The Essential HR Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional

39Review by Alice Waagen

Book by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell

Publisher: Career Press, 2008

One of the toughest jobs in the business world is that of the middle manager. Whether the job title is supervisor, team lead or director, these positions are sandwiched between the front lines — the people doing the work day after day — and the organization’s leadership, those looking ahead and giving direction. Too often, these two constituencies do not see eye to eye and middle managers need to buffer and cajole both upward and downward.

What makes the middle manager’s job even more challenging is that many are promoted into the position with little or not training or guidance on how to direct the work of others.

As one newly promoted individual once told me, “I was so excited when I got the promotion to unit manager. But, dealing with the different personalities and work styles of my new staff drove me nuts. Why don’t people come with an operating manual like I have for my car?”

The Essential HR Handbook by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell is as close as it comes to that operating manual. Both of the authors have decades of experience in the HR field, and they have written a clear, concise guide to the fundamental aspects of managing others.

In an easy to understand format, the reader is briefed on how to:

  • Individually manage each employee starting on his or her first day
  • Manage a multi-generational workforce
  • Appraise job performance
  • Coach and counsel
  • Provide equitable pay, benefits, and total rewards strategies
  • Identify legal pitfalls and stay out of court

What makes the book such a boon to managers is that it covers areas that are foreign to someone with a purely business or operations background but little or no experience in managing people.

I especially like the description of Legal Considerations in Chapter 9, which discusses hiring and termination concerns as well as how to deal with immigration issues. And the chapter on technology covers current workplace productivity challenges like private use of email and blogging — it even includes wording for a blogging policy.

In this time of labor shortages in many of our key business areas, organizations cannot afford to have managers who are weak in the fundamentals of managing others. Providing managers with concrete information about their role in guiding and supervising people is critical. The Essential HR Handbook is a great way for them to efficiently learn about what their HR duties encompass.