Book Review: 150 Things You Need to Know

Note: These are books #49 and #50 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge for 2008.

100 Things

100 Things

100 Things Your Need to Know: Best People Practices for Managers & HR and 50 More Things You Need to Know: The Science Behind Best People Practices for Manager & HR Professionals (whew!), are curious and different from most books that I’ve seen on similar topics. As you might guess from the titles, they contain 150 chapters between them, covering sup-toics like selection, Human Resources law, leadership, HR metrics, corporate culture, training, recruiting, HR technology systems, compensation, benefits, motivation, organizational development, job design, teams, performance management, surveys, and more.

Each of these 150 chapters is dedicated to a single “fact,” which is framed as a multiple-choice question at the beginning on the opening page. Do applicants have preferences among various selection techniques? Is there still a bias against African Americans in the workplace? Do people differ in how they learn from experience? How many points should your survey question response scales have on them? How skilled are managers, typically, at being good coaches?

You’re supposed to try and answer the question without peeking, and there’s even places to keep track of your answers so that you can get “scores” for the books that reflects your knowledge of these 100 and 50 things. (Me, I always just peeked.)

After the opening question in each chapter, the correct answer is given, along with a 1-5 ranking of how solid the current state of the research is on this answer, from suggestive to absolutely sure. Then there’s a discussion of the factoid, then citations of research that back up the claim, then a discussion of what it means to HR practitioners, then finally a bibliography for further research. This all happens in the space of 3-5 pages each, so it’s nice and easy to digest. I would typically read a chapter or two over lunch at work or when I needed to take a little break but still wanted to feel like I was doing something work related.

What I like about these books is that they are very research oriented, with each of the 150 assertions backed up by scientific research, usually taken from refereed journals in various branches of psychology and management. It’s not, in short, arm chair punditry or bland platitudes. And while I found myself disagreeing with their reading of the current literature on some topics –such as the importance of emotional intelligence for job performance or the nature of employee engagement as a construct distinct from others– they were mostly spot on from what I could tell.

My only substantial complaint about the books are that I wish the authors had organized all the similar chapters together. I would have liked, for example, to have read through a chunk of chapters all dealing with leadership development all at once, rather than having those same chapters sprinkled randomly throughout the book. Still, with the use of a good index and some skimming, these are going to make pretty good reference books, especially with the bibliographies in each section serving as jumping off points for more in-depth reading.

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