I can learn more about what you do as [position]?

[??] Is there anything else you can tell me that will help me be the best possible business partner for you and your department?

These conversations should be dialogues, not interviews, and as informal as possible. Ideally, you will be asked to share your background and goals as well. You can also use this interview strategy if you've been with the organization for a while and get promoted. Your new level of responsibility will require you to function differently, and getting to know your peers will be helpful down the road as you work together for the good of the organization.

It is critical for people in the HR function, whether they are fulltime HR professionals or managers who bear HR responsibilities, to learn the language of the organization and participate in discussions about overall strategy. This may take some time to develop, but it is extremely important in order to link the people issues to the rest of the corporate strategy.

The HR profession is complex and ever changing. HR professionals need access to information about changes in employment laws and government regulations. They also need access to others in the HR field, so they can share "best practices" or ask for help with a particular problem. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides a wealth of learning opportunities as well as resources on its website at This organization also has local chapters, most of which meet monthly for professional development programs and networking.

Updated message for managers

Organizations need to set a strategic direction to know where they are headed and how they are going to get there. HR managers, along with managers of other departments, should be key players in defining the strategic plan. Once the plan is developed, attention should be paid to developing an HR plan that links to and supports the organization's strategic plan. Without the right people in the right positions, odds are the strategic goals won't be met. A succession plan also must be included in the workforce planning process to ensure the organization has successors in case of a vacancy or for growth.

Anyone who has responsibility for HR in an organization needs to understand the business the organization is in and be able to speak the language of that business. This is a key to gaining respect in the organization and adding real value to your firm!



The secret of my success is that we have gone to great lengths to hire the best people in the world.

Steve Jobs

The hiring process is critical to the success of your organization. Done well, it can build a hardworking, loyal staff and help grow your business; done poorly, it can increase turnover and stunt your staff.

Workforce planning

The most common mistake organizations make with recruiting is to hire on an ad hoc or, worse yet, emergency basis. You've signed a new client, and you need to staff up quickly. A trusted employee decides to leave, and you need to find someone immediately to do their work. Your organization is growing fast, and your current staff can't keep up with the workload. Of course, these situations can and do occur from time to time, and they're often unavoidable. But building an entire organization in this way is like cooking a gourmet meal using whatever ingredients you can find in the cupboard. Unless you get lucky every time you hire someone, you'll wind up with — quite literally — a "motley crew" who may not be able to take your organization where you want it to go.

A much better way to go about talent acquisition is to tie in your hiring with the strategic HR goals discussed in Chapter 1. The workforce plan gives you a template to follow when the time comes to fill a particular position. You'll be proactive about recruiting, not just reactive, which is bound to yield better results in both the short and long term.

Finding applicants

It used to be simple: You ran an ad in the newspaper, and applicants either mailed in a résumé or applied in person. Now, applicants also use your organization's website or one of the many online sites — from general ones such as to industry-specific ones like To stay competitive and attract applicants, you may also need to participate in job fairs, recruit at local colleges or trade schools, run ads on the radio, or hold open houses at your workplace. Depending on the level of the position you're trying to fill, you may also want to use recruiting agencies.

When you advertise or post a position, it is important to stress the benefits of working for your organization. Applicants want to know what's in it for them. Another critical element is setting your organization apart from all the others that are hiring for the same type of position: What can you tell job seekers that will excite them enough to contact your organization? Include the job requirements and what's expected of the chosen applicant to make it as easy as possible for applicants to submit their information online. Direct applicants to your website to learn more about the organization.


Excerpted from "The Essential HR Handbook"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Strategic HR 5

2 Talent Acquisition 15

3 Onboarding 29

4 Talent Development 39

5 Performance Management 53

6 Benefits by Michael Strand 63

7 Compensation by Michael Strand 85

8 Employee Relations 103

9 Legal Considerations by Paul Mickey, Esq. 119

10 Managing a Diverse Workforce 139

11 Technology 149

12 Today's Workplace Challenges 185

Appendix: Additional Resources 185

Glossary 207

Further Reading 223

Bibliography 227

Notes 231

Index 239

About the Authors 244

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