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Top 5 books on employee rewards for HR professionals

Vanessa Ng

The key to hiring and retaining talents is to have and communicate a comprehensive set of reward structures across. If you are a HR professional handling compensation and benefits (C&B), here are five books that you can look at to widen your perspectives.


1. 1501 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson

An evolving work environment demands adaptive rewards. With remote employees, freelancers, contract workers, interns, global colleagues and millennials entering the workforce, there is no longer one all-encompassing way to reward everyone satisfactorily. This book is jam packed with 1501 low-and-no-cost ways to reward employees and is great for readers with a short attention span. Methods to inspire employees are succinctly provided alongside case studies to explain the mechanics behind motivation programmes.

If you enjoyed reading this, you may want to explore Nelson’s 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work and 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook.


2. A Handbook of Employee Reward Management and Practice by Michael Armstrong

Great for aspiring HR professionals, this book has a wealth of adoption approaches for developing and managing reward strategies, policies, and processes. It is an interesting read, with checklists, diagrams, and easily digestible summaries. Contemporary reward management practices, alongside a range of internal and external factors that can derail a reward system, are thoroughly examined. Compensation means to reward desirable behavior is also explored. The book centers on the message that an organization’s reward philosophy conveys a distinct message to employees. If you are wondering about the ideas behind leading reward management theories, and how companies apply such theories into practice, look no further.

If you enjoy reading handbooks, try Lance A. Berger’s The Compensation Handbook, Sixth Edition: A State-Of-The-Art Guide to Compensation Strategy and Design. It contains strategic insight for implementing compensation strategies to create competitive business advantages.


3. Compensating New Sales Roles: How to Design Rewards That Work in Today’s Selling Environment by Jerome A. Colletti and Mary S. Fiss

This is a targeted book that teaches readers how to devise an incentive compensation plan specifically for new and traditional sales roles. Due to the nature of their position, traditional rewards for support staff may not be motivational enough for salespeople. If you need an action plan with detailed example plan documents or audit checklists, definitely check this book out.

You can supplement the reading with Compensation Committee Handbook by James F. Reda. It talks about ways to organize a compensation committee, selection and training of members, executive employment agreements, new accounting rules, comparison charts to monitor progress against other compensation strategies and more. This is especially helpful for Small-to-Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).


4. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink

The carrot-and-stick approach worked well in the past, but may not be entirely sufficient today. Pink asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction lies with the human need to be in charge of our own lives, to learn, create something new, and improve. If you are a HR professional, an employee, or an entrepreneur struggling to understand what motivates people at work, this book will be an insightful read. Drive suggests that employees may look beyond monetary benefits without even realizing it, to inspire them to increase their performance day by day. Creativity and connecting with others are just some factors that can motivate employees.

If you, too, feel that the current HR practices need to adapt to today’s new workforce, try supplementing your reading with HR Disrupted: It’s time for something different by Lucy Adams. Her innovative book focuses on fresh outlooks that can shake up the HR industry.


5. The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performanceby Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

The Carrot Principle suggests that the central characteristic of successful managers often point to the provision of frequent and effective employee recognition. The transformative power of purpose-based recognition can produce significant increases in operating results, regardless of it being measured by returns on equity, returns on assets, or operating margins. In this book, business performance is tied to how managers gave constructive praise and meaningful rewards. Readers can look forward to the consolidated results of many in-depth management studies and analysis, as well as proven strategies to help recognize and motivate valued employees. Methods to energize and engage teams are explored. Means to stimulate growth and productivity via creative and cost-effective ways are also looked at. The book also contains interesting case studies from leading companies such as Disney, DHL and KPMG that you can aspire towards.


6. (BONUS!) The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey

A favourite amongst consultants, Covey gives 13 specific behaviours detailing why we hire, reward and promote selected employees. For one, the capacity to establish, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders – customers, business partners, co-workers and investors – is the most fundamental trait to be a competent leader. Trust is no longer seen as a soft, social virtue, but as a critical, highly relevant performance multiplier. The book also talks about self trust and the four cores of credibility, namely integrity, intent, capabilities, and results. Besides delving deeper into organizational trust, market trust and societal trust, the author also challenges the view that lost trust can never be restored, and instead argues that it can be further enhanced.

As with all professions, HR professionals need to stay updated and relevant to acquire and retain talent for business longevity. This is especially so since HR has to constantly deal with a changing job market that is increasingly fickle and demanding. The books recommended above will be a good starting point for C&B professionals to start brainstorming and thinking of ways to improve their existing reward structure.

(By Vanessa Ng)

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