HR leader and author Barbara Mitchell

Who she is: Previous owner of the HR firm The Millennium Group and co-author of “The Essential HR Handbook,” and the “Big Book of HR.”

What she does: With HR expert Sharon Armstrong, Barbara decided to write a quick-reference guide, published in the fall of 2008 by Career Press, to shed light on the issues that keep managers up at night. “Human resource professionals are not only charged with resolving labor issues,” Mitchell explains. “We also help acquire, train, appraise, and make sure employees are fairly compensated, while attending to their concerns about labor relations, health and safety, and fairness.

Why she does it: After working for a decade at Marriott Corporation, then several technology firms in the Washington DC area, Barbara launched her own company in 1998, The Millennium Group International. She sold that several years ago and now works as an HR consultant. She also travels around the country speaking about her book, and the path that got her to the place in her life when she accomplish nearly anything she sets her mind to.


By Hope Katz Gibbs

“Do you have what is come to be known as a bucket list — the list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket?” Barbara Mitchell asks a group of women gathered to hear her speak about her book, The Essential HR Handbook..

“I’ve had a list for many years and have really enjoyed the process of putting it together and checking items off my list,” she explains. “I first heard about this from an article in the Washington Post on Labor Day about 15 years ago. A reporter wrote that she was strolling through Georgetown one day and saw an art supply store. It reminded her she’d always wanted to paint so she went in right then and there and bought what she needed to get started. This experience got her to think about all the things she wanted to do but had not yet accomplished — so she made a list of the 50 things to do before I die.”

After reading the article, Barbara started making her own list.

“It wasn’t difficult to get to 50 things to do but I decided to change the title of the list from things to do before I die to things to do while I am alive. It sounds much more positive,” she shares.

In fact, many of the items on her list involved traveling. Others involve sporting events such as attending all four of the tennis grand-slam events and attending all four of the PGA major events.

So far, she’s checking many of them off the list — such as visiting all 50 states, attending a Super Bowl and the Academy Awards (she got to do that thanks to a former colleague who negotiated for the Oscar tickets in a divorce settlement).

About 10 years ago, the two items that were tops on her list still needed attention: Owning a business (and selling it for a profit) and publishing a book. “By 2008, I had achieved them both. Now I’m off to tackle other things. It’s a tremendous feeling.”

About the book

Of course, writing a book was a bigger undertaking than Barbara had envisioned. With the help of her highly-organized and deadline-driven co-author Sharon Armstrong, the mission was accomplished within the deadline.

Today, the human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known as an expert in the areas of recruitment and retention, is invited to travel around the country and talk about her book.

It comes easy to Barbara, who is experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and has consulted to a variety of organizations around the world. She also served on the Society of Human Resource Management’s Special Expert Panel on Consulting and Outsourcing in recognition of her expertise and long service to the HR profession. Barbara is a graduate of North Park University, Chicago, IL, with a degree in history and political science and has taken graduate level courses at UCLA.

As for the history of the human resources industry, Barbara explains: “In 14th-century England, masons, carpenters, leather workers, and other skilled craftsmen organized themselves into guilds—the first unions that were used to improve their work conditions. With the Industrial Revolution came divisions of labor, negotiable wages and hours, and challenging work conditions, and the owner was replaced by a new character, the boss, who was solely focused on getting the job done fast and right.”

Conflict ensued—and so the human resources industry was born to help set things straight, adds Sharon. “Writing this book was a big job, but so is being a good human resources manager. We feel that this book makes it easier because we outline guidelines and best practice recommendations in the 12 chapters of our book.

With this easy-to-read 250-page paperback, you’ll learn how to effectively and efficiently:

  • Individually manage each employee, starting on his or her first day.
  • Manage a multi-generational workforce.
  • Appraise job performance.
  • Coach and counsel.
  • Provide equitable pay, benefits, and total rewards strategies.
  • Minimize legal risk.

HR professionals have raved about this 250-page paperback—mostly because it gives sound ideas that are simple to put into practice, says Stephen J. O’Connor, senior director of staffing, ESPN Inc. “This book is easy to use, and full of solid advice and information from diversity to interviews to legal issues. If you are HR professional, you should have this book at the ready every day.”

Joe Calloway, author of Work Like You’re Showing Off adds: “Finally, a complete, clear, and concise book that covers every essential element of that mix of art and science we call HR,” “It’s 100% applicable to the real-world challenges faced by today’s HR manager or business owner.”

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