One of the books I suggested was 'Rework' by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hannson, the founders of software company 37signals. If you are not familiar with 37signals, you may know some of their popular products, Basecamp, a project management tool; Highrise, a CRM application; or Campfire, a group chat and communication tool. Or you might know their Signal vs. Noise blog.
At any rate, 37signals has built a remarkably successful business in a competitive and complex market, and in Rework, the founders share many of their lessons learned along the way. In some ways the book is positioned toward entrepreneurs (although in Rework we learn 'Starter' is the preferred term), but many of the ideas and the advice could certainly be applied inside work groups at larger organizations.
For the Human Resources reader, Rework is valuable for the several observations and insights related to the hiring process, namely:
Resumes are ridiculous - The authors recommend spending more time assessing the cover letter, since cover letters have to show more of a candidate's personality and voice, and are therefore a much better indicator than the resume to see if they are a likely fit with your company.
Forget about formal education - Reliance on formal education requirements as a screening criteria artificially excludes many candidates that might be great performers. In fact too much time in academia can be a detriment, as many bad habits have to be unlearned.
Hire great writers - When trying to decide among candidates, always hire the best writer. Clear writing implies clear thinking, and overall better ability to communicate.
Additionally, several views on organizational culture would resonate with the HR world:
You don't create a culture - Company culture can't be created artificially with mission statements and offsite ropes courses. Culture is the actions of leaders and employees, and it needs time to develop.
Skip the rock stars - Forget posting job ads for 'rockstars' or 'ninjas'. Those terms have nothing at all to do with business. Worry more about creating an environment where people can perform at 'rockstar' level. Chances are there is tons of untapped potential on your team, but excessive policies, poor leadership, and inadequate technology are holding them back.
They're not thirteen - Treat people like children, and you will get children's work. Requiring approval for everything creates an environment where employees stop thinking for themselves. Excessive monitoring or employee's coming and going and of online activities never works.
Rework reads like a rapid string of short blog posts, interrupted by full page black and white illustrations meant to support the main idea of each piece. I plowed through the 277 page book in a couple of hours. But like most good books, I am sure I will go back to Rework again and again, as the advice and lessons, while simple, are easy to forget as so much of the conventional wisdom that we are bombarded with lies in contrast to the ideas in Rework.
I recommend Rework for anyone running a small business, thinking of starting one, or if you are in a larger organization leading a team and in search of ideas to make your team work (or rework) better.