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The Big Book of HR—the Complete Guide to Selecting, Engaging and Retaining the Best Talent

The Big Book of HR—the Complete Guide to Selecting, Engaging and Retaining the Best TalentA short authors bio :

Barbara Mitchell, managing partner of The Mitchell Group, is a human resources and organizational development consulting. Prior to co-founding The Millennium Group International, LLC (TMG) in 1998, Barbara served in senior HR leadership positions with Marriott International and Human Genome Sciences. TMG was sold in 2008. Barbara’s book, The Essential HR Handbook, coauthored with Sharon Armstrong, was published in 2008 by Career Press. She also contributed to On Staffing–Advice and Perspective from HR Leaders and Cover Letters for Dummies. She served on the Society of Human Resource Management’s Special Expertise Panel on Consulting and Outsourcing in recognition of her expertise and long service to the HR profession.

Cornelia Gamlem, SPHR, is president and founder of the GEMS Group, ltd, a HR consulting firm, and has more than 25 years of human resources and consulting experience. She worked for CSC for many years, where she held senior HR positions and was responsible for managing policies, programs, and initiatives supporting best human resources and employment practices. Cornelia served on national task forces focused on issues of equal employment opportunity, affirmative action, and workplace diversity that influenced public policy. Since starting her consulting practice, she has consulted with a wide range of clients on these issues. Cornelia served on SHRM’s National Board of Directors and its Global Forum Goard of Directors and chaired its National Worplace Diversity Committee.

A book synopsis / Key Ideas

Managing people is the most challenging part of any leader’s day. And that job certainly is not getting any easier. The Big Book of HR provides any HR professional, manager, or business owner, of any size organization, the information they need to get the most from their talent. It is filled with information on everything from the most strategic HR-related issues to the smallest tactical detail of how to manage people. The Big Book of Hr is an easy-to-use guide filled with examples, tips, sidebars, sample forms, templates and a list of additional resources to help anyone who manages people gain the confidence to handle any issue that comes up!

Why did you write this book?

We wrote of The Big Book of HR as a give back to the HR profession where each of us has worked for many years. We wanted to share our knowledge, research and wide-ranging experience with managers and HR professionals. We firmly believe that the HR profession adds tremendous value to the business community and we take every opportunity presented to us to enhance the skill levels needed to deal with people in our increasingly complex world.

Why readers should buy your book and what they will get out of it after reading it ?

The Big Book of HR is a reference tool for anyone who manages people. Readers will find useful information they can apply immediacy using the many resources available in the book. This book is practical and very user friendly. Each chapter can stand alone for quick reference, and the appendix if fill of forms and samples that can be easily assimilated into any organization’s HR operations.

Do you have a blog, what is the link, what do you talk about in your blog?

Our blog in on our book website– We blog about people issues and areas of interest such as generations in the workplace, networking, etc.

Do you do speaking events? What are some common ones that you do on a regular basis? What do you talk about?

We do speaking engagements on a variety of topics. All our presentations are highly interactive and include timely tips that can be implemented immediately. Some of the topics we speak on are:

  • HR for Small Businesses
  • HREvolution (Where HR came from and where it is headed)
  • Generations in the Workplace
  • Strategic Solutions for Engaging and Retaining Employees

Do you do your own marketing or PR? What is a good marketing / PR stratgey for a budding author?

We have a publicist assigned to us by our publisher who is getting us interviews and other publicity. We are also doing our own promotions by getting speaking engagements that include book sales and book signings. The key is visibility!

What is the best advice you never got?

When starting out as a consultant/entrepreneur, the best advice we received was not to be afraid to try different things. What works for one consultant/business may not work for you so try new ideas and adapt them to your style and needs.

What is the one thing that you did right?

Building a professional network of trusted colleagues who give back to us, our world, and our profession.

What books have you read that you would recommend to others ?

Favorite business books include:

  • First, Break All the Rules by Buckingham and Coffman
  • Good to Great by Collins
  • Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury
  • Nuts by Freiberg
  • Drive by Pink
  • The Social Media Guide by Madia
  • The Essential HR Handbook by Armstrong and Mitchell
  • Womenonmics by Shipman and Kay
  • Not Everyone Gets a Trophy by Tulgan
  • The Art of Possibiity by Zander

Interview with the Authors

1. Who is the intended audience of the book?

  • Small businesses with no HR support
  • Managers in business of all sizes. It’s an excellent resource for anyone with people management responsibilities in any size organization
  • HR professionals – it’s a reference tool—perhaps pass a copy along to a manager who has a particular people issue?
  • HR programs at local community colleges who need a supplemental text

2. Why did you write this book at this time?

  • The Big Book of HR was written to be a reference to help solve issues with employees. It covers the employee experience from hiring, retaining, and developing to ending the employment relationship.
  • We wanted to provide a resource to managers and others to help them confidently deal with people issues that just keep getting more complicated!
  • Provides practical advice, useful tips, sidebars, appendices, and checklist to guide managers and HR professionals through any situation they may encounter. It is full of stories and examples to point people in the right direction when it comes to working with employees.
  • While each chapter stands alone, they are all integrated with each other and the book will point the reader to complementary points in other chapters. It also has references to internet sites where up-to-date information can be found.
  • The book adds value by providing the Legal Landscape of people management. It is not intended to provide legal advice, it is designed to be a primer that will raise awareness of these issues and point to government sites where you can get complete information. Of course, none of this is a substitute for seeking counsel from an employment attorney.

3. What are some of the challenges facing HR professionals today?

Dealing with people, while staying within the law and dealing with the complicated world we live in has created challenges for HR professionals in many areas but these are the most common:

  • Globalization
  • Multi-generational workplaces
  • Technology
  • Economic forces

We are also seeing a growing shortage of skilled workers, an Increase of contingent employees, and virtual employees becoming the norm. We discuss these issues in the book and provide some real life examples of how organizations are dealing successfully with these challenges.

4. How does one select the best applicants?

  • It starts with being clear about what you are looking for — the skills you need for the position.
  • Defining a clear and documented description of the job’s roles and responsibilities is critical.
  • Asking the right questions and listening carefully during the interview. Check references.
  • It is also important to hire select an applicant who will fit your culture – your vision and values, performance standards and leadership style.

5. What about retaining your top performers?


Ask them why they stay? Most organizations focus on asking people why they are leaving but it is much more important to find out why your good people enjoy working for you. Once you know what keeps them with you, build on that. Constantly “re-recruit” them–provide development opportunities so they see growth. Build on their strengths!

6. How do you motivate a great employee?

By tapping into their passion–what do they love to do in your organization? Where do you see them shine? Then, put them in situations where they can do their best, praise them, and step back and let them do what they do best! The greatest demotivator is to micromanage good employees–they tend to resent their manager and will probably look for a way out of the job or the organization!

7. What’s important in designing a total rewards program?

A total rewards program must align to the organizations’ mission, values and goals as well as its industry and locale. It must attract and retain the people who have the knowledge, skills, experience and attitude to get the job done.

Total rewards is more than just a paycheck. It’s also the benefits that are offered. And these benefits should include providing a flexible workplace. We find that employees today value flexibility highly—sometimes more than you would think!

8. How does workplace flexibility help to retain employees?

Flexibility provides employees the opportunity to balance the demands of their personal and work lives. Technology has made it easier for employees to work remotely and this will pay off in employee loyalty. We’ve devoted a chapter in The Big Book of HR to discussing flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, job sharing, shift flexibility, and have provided examples from leading companies.

9. What role does performance management play in keeping good people?

Managing employee performance is an important part of employee motivation. This is an area that belongs to the manager. Managers who think of performance management as the annual review process are not managing nor motivating their employees

Continual monitoring and feedback are critical to performance management. It let’s employees know they are contributing and doing things right and recognizes the importance and value of their performance to the organization. Feedback provided during a formal appraisal should not be a surprise to the employee. Constant feedback is also a generational issue—Generation X and Millennials want and need a lot of feedback. Managers must know this and know how to give feedback!

Discussions about money should not be at the heart of the performance appraisal meeting. If the only time you talk to your employee about how he or she is doing is when you are talking to them about money, chances are they are not going to hear anything you have to say about their success.

10. What are some best practices to maintaining positive employee relations and managing conflict?

Cultivate a culture that treats people fairly, professionally and respectfully. This includes having well-written policies that reflect the needs of the organization and the employees.

The cornerstone is having and maintaining good communication practices with employees to foster a free exchange and provide a flexible and informal approach for communication, and written communications such as newsletters (paper editions or electronic) e-mail, blogs, Intranet, webcasts and social media to keep younger workers engaged.

11. It sounds like communication is critical. What do you see as the most important communication vehicle?

While technology certainly plays a big role in communicating today, face-to-face communication is crucial. There are so many critical conversations that have to take place in the workplace, that we’ve devoted a chapter to it in The Big Book of HR. Key elements is the art of listening and asking the right questions so there can be a two-way exchange of good information.

12. How the HR function has been impacted by and/or has helped companies meet the challenges of today’s difficult economy.

HR has been impacted like any other function during the economic downturn–in fact, sometime hit harder at times. HR professionals must be clear about what value they bring to their employer and fully participate in strategy sessions. HR can help the organization be grounded in reminding management of the impact that bad economic times has on employees. They can help to make and execute decisions in a graceful manner that preserves the dignity of all.

13. One of the hardest things for managers to do is to fire someone. What advice do you have?

We’ve devoted an entire chapter to that topic in The Big Book of HR. We discuss circumstances that lead to an involuntary termination, including layoffs, and provide a sample layoff script. We also provide checklist to help make decisions when someone must be terminated for cause. The most important thing for HR professionals and managers to remember is that despite the bad news that is being delivered, I can be delivered with grace and integrity.

14. How do you identify a superstar employee?

You observe their attitude and ability over time and in a variety of situations. You use performance appraisal information to evaluate their potential. Your succession planning process can also identify high potential candidates. Most important is to spend the time necessary to get to know your employees and where their talents lie and also where their passion is for your organization!

15 .How do you determine the kind of employees needed?

and how do you determine when to hire needed employees?

A well crafted workforce plan is the key to both these questions. Look at your strategic plan to see where you’re headed and when you will need additional employees to meet the plan. Look at what skill sets your current employees have and then look at what skills you need to meet your growth plans. The gap analysis will tell you when you need to hire (or retrain) and what skills are needed. Workforce planning is critical to understanding your current workforce and your future needs.

16. What are the challenges to assimilating new talent into the organization?

The assimilation process starts in the hiring process. How welcome do you make applicants feel when they are going through the process? Do you respond to them in a timely manner? After the offer is accepted, the process continues during the critical time between acceptance and start date when people may have doubts they’ve made a good decision. Keep in touch with them. Make sure the first day is filled with positive experiences–don’t make them sit through long sessions of filling out paperwork–get them involved and meeting people. Have a plan for their first week, first month, first 60 days, and first 90 days! Assimilating executives is even more critical and frequently overlooked.

17.How can HR be most effective in the recruitment and hiring phases?

By being responsive to applicants and following up when they say they will. Nothing is more discouraging to an applicant than applying for a job and hearing nothing! Have a way to at least let applicants know you’ve received their resume. If you say you’ll call on Friday with an update on their application, call on Friday–even if you don’t have an update–or send a quick email to let them know their status. HR can monitor how long it takes managers to make decisions and encourage them to move quickly. HR can assist by keeping the pipeline filled with strong candidates. HR can and should make the applicant feel welcomed and valued. Remember, every applicant is a potential customer or client and you want them to feel as if they were treated fairly by your company. They may not be right for this job but maybe someday they will be the right applicant.

18. What misunderstanding do job seekers have about the role of HR?

Job seekers have been told to avoid HR–that HR is a roadblock to their getting a job. While this may be true in a small number of offices, it is not the case for the majority of US businesses. HR plays a vital role in bringing in talent so it makes sense for job seekers to see the value HR brings. Many job seekers are told to send resumes directly to hiring managers and bypass HR. This can be a mistake if the organization has an applicant tracking system–HR starts the process by ensuring the applicant’s resume is entered into the database before it goes to a hiring manager. HR is typically involved in hiring decisions in well-managed organizations so don’t overlook them–involve them!

19. What are some of the ways to develop the skills of current employees?

We are hearing lots about how American workers don’t have the skills needed for today’s jobs so we focus a lot of attention in The Big Book of HR on training and development tools that can make a difference. We look at classroom training, mentoring, coaching, leadership development and more. Providing on-going development opportunities of employees is a way to stand out from your competition while building a loyal and competent workforce.

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