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Tim Cynova Post by Tim Cynova

By Tim Cynova on September 19th, 2017

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101 HR Thought Leaders, Books, Websites, Videos, and Courses…

Big Ideas | How We Work | Learning | People Operations | Human Resources

For the Aspiring or Accidental HR Professional

What resources have you found helpful in your People practice?

Break out your Trapper Keeper, throw the Jansport strap over your shoulder, and sharpen your no.2 pencils. It’s back to school season! This post is full of resource recommendations for those looking to put a couple more HR arrows into their quiver.

Many of us in the cultural sector discover the HR or People field by accident. We land our first Executive Director position and then quickly find out there’s more to this whole People thing than posting for open positions and processing payroll.

Below is the Fractured Atlas People team’s quick guide to books, thought leaders, classes, and websites that we’ve found helpful in our own learning. The resources cover every aspect necessary to build a healthy and effective People function in your organization.

It should be obvious that if you don’t know the difference between a Balance Sheet and a Statement of Financial Position — trick question, they’re the same thing — you need to find an understanding financial statements tutorial before that call with your board treasurer to discuss the annual audit. It’s less obvious the relative importance of People operations, and where to turn when you’re having trouble hiring and retaining a diverse workforce, or building an organizational culture that can change the world, or deciding if and how to introduce remote work arrangements.

We often use conventional wisdom to help us address HR issues when, in fact, that can be some of the worst advice. (Hire with your gut? Your gut has unconscious biases.) The resources below leverage science-backed solutions to help us make sense of the vast People field.

When I say “vast,” here’s a glimpse at the subject areas one needs to master when working to obtain the field’s senior certification (a certification akin to the CPA of HR):

  • HR Competencies: Leadership & Navigation, Ethical Practice, Business Acumen, Consultation, Critical Evaluation, Relationship Management, Global & Cultural Effectiveness, and Communication
  • People: HR Strategic Planning, Talent Acquisition, Employee Engagement & Retention, Learning & Development, and Total Rewards (compensation and benefits)
  • Organization: Structure of the HR Function, Organizational Effectiveness & Development, Workforce Management, Employee & Labor Relations (Unionization), and Technology Management
  • Workplace: HR in the Global Context, Diversity & Inclusion, Risk Management, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Employment Law & Regulations

It’s a list filled with meaty topics; the stack of exam review guides alone measures over a foot high. But don’t be discouraged, pick your pain point(s) and just start learning. What follows is a set of resources to help you think and act both more tactically and strategically in your People operations pursuits.

First, start learning from these leaders in the organizational behavior, organizational psychology, and the People field:

Thought Leaders


  • Google’s re:Work offers a wealth of tools based on their research. Topics cover Hiring, Goal Setting, Managers, Teams, and Unbiasing.
  • Fistful of Talent is a talent management blog started by Kris Dunn with a host of voices featured in its content.
  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is a great resource. With an annual membership you gain access to countless articles and templates. They also have a variety of resources from books to webinars to in-person trainings.
  • Human Capital Institute also includes a wide range of podcasts, webinars, and conference opportunities.
  • Capital Associate Industries (CAI) with HR, Compliance & People Development resources too.
  • The August organization has a great blog — including this terrific post by Mike Arauz with even more resources for you to explore — and a public Google drive where they share any document they’re able to share publicly.
  • NOBL, offers a wealth of information related to the future of work, including their A to Z Guide of Culture Decks and an open Slack channel for Org Designers.
  • CULTURE LABx has articles and hosts events for its global community of founders, designers, and practitioners who experiment with the future of work.
  • Glassdoor can’t be ignored. Whether you want to take virtual tours of far flung companies; see how people rate an organization, its leader, and its benefits; or read what recent job applicants said about your process, it’s all publicly available on Glassdoor.


There are so many books on this list, Tim! As far as your brain is concerned, audiobooks aren’t “cheating”

Organizations doing interesting People things

  • If you’ve never read the Netflix Culture Guide, spend some time now. It was originally published in 2009 and, to me, set the stage for the flood of company culture transparency and employer branding.
  • Motley Fool and their Workplace Culture Blog offers a lot to inspire.
  • Zappos created Zappos Insights to offer outsiders a peek at their unique brand of magic. You can takes tours, or attend their Culture Camp and People Academy. I was fortunate to attending their Coaching Camp a few years ago and wrote about my experience.
  • Zingermans is not just an Ann Arbor deli. Like Zappos, they too created a business line called ZingTrain to give people a glimpse of their magic. (For those really nerdy People people among us, you can even buy their employee handbook.)
  • Etsy Few companies can provide 26 weeks of paid parental leave for any caregivers, but most companies can use it as inspiration when creating their own policies.
  • Warby Parker has a made up name and sells fashionable eyeglasses, and has created an enviable company culture.
  • Patagonia has a Family Business YouTube series looking at their child care and paid family leave policies.
  • Gravity Payments is an interesting study in unintended consequences when a leader tries to do what he believes is the right thing for employees. Make $70,000 the minimum salary in an organization? What could possibly go wrong? With an update from a year later.
  • Fractured Atlas is a non-profit doing interesting People things in the cultural sector. And uh, yeah, clearly as a member of the People team I’m biased, but proud of our work and efforts, like our How We Work: A Guide to Working at Fractured Atlas and our soon-to-be-public core curriculum platform.


  • Unconscious Bias at Work presentation by Google’s Brian Welle delves into how our bias shows itself at work, even in the way we design our space and name our conference rooms.


  • Inspiring & Motivating Arts & Culture Teams (Online/Free by National Arts Strategies and the University of Michigan School of Business) When a Gallup poll shows that only 13% of staff are engaged in their work, it means we have some work to do. This course features research-based solutions and real-world examples.
  • Crash Course in HR Whether or not you decide to sit for an HR certification exam, if you’re new to HR, complete David Siler’s 10-week exam prep course and your knowledge of the field will grow exponentially during that time. (It’s worth every penny of the $419 price tag.)
  • Leading Innovation in Arts & Culture (Online/Free; National Arts Strategies and Vanderbilt University) This content is so good, I wish the co-learning cohort of Fractured Atlas staff wouldn’t have taken the course because it made more work for me, in a good way of course.
  • artEquity Facilitator Program Carmen Morgan and her team offer this terrific program training staff to lead diversity, equity and inclusion conversations in their organizations.
  • Scaling Excellence: How You Can Make It Happen (Online/Paid; Stanford University) This course is the paid version the intensely popular MOOC by Huggy Rao of Scaling Up Excellence author and professor fame.
  • Fierce Conversation (In person or online/Paid) I’m a big fan of Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations curriculum. While I think everyone can benefit from it, to me, I feel like it’s better suited to those in management level positions owning to the inclusion of sections on delegating, coaching, and leading meetings.
  • Crucial Conversations (In person or online/Paid) CruCon was described by a colleague as algorithmic, and that’s precisely one of the reasons I think it works well when bringing it into an organization without prior training. There is a structure that everyone can use to help them as they engage in more understanding and healthy conflict. (Full disclosure: I’m a certified Crucial Conversations trainer.)

How We Work:TV

If you write a blog post about resources and can’t include your own web series, what has the world come to? Here are a few of my latest episodes:

More posts by Tim Cynova

About Tim Cynova

Tim wears a multitude of hats, all in service of creating anti-racist workplaces where people can thrive. He currently is co-CEO of Fractured Atlas (an entirely virtual organization with staff spread across multiple states and countries) and a Principal of the consulting group Work. Shouldn't. Suck. He serves on the faculty of Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity and The New School teaching courses in People-Centric Organizational Design; he's a trained mediator, and a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). Earlier in his career, Tim was the Executive Director of The Parsons Dance Company and of High 5 Tickets to the Arts in New York City, had a memorable stint with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was a one-time classical trombonist, musicologist, and for five years in his youth he delivered newspapers for the Evansville, Indiana Courier-Press. Also, during a particularly slow summer, he bicycled 3,902 miles across the United States.