Book Review: The HR Answer Book by Shawn Smith & Rebecca Mazin

The HR Answer Book, written by Shawn Smith and Rebecca Mazin, is written in a question and answer format for employers, managers, and human resources professionals. Subject matter includes recruiting, hiring, training, discipline, termination, compensation, benefits, employee relations, and much more. The book, published by AMACOM in 2004, is meant to be a quick reference manual and general guide for companies, big and small.

This book stands out because of the unique format in which it is written. As previously mentioned, the book employs a question and answer format. While it is interesting enough to read from cover to cover, this format provides easy navigation for the reader who is looking to research a particular topic. This feature also allows the book some longevity. At 296 pages, it is a slim enough and valuable enough reference to keep on a desk or shelf for years.

The book starts off with an interesting foreword written by Jay S. Walker, Chairman of Walker Digital and founder of priceline.com and Eileen Walker, former manager of US Compensation and IBM Corp. As with most forewords, it is written by interesting people who basically explain why you need to read the book. By the time you read this section though, you have probably already determined those reasons.

After the foreword, there is a short preface and then right on to the first chapter. The first chapter covers employee selection and gives you tips on attracting and selecting the best employees. This section offers detailed advice on finding the right candidates, conducting in depth interviews, preemployment testing and screening, and much more. Once you have learned how to select your candidate, you move on to making an offer. This section gives tips and advice regarding salary and benefits, as well as negotiation techniques.

Chapter number two covers employee handbooks and HR policies. This chapter is especially good for any small or mid-level company that does not have a human resources department. In this section, you will learn how to create a guide that will set and maintain company policies for your employees. These policies will not only make things less confusing for your workers, they will also protect you from making a legal mistake that could cost you your business.

The third chapter may be the most important one of all. Here you learn how to evaluate the performance of your employees. The information provided here will help you to increase productivity within your business and it will also help you to conduct meaningful and effective performance reviews. Learn what you should say and what you shouldn’t say to your employees, get tips to guide you through sensitive subjects and delicate conversations, and finally become educated on maintaining the consistency that your performance management system needs to succeed.

Besides well organized information, the guide also includes an index, appendix, and templates for the reader’s convenience. These tools and templates are a valuable resource and a great reference when you want to research a specific issue.

Overall, the book is an excellent guide for the experienced HR professional and especially for small company management without in-house HR personnel. It is well-organized, free of jargon, and covers an immense range of topics. The best part is that the advice is written with consistent respect to employees. The HR Answer Book is a must have for anyone looking to promote good communication and good employee relations.

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