Barbara Mitchell: Author, HR and Hiring Expert

HR and hiring expert Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors and has consulted for a variety of organizations around the world.

Mitchell served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Her books include, The Essential HR Handbook, and, The Big Book of HR. Click here to buy the book.

To learn more about Mitchell, read more of her Hiring columns on Be Inkandescent magazine.

Getting That Desired Applicant to Say "Yes" Just Got Easier. Here's Why.

When I was starting in the world of recruiting, my company did a really smart thing—they sent us to a sales program.

We went away for a week-long session to develop our ability to effectively turn a job applicant into a new-hire.

At the time, I really wasn’t sure why this made sense but as I progressed in the staffing profession, I became very grateful for that opportunity. The company also, very smartly, sent all their sales people to a class on interviewing because they totally got the fact that you use a lot of the same skills in recruiting that you do in sales.

Odds are good that you have had an applicant that you really wanted to hire—and who turned you down.

It happens, no matter how careful you are. However, I think there are some ways to ensure that as many of your applicants as possible say “yes” to a job offer.

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Do You Love Your Boss?

January 2014, Be Inkandescent magazine — “I love my job, but my manager is a jerk.”

Is that something you’ve said, thought, or felt? If so, you aren’t alone.

Here’s the flip side of the story.

All of the managers I have ever known have said that they want to work with the best possible employees. While I don’t doubt that they mean what they say, it takes skill and work to hire the best and to manage them to reach their highest potential.

This is why.

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Speaking Topics: Barbara Mitchell's Hiring Rules

10 Tips for Making a “Sweat-Free” Hire

You know you need to hire someone to make your company or department more efficient and effective. But you want that person to be the right fit. You want someone who will be happy in their new job. And who will fit in with the corporate culture. It’s not an easy task.

In this speech: Mitchell offers 10 tips to help you hire well and to make the process as stress-free and enjoyable as possible. After all, that’s the point, right? Click here to read the list.

How to Create Wellness Programs in Today’s Workplace

In Chapter 29 of her latest book, The Big Book of HR, Mitchell talks about risk management. What better way to avoid risk than to incorporate wellness programs in today’s workplace? Indeed, many organizations already provide employee wellness programs, including nutrition and weight control, smoking cessation, stress reduction, and fitness. These programs yield healthier and more productive employees, which translates into savings on health insurance for the employer and the employee.

In this speech: Mitchell asks what else pays off? Motivating employees, and their family members, through information and incentives that encourage them to participate in wellness programs. Read more here.

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How to Be Happier at Work—and Everywhere Else, Too!

December 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — Do you know what I’ve found to be the easiest way to make myself happy at work?

It’s so simple you probably won’t believe it.

But honestly, it’s to have gratitude for what I do have and not focus on what I don’t. And, to share that feeling with all those around me by simply saying, “thank you,” as often as possible.

And not just saying it … but really meaning it—authentically and spontaneously.

When is a “thank you” most appropriate?

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What You Need to Know About Workplace Flexibility

November 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — Today we live in a totally connected, mobile world. Not that long ago, the United States was an agrarian society where it was pretty obvious where the lines were between home and work. Nature often dictated when work needed to be done.

For instance, my dad grew up on a farm and told us stories of not being able to open Christmas presents until late in the day after all the chores were completed. During the Industrial Revolution, work moved to factories where laws and rules existed to regulate work and work schedules.

Now, in the Information Age, all that has changed.

Savvy organizations have realized that what employees value most (after getting paid!) is having a flexible work schedule. As technology has made it easier to work remotely, workplace flexibility has become a competitive advantage and a great way to build loyalty.

Workplace flexibility takes many forms, including the following.

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Succession Planning: The Most Overlooked Management Tool

October 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine _ It happens far too often in today’s businesses. A superstar manager or individual contributor leaves the organization, and no one has planned for a replacement.

I’ve seen it happen at the highest levels of organizations when the CEO dies in an accident or another key player has a heart attack.

I’ve seen it happen when a top sales person is recruited away to join a competitor.

The organization is shocked and panic sets in and sometimes poor decisions are made.

There is a better way to handle this. Why not take time to identify and prepare whoever has the potential skills and abilities to move into key positions? Having a well-thought-out succession plan is critical to your organization’s success.

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What Does It Take to Be a Successful HR Professional?

September 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — It would certainly be easier if I could tell you there is one path to take to becoming a successful HR professional—but that just isn’t the case.

Yes, there are undergraduate and master’s degree programs in human resources management and human resources development.

You can obtain certifications from great organizations such as the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) that involve specific years of HR experience, a great deal of studying, and passing a very difficult exam. And then there is the job of retaining your certification by attending classes and reading books selected by HRCI for continuing education credits (and I am very proud to say that “The Big Book of HR” has been accepted as one of those books).

However, many successful HR professionals (and I count myself among them) have taken a different path into the field.

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We Can't Stop Globalization in HR—So Let's Embrace It

August 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — I love to go to book signings.

As an author myself, I find there to be something really special about meeting the writer of a favorite book, or one that I know I can’t wait to read. I thoroughly enjoy getting a personalized greeting and signature on that book. In fact, I have an entire bookshelf of signed books, and they are my treasures.

Several years ago I went to hear former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright when she was on a book tour for her 2005 book Madam Secretary: A Memoir.

In this outspoken and much-praised book, Albright, who was then the highest-ranking woman in American history, shared an insider’s view of world affairs in an era of political turbulence. A national bestseller, her memoir combined warm humor with profound insights, along with her personal testament of what she believed was happening at that time in history.

During her talk, one person stood and asked, “How do we stop globalization?”

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Are You Competing for Talent?

July 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — Several years ago, I heard a speech by Mariah Burton Nelson that has stuck with me to this day. A former Stanford University and professional basketball player, she was also a competitive swimmer and is now a published author and motivational speaker.

Nelson tells a lot of very powerful stories about her career in sports—but what I remember most was what she said about competition.

If the person in the next lane was swimming faster than she was, it made her swim faster and better. The concept of “competition,” Nelson said, has a negative connotation in many situations—but she explained that if competition makes you perform better, it can be a great thing.

I had never thought of competition as beneficial, and her speech caused me to think about people or situations that make me work harder or smarter because someone or something is better than I am.

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The Importance of Leaning in at Work

June 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — Oh, how I wish Sheryl Sandberg had written “Lean In” when I was starting my business career!

I absolutely love this book and the concepts it covers, and I think it should be required reading for anyone interested in a career in business—men as well as women.

Actually, the concept of leaning in doesn’t just apply to a business situation, but can be used wherever you are in life.

I am just happy that this new generation of women has the encouragement they need to pursue their career aspirations—without hesitation.

I admit it. I have been guilty of leaning back when I should have been leaning in.

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HR and Taking Risks—Unlikely Bedfellows?

May 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine
HR people, on the whole, don’t tend to be risk-takers. I observe this all the time as I interact with HR professionals in different situations.

Yet, while many HR people would prefer their work worlds to be defined, no matter how hard we try, the people we support constantly push us out of our comfort zone.

I, for one, think that is a good thing. Why? Because when HR professionals—or any business person for that matter—get too settled, they risk becoming complacent.

HR supports the organization and its people, and we work to maximize the success of employees so that the organization can grow to new and exciting levels. And to do that, you have to take risks.

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I Want to Be Proud of Where I Work!

April 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — Now, more than ever before, people want to work for an organization they can be proud of. This is especially true of employees in the Millennial generation, who openly talk about wanting to be proud of where they work.

Any employer can create a culture where employees feel pride. Mission-driven organizations have a built-in way to make people proud—stress the mission and the impact that mission has on the community, the nation, and/or the world.

Companies in the for-profit arena can stress the good their product or service brings to the greater community.

Living up to the mission can bring a real sense of pride to employees.

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The Power of Book Clubs: Bond, Learn, Inspire — I am very fortunate to belong to a business book club. We’ve been meeting for a long time, and the group is made up of interesting, smart, opinionated women—which is exactly what you want in a book club.

We started reading books primarily on leadership and management topics and, over time, we’ve branched out to include a book on a powerful woman that we discuss during March—Woman’s History Month.

During the rest of the year, we will all read the same book and discuss it but for the March meeting, we don’t pick a book—we pick a woman. Each of us then finds a book on that particular woman and brings that perspective to the group. Many times several people read the same book!

There are many similarities to the life stories of these incredible women, and what strikes me the most is how courageous they all have been. Many of these women defied their families and friends to take a stand for something they believed in. They each also had a burning passion to help others.

So I take my hiring hat off to these ladies, and encourage HR departments around the country to take on this challenge: Develop a book club for your employees and let them pick a theme for the books to read. Not only will it be a great team-building experience, reading a series of books will inspire interesting conversations, and develop a corporate culture dedicated to learning and personal growth.

Here’s to seizing the power!

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Nepotism Rules: How to Make Hiring Family Members Work

February 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — I spent most of my human resources/business career with Marriott International. Bill Marriott, at that time, was president and CEO. He used to start many speeches by saying, “Nepotism’s been very good to me!”

And he certainly made a good point. Following your father and mother in a family business can be a great career path.

However, hiring relatives can create less positive situations for managers.

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Beyond Benefits: How HR Professionals Can Add Value

January 2013, Be Inkandescent magazine — In The Big Book of HR, the tome that I co-wrote with my fellow HR expert Cornelia Gamlem, our goal is to provide a complete guide to selecting, engaging, and retaining the best talent; developing attractive and fair compensation packages; and resolving conflict and maintaining good communication.

As we start 2013, it seems appropriate to reflect on the ideas we share in the first part of the book, “Selecting and Assimilating New Employees.”

Whether you are an HR professional just starting out in your career, or a manager or business owner who needs to gather information, the book is intended for anyone who works with people and who wants to maximize the impact his or her employees have to ensure the success of the organization.

You can count on business getting more complicated—it doesn’t ever seem to go the other way.

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Honesty at Work

December 2012, Be Inkandescent magazine — We live in a world where it is sometimes difficult to determine what the truth is, and what it is not.

Teaching our kids to be honest is a cardinal rule for many parents. Employers put a premium on honesty, too. Yet, we’ve just finished an election cycle where both sides were in the news for distorting the truth. And, of course, this carries over into society in general. Consider how honesty plays out in the workplace.

Here are three situations where lying may seem like it can help advance your career and will be easy to get away with starting with: Resumes Shouldn’t Lie. Here’s why.

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Does Empathy Belong in the Workplace?

November 2012, Be Inkandescent magazine — Does empathy belong in the workplace? Absolutely!

Empathy is a key component of emotional intelligence and is a critical skill for any good leader or manager to possess and use. Strong leaders know that to move their organizations forward, they need to understand the people who make it happen.

A recent study on empathy by the Center for Creative Leadership showed that empathy is positively related to job performance, and what leader doesn’t want to encourage productivity?

Is empathy one of those qualities we either have or don’t have? No, empathy can be learned. While some leaders naturally exude empathy and have an advantage over their peers who don’t have it, those without it can be coached in how to increase their empathic skills.

Organizations can encourage empathy and help managers by letting them know that empathy makes a difference in the workplace. Empathy is exhibited through spending time with employees—giving them your time and attention.

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Women and Work—What Will It Take to Land More Key Positions?

October 2012, Be Inkandescent magazine — Women have long been making an impact on the world of work. The number of women in the workplace surged during World War II, of course, when companies had signed contracts with the government to produce war equipment for the Allies—and the men were deployed overseas.

Women came to the rescue, and in the decades since have been taking the employment world by storm.

Our numbers continue to increase each year. In 1984, 44 million women were in the workforce. By 2009, there were 72 million. And with this increase have come more opportunities for women to assume managerial positions. While we still aren’t equally represented in every C-suite, or in government, our numbers are growing.

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The Art of Educating Employees

September 2012, Be Inkandescent magazine — In Chapter 23 of The Big Book of HR, my co-author Cornelia Gamlem and I quote organizational consultant and author Warren Bennis, who said: “You need people who can walk their companies into the future rather than back them into the future.”

Bennis’ comment highlights the need for organizations to make a real effort to constantly provide opportunities for employees to learn and grow—otherwise, organizations won’t be positioned for growth.

Not only that, but they will not produce the value required to succeed in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.

Why is professional development, and employee education, so important?

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Mastering the Challenge of Managing Multiple Generations at Work

August 2012, Be Inkandescent magazine — In the Big Book of HR, my co-author Cornelia Gamlem and I talk about the challenges organizations face with employees from multiple generations in the workplace.

In fact, for the first time in US history, four generations may be working together in the same office: The Silent Generation (born 1925–1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1981) and Millennials (1982-2003).

In May, in fact, the newest generation was named the Plurals by the market research firm, Frank N. Magid Associates. These are children born in 2004 and beyond, and their views will be very different from the views of even the generation that immediately precedes them, the Millennials, because the Plurals are the first generation in America that will be majority “minority,” as evidenced by recent statistics from the US Census Bureau. Click here for details.

Take heart. Managing multiple generations isn’t impossible.

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How to Take Charge of Your Career

July 2012, Be Inkandescent magazine — Not so very long ago, employees worked for an organization for a long time, and were taken care of. Employers provided training, and development opportunities were available for the asking. WOW—times have changed.

Now, each of us is responsible for our own career development and, while this may be frightening to some, it is actually a very positive trend. Having more control is a good thing as long as you take your responsibility seriously and manage your own career development. You’d better, because no one else is going to do it for you!

In today’s highly competitive work environment, most organizations want people to fill positions who are fully trained and ready to contribute. While some very smart organizations have seen the value of providing mentors for new hires, many are working in what we call the “plug and play” world where new hires are expected to be fully functional immediately.

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The Value of Wellness Programs in Today’s Workplace

June 2012, Be Inkandescent magazine — In Chapter 29 of my latest book, The Big Book of HR, we talk about risk management. What better way to avoid risk than to incorporate wellness programs in today’s workplace?

Indeed, many organizations already provide employee wellness programs, including nutrition and weight control, smoking cessation, stress reduction, and fitness. These programs yield healthier and more productive employees, which translates into savings on health insurance for the employer and the employee.

What else pays off? Motivating employees, and their family members, through information and incentives that encourage them to participate in wellness programs.

Consider the ROI on the program initiated at Johnson & Johnson.

Read More


10 Tips for Making a “Sweat-Free” Hire

May 2012, Be Inkandescent magazine — You know you need to hire someone to make your company or department more efficient and effective. But you want that person to be the right fit. You want them to be happy in their new job. And you want them to fit in with the corporate culture. It’s not an easy task.

Here are 10 tips to help you do it well, do it right, and make the process as stress-free and enjoyable as possible. After all, that’s the point, right?

Read More


When It Comes to Hiring Well, Aim to Make a Dream Come True

April 2012, Be Inkandescent magazine — When it comes to hiring the right person for the job, keep in mind the fact that most applicants are hoping to find their dream job.

Sure, they’ll settle for less, but wouldn’t it be great if your firm could help make those dreams come true?

Keep this in mind, though. However great it sounds to make someone’s dream come true, you are running a business. So their dream job has to be doing something that will either make money for your organization, or bring in new customers or members.

Still, it is possible to balance their dreams with your needs.

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