A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional

Providing an update to the version from ten years ago, The Essential HR Handbook, 2019 edition, is a new resource for your business library.  The handbook was written by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell to reflect changes in federal and state laws regarding unemployment.  It also includes advice and guidelines on the new realities of today’s workforce. Some of these realities include diversity, technology, and differences between the generations.

Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell are seasoned professionals in human resources. Armstrong has worked as a recruiter and trainer at two large law firms and three non-profit associations. She also holds a master’s degree in counseling. Mitchell spent most of her career in senior leadership with Marriott International, Human Growth Sciences, and two of her own HR firms. She is currently the managing partner with The Mitchell Group, an HR consulting practice in Reston, VA.

An Essential Resource

The title gives away the practical nature of this work; it is a human resource handbook. Whenever you need it, this book should be on hand as an informational resource. However, I also recommend reading the book cover to cover on the initial read. The handbook is very convenient when looking at specific issues that relate to talent management.  The chapters focus on:

  1. Strategic HR
  2. Talent Acquisition
  3. Onboarding
  4. Talent Development
  5. Performance Management
  6. Benefits
  7. Compensation
  8. Employee Relations
  9. Legal Considerations
  10. Managing a Diverse Workforce
  11. Technology
  12. Today’s Workplace Challenges

I found that none of the chapters in the Essential HR Handbook may be deep enough to answer all of your questions on a given topic when read alone. However, when you need assistance you will find that there are also handy resources at the back of the book. These resources include sample forms, checklists, and summaries of some current federal laws. There is also an excellent section that provides additional resources that can be found online.

Keep it Handy

Now for some impressions of the book. It’s interesting that even with their Human Resource expertise, the authors choose to outsource two specific chapters. Michael Strand wrote the chapter on Compensation, and Paul Mickey, Esquire, authored the chapter titled Legal Considerations. It impressed me that the authors chose to find two professionals to supplement their work.

I also liked that The Essential HR Handbook is a simple book that is easy to digest. I believe it would assist any front line manager, and should probably also be read by executives with smaller firms. There are many useful practical suggestions and tools in the book. For instance, in the chapter on Talent Acquisition there are sample interview questions and even a scoring table.

If I have any critique, it would be that the negative side of performance management could be given a little more attention. For example, those times when managers have to let go an underperforming employee. The authors’ advice fell short here, even though they outlined a process for this situation, and even touched on the use of a performance improvement plan.  This was especially true when referencing the responsibility of the manager to act. In my opinion there was not enough detail on the stress that falls on the manager in that type situation.

Overall, I enjoyed (is that the right word) reading this handbook. Well thought out and written by professionals, this book covers most of the issues facing managers and human resource departments in today’s work environment. I do recommend this handbook be kept in the library of every emerging entrepreneurial company.