the ceo magazine, human resources,
Cornelia Gamlem & Barbara Mitchell, Authors, The Big Book of HR

Anyone who manages people in today’s challenging world knows that it doesn’t get easier – just more complicated and, for that matter, more interesting.  The Big Book of HR has been revised and expanded to reflect some of the new realities leaders and managers face.  The book is filled with information on topics ranging from hiring to firing and everything in between including engagement, retention, total rewards, flexibility, performance management, employee development, risk management and so much more. The following are some key insights taken from this book.

Workplace Flexibility

In today’s competitive environment, flexibility and a culture that encourages balance between personal and business obligations is an advantage in attracting and retaining the best employees. The prevalence of flexible work arrangements – flextime, telework, shift flexibility – continues with the types of programs offered varying to meet the needs of the individual organizations.  More innovative approaches to flexibility and work-life integration are occurring at companies such as The Virgin Group which is providing unlimited vacation or at Netflix which is offering unlimited parental leave and full pay in the first year after the birth or adoption of a child. Flexible work arrangements and innovative practices can indeed meet the needs of today’s changing workforce – especially knowledge workers in higher paying jobs. However, before implementing any of these programs, make sure they are a good fit for your organization, your employees, and the labor pool from which you recruit.

Performance Management

Performance appraisals are being scrutinized as some organizations move to abandon traditional performance appraisals in favor of more flexible approaches. Why?  Many firms are finding that the traditional process is time-consuming, expensive, and ineffective. They want to make performance management focus more on the people and the future and not on the process or a rating. More frequent discussions fuel employee engagement and development. They allow managers and team leaders to address positive and negative aspects of performance as they occur so enhancements and corrections can be made in a timely manner. This is critical, especially in service-oriented organizations. Whether an organization embraces the traditional or seeks a new approach, understand there are a number of common elements in both approaches: developing objectives, assessing performance, providing feedback, documentation and data, and fueling future performance. Choose what works for your organization.


Even on the people side, the use of technology has revolutionized how we lead and manage our businesses. In a relatively short time, technology has impacted how recruiting is done. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms allow organizations to easily find “passive” applicants for open positions and for job seekers to learn as much as they can about an organization before they apply. These changes in how recruiting is done require staffing professionals to develop an entirely new skill set. Technology has enabled organizations to have employees scattered all over the globe resulting in challenges and opportunities for managing such a geographically disbursed workforce. Organizations use technology to develop the skills of their employees by conducting employee and leadership development programs virtually. Virtual meeting software and YouTube are used to communicate with employees all over the world. Firms use technology to manage confidential data relating to employees and their benefits and pay which has huge implications for maintaining privacy. Explore and leverage the technology that’s available.

People Analytics

Increasingly, organizations are relying on data to make good decisions on issues relating to their employees. Google has been a leader in this area, using data to assess the effectiveness of programs and processes to help make better decisions on what’s important to both the organization and its people. This is an improvement from the past when organizations made people decisions based on what they thought was the “right thing to do”.  Sometimes those decisions were based on facts but mostly they were based on the latest trend or newest product out there! Now, technology enables us to make better decisions based on information obtained from data collected from employees and potential employees. Most of the data needed to make good decisions about people issues is readily available and can be supplemented, if needed, by using employee surveys or focus groups to fill in the gaps.

The Gig Economy

More individuals are working as independent contractors, freelancers, or temporary workers. Whether it’s by choice – the desire to be independent – or by need – inability to find full-time employment or supplement income, the number of workers entering the gig economy is growing. Disruptive and innovative technology which are spawning new companies, such as Uber and Lyft, are contributing to this rise.  These working arrangements provide flexibility and variety of work, but lack consistency in hours, pay, and work itself along with a lack of benefits – raising interesting questions and suggestions about changing the current social contract with workers that was designed for an industrial workforce. People still need access to health care, retirement benefits, and protection from injury and loss of income. Some organizations are moving to offer a version of traditional benefits for part-time or independent contractors while others are calling for innovation and creativity, such as allowing freelancers and contractors to partially fund their own benefits, along with employer contributions, and carry them from job to job. As more organizations draw on workers from the gig economy, they need to understand the impact of these issues.

About the Authors
Cornelia Gamlem and Barbara Mitchell are influencers to the HR & Business Communities. They’ve taken their collective years as Human Resource professionals and consultants and shared it in The Big Book of HR. They’ve also written The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and collaborate on a weekly blog, Making People Matter. The Big Book of HR is available from major retailers everywhere.  Included in the book are templates, checklists, and sample forms that can be easily adapted by any organization. For more information visit


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